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Founded as the Young Men's Christian Association at Yale in 1881, Dwight Hall was first created as an organization that sought to inspire its members to promote the Christian gospel both in word and in deed. It has gradually evolved to become an inclusive place for students of diverse faiths and beliefs to connect with the community. While Dwight Hall has changed significantly since its beginnings at the end of the 19th century, the fundamental concerns for social service and action, which brought the Hall into existence, continue today.


A donation secured a building for the Yale YMCA on old Campus, dedicated on October 17, 1886 in memory of Timothy Dwight, President of Yale from 1795 to 1817. Noted were his earnest Christian faith and success in winning Yale students to that faith. Torn down in 1926 while Yale was renovating and expanding its campus, the organization moved next door to the old library building -- renamed Dwight Hall -- where it is today.


While Dwight Hall's structure has changed throughout the years, it has always been entirely student-run, and is the only college-based center for public service and social justice to remain so today.

Dwight Hall Student Cabinet

The Cabinet is the governing body of Dwight Hall. When it was first established in 1881, it consisted of all undergraduate members of the YMCA at Yale. They elected officers annually - a President, one or two Vice-Presidents, a Corresponding Secretary and a Treasurer. The same basic structure was maintained until the 1960s, when students, in opposition to any sort of formal organization, voted for its dissolution.

Until the Cabinet was reestablished in 1981, meetings were replaced by weekly informal gatherings over wine and cheese. In 1992, the Cabinet restructured itself into a more formal organization, and adopted the by-laws that are still in effect today.

The Cabinet now consists of the coordinators of each Dwight Hall member organization, and meets on a monthly basis. The officers - two coordinators, one membership coordinator, one financial coordinator, one publicity director, two education network coordinators, one social justice network coordinator and two members-at-large - constitute the Cabinet executive committee, which meets weekly and facilitates the work of the Hall, determining policy and program priorities.

Dwight Hall Staff

Dwight Hall's first staff position, the General Secretary, was created in 1887 in response to growing administrative needs that accompanied Dwight Hall's expansion. In the first decades of the Hall's existence, he was selected from the class of graduating seniors, and held the position for one to three years.

This position is no longer held by recent graduates, but rather by a professional executive director. Staff has expanded to include four more full time positions with occasional part time positions held by recently graduated seniors or graduate students.

The staff operate the Hall on a day-to-day basis, provide instututional leadership, assure fiscal responsibility, work closely with the Cabinet executive committee, and serve as advisers to all students in their public service and social action work.

Dwight Hall Board of Directors

There has always been an advisory committee to Dwight Hall's Cabinet and staff. Once called the Graduate Committee, it was composed of Yale alumni who had been involved in Dwight Hall as undergraduates. The Graduate Committee selected the General Secretary, who also had to meet the approval of students and the Yale Corporation. When Dwight Hall became an independent non-profit, however, solely the Board and students decided the selection of the General Secretary.

The Board of Directors is now a legal entity, and its membership consists of Dwight Hall alumni, Yale professors, and member of the New Haven community.


At its conception, Dwight Hall was a Christian institution whose members were inspired by the Social Gospel movement. They ran several daily Bible study and discussion groups. They were also closely connected to the Northfield Conference, which was founded in 1886. Over 600 students from colleges across the nation and abroad would attend this annual ten day conference held in Northfield, Massachusetts, to participate in religious discussions and recreation.

By the 1960s, the student body had broadened to include students with Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist and any non-traditional religious backgrounds. Dwight Hall became the place where students could be active and concerned without having any religious affiliation.

The University Office of Volunteer Services, developed in 1960, helped attract students to Dwight Hall who represented the more pluralistic student body. At the same time, the General Secretary's responsibilities expanded beyond religious leadership alone to accommodate programs involving more diverse students. It has grown into an independent, non-profit umbrella organization, which today includes over 2000 volunteers, over 70 student-coordinated volunteer programs and a vast network of student involvement with more than 100 different agencies in New Haven.

In order to maintain the religious roots upon which Dwight Hall was founded, in 1987 the position of the Reverend John G. Magee Fellowship was established to provide a forum for spiritual discussions and a link between students of faith and the activities of the Hall.


Dwight Hall's longstanding tradition of public service and social justice has reflected the varying concerns of students throughout the years. Groups have constantly been created and phased out, in response to student interest and community needs, with a current emphasis on mentoring and education, hunger and homelessness, and labor issues.

Yale in China

Yale-in-China was a mission founded in 1901, which helped found a middle school and college in Changsha, the capital of the Hunan province. It quickly spread to other cities and programs, including a hospital and medical school. It became an entity separate from Dwight Hall as it continued to expand. Yale-in-China is still in existence today at the first Changsha location, where the middle school is named Yali, after Yale.

Yale Hope Mission and YHHAP

The Yale Hope Mission was founded in 1907 as a service to homeless and alcoholic men. It secured its own building, and undergraduates would serve soup and work to provide a Christian mission to these men. It continued to provide service throughout the Depression. When HOPE ceased to exist, the endowment was given to Dwight Hall, which helped Columbus House continue HOPE's work. Today, the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project (YHHAP), addresses homelessness in New Haven through advocacy, awareness-raising efforts and service programs.

Peace Movement of the 1930's

The most prominent issue that students in Dwight Hall concerned themselves with in the 1930s was the Peace Movement, as they intently followed the rise of fascism in Europe. Starting in April 1933, students organized an annual one-hour strike, called the Peace Strike, to raise consciousness about the Peace Movement. Dwight Hall joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an international Christian pacifist group, as well as the Oxford Pledge, whereby thousands of students both nationally and internationally pledged never to fight in any war. By the time the United States entered World War II, this movement had very few advocated, and student interest steered away from activism towards service.

Civil Rights Movement & Draft Resistance -- 1960s

Student activism increased nationwide in the 60s, and Dwight Hall students were active in the Civil Rights Movement from its inception, organizing the Freedom Ride buses to the south. Dwight Hall also provided draft resistance counselors during the Vietnam War.

Black Power -- 1970s

Dwight Hall played a key role in defusing campus and community outrage over the Black Panther trials. [As] It became the neutral place where all factions involved - from the New Haven Panther Defense Committee to the FBI - could communicate with one another, and Dwight Hall was in large part responsible for the peaceful outcome of events.

Feminist Movement - 70s

The acceptance of women at Yale changed the face of Dwight Hall, as an entirely new range of programs emerged raising consciousness over women's rights. This led to the creation of the Yale Women's Center, as well as groups concerned specifically with the education and mentoring of young girls.

Environmental Movement - 70s

Dwight Hall students launched the Connecticut Fund for the Environment in 1978, in reaction to the Connecticut governor's campaign to relax state environmental laws and the firing of attorneys who worked for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Immediate student success involved receiving an anonymous gift of $25,000 which allowed them to rent office space and hire their first full time attorney. The Yale Student Environmental Coalition (YSEC) grew out of this burst of energy, and is today the umbrella organization for all environmental groups at Yale.

Anti-Apartheid Movement - 80s

In the 80s, the student-led anti-apartheid campaign resulted in the University's divestment of South African holdings.

National Campus Service Movement - 80s

Dwight Hall served as a model for other campuses in the national service movement. With a national reputation of enabling student action, it attracted the founder of Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), who found support and a home in Dwight Hall, to start a new organization committed to reviving college students' idealism by building a national base of student-run service programs on campuses around the country.

Corporate Reform - 90s and Today

In response to workers' struggles and the need for fair labor practices locally and globally, students are actively engaged in the movements against sweatshops and for corporate reform as well as socially responsible investing.