Student Life at Illinois: 1930-1939


Students participate in a beard-growing contest, circa 1930
Students participate in a beard-growing contest, circa 1930


  • Harry W. Chase succeeded David Kinley as University president.
  • Daily Illini conducted poll on Prohibition: 2105 students said they drink; 1787 said they did not.
  • Board of Trustees voted to allow Sunday sports after 1:00 p.m.
  • Freshman cap-burning revived.
  • Depression severely affected campus. Several local banks closed. Run on University State Bank of Champaign occurred.


  • Independent students published own newspaper.
  • Star Course re-organized.
  • Freshman cap-burning turned into riot. Event was abolished.
  • Ice Arena dedicated.
  • Emergency funds secured for loans to needy students. Meal tickets distributed to destitute students.
  • First issue of Green Caldron published by Rhetoric staff.
  • Fred Turner succeeded Thomas Arkle Clark as Dean of Men.
  • Student oversight relaxed. Dean of Men’s policy of “general oversight of undergraduates’ conduct” changed to one that was “advisory and not regulatory.”
  • Absence from classes without permission of dean’s office now allowed.
  • Women’s Gymnasium (Freer Gym) completed.
Thomas Arkle Clark, circa 1910
Thomas Arkle Clark, circa 1910


  • Thomas Arkle Clark died.
  • Freshman cap-burning held despite having been abolished by University.
  • Six fraternities reported to have been disbanded in last three years.
  • African-American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha presented play written and produced by members as part of Mothers’ Week.
  • Left Forum, an unrecognized group, requested use of University rooms for meeting on “The A.B.C. of Communism.” Request is denied.
  • The Illini Trail, a sound motion picture promoting the University, was released by the Alumni Association.
  • Organization of independent women formed.
  • Daily Illini published “Independent” section.
  • Co-operative Council organized.
  • Dean of Men Fred Turner assumed control of employment services formally operated by YMCA.
  • Student Alumni Association founded.


  • New independent group organized: Men’s Independent District Association.
  • System of preceptors–resident scholastic advisers–adopted for fraternities and sororities.
  • Jigsaw puzzle craze swept campus.
  • African-American students launched a program of one-act plays.
  • Interfraternity Council revised constitution to admit African-American fraternities.
  • Ice rink used as a dance hall.
  • Harry Chase resigned, Arthur H. Daniels named acting University president.
  • University sent murals of campus life to Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition.
  • Serving of beer at fraternity dances banned.
  • Student Affairs Committee recognized Campus Forum, a left-wing group.
  • Cenacle–honorary African-American society–formed to promote African-American arts and letters.


  • University band appeared in several broadcasts on Chicago radio station WGN.
  • Twenty-six social fraternities reported to have been dissolved since 1930.
  • University considered National Student League “a radical or communist group” and refused to recognize it.
  • Arthur Willard appointed University president.
  • Students protested compulsory ROTC.
  • Committee on Student Affairs withdrew recognition of Campus Forum. Group was later reorganized and recognition once again granted.
  • Student Senate established.
  • Literary Digest poll found 1,045 Illinois students favored President Roosevelt’s New Deal, 887 opposed it.
  • Daily Illini expanded in size. Publication had regular news section and section devoted to comics, entertainment and features.
  • Women allowed to join Block I.
  • Phi Kappa Tau became first Illinois fraternity to have a housemother.
  • Varsity baseball coach Carl Lundgren died.
Aerial View of the Armory, circa 1935
Aerial View of the Armory, circa 1935


  • Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi established co-operative African-American restaurant after Boyd’s Cafe–the only campus restaurant (except for the University cafeteria) to serve African-Americans–closed. The co-op restaurant lasted less than a year.
  • Axe-Grinder’s Ball ended.
  • National Student League again denied University recognition.
  • Some 150 students held a strike against war, assembled on “National Peace Day.”
  • Group known as Constitutional Liberals organized.
  • Interfraternity Council changed name of ‘Hell Week’ and abolished paddling.
  • Armory fire caused $20,000 in property damages.
  • Committee on Student Affairs tabled petition seeking recognition for Student League for Industrial Democracy.


  • Some 300 students and faculty members held a strike against war.
  • Heat wave killed seven. Temperatures reached as high as 108 degrees.
  • Jewish fraternities and sororities provided shelter for German refugee students.
  • Dolores C. Thomas named first Homecoming queen.
  • Dating bureau organized.
  • Longtime Athletic Director George Huff died.
  • Chapter of American Student Union received recognition from Committee on Student Affairs.


  • New independent group organized: Men’s Independent District Association.
  • Students brought suit against Hanley-Lewis Confectionery for discriminating against African-Americans. Case was decided in favor of confectionery.
  • Civil Rights Union and American Student Union circulated petitions protesting discrimination by campus restaurants and Champaign-Urbana theaters.
  • Daily Illini launched anti-vice crusade.
Students studying, circa 1938
Students studying, circa 1938


  • Cenacle published monthly magazine–The Scribbler.
  • Student Senate addressed discrimination issue.
  • WILL radio station’s power increased from 1000 to 5000 watts.
  • Following a ceiling collapse, University Hall was condemned and razed.


  • On February 17th, a student was shot and killed in the Champaign red-light district. One week later over 6,000 students attended a rally at Huff Gymnasium calling for a crackdown on vice.
  • New YMCA building dedicated.
  • Board of Fraternity Affairs established, funded in part by the New Deal’s Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, Gregory Hall constructed.
  • Hilda H. Lawson became first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. from Illinois.

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