The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Chancellor Jones talks opportunity, inclusivity at YMCAʼs 150th anniversary

Michael Bales
Chancellor Jones speaks at the university YMCA during its anniversary celebration on Sunday.

This weekend, the University YMCA is celebrating its 150th anniversary. In this week’s Friday Forum, Chancellor Robert Jones took the stage at the YMCA to discuss campus and community as well as to commemorate the YMCA’s sesquicentennial. 

“One thing I think that some people forget … (is that) part of the educational experience occurs outside of the classroom, ” Jones said in front of a crowd of students and community members. 

The University YMCA is one of two independent collegiate YMCAs left in the country, and the value of the space is not lost to Jones or the University students. 

University YMCA Student Board President Kev Murphy stated just how the YMCA contributes to that education experience, citing 12 registered student organizations and a scholarship foundation that operate out of the building.

“Our building and programs are always free and open to everyone on campus and (in the) community,” Murphy said. 

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This aspect of the YMCA is part of the answer to questions Jones thinks about for the University, such as “How do you keep access to the great educational opportunities available for students?”

The YMCA has not only been a hub of student opportunity, but has historically been a center for student inclusion. “I just personally was really moved by the fact that this organization was way ahead of the curve in big ways … looking beyond someoneʼs race or color, ethnicity,” Jones said. 

In the not-so-distant past, the University had discriminatory housing practices that prevented students of certain races or ethnicities from living in residence halls. In that era, the YMCA, again an independent entity from the University, was a willing housing accommodation for these students.

“There were some people that got a little nervous about the fact that we decided to acknowledge this as a part of our own sesquicentennial celebration, ” Jones said. 

Though this aspect of the YMCA’s history reminds us of a wrongful aspect of the University, Jones does not shy away from the subject. “Because if youʼre not willing to acknowledge the bad things that happened in your history and only focus on the good, you’re being disrespectful to history,” Jones said. 

A lot has changed about the YMCA in the last 150 years. It has gone from a student religious organization to the entity of academic opportunity it is today. But according to Jones, over the years, one thing has stayed more or less the same.

“I cannot tell you how many of our alums that I have met in my time here from all walks of life and from all kinds of careers who sort of begin with the words ‘I arrived on campus, I did not know anyone. I did not have a place to live and I was broke.ʼ” It’s these stories that the YMCA has been even present for in offering low cost rooming.

“It has been a place that has always been the first to welcome those who were new to the country up and perhaps most important,” Jones said. “It has been the institution that has both challenged and inspired our university to live up to our own values of inclusivity, respect and service to our community.” 


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Michael Bales
Michael Bales, Senior Copy Editor
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