There is a powerful thread on Holly Smith’s ’99 blog that touches on the JA selection process. Holly applied and was rejected. Her anger over the rejection:

arose from a lot of issues, emotional, intellectual and social that I had/have about Williams. The JA thing was just a bit of icing on the cake that set me off. And was disspointing, not because I as Holly Smith was excluded from something (like some sort of popularity contest or something), but that exclusion validated in my mind [be it logical or illogical] everything I disliked about the mainstream student culture at Williams.

I just felt that the culture of Williams was rejecting a value system that I represented that did speak for populations on campus. Populations that I felt were missing in the usual JA pool, which was why I applied in the first place.

These JAs have a big influence on creating and perpetuating campus culture. And in perpetuating a culture that I didn’t feel was the reality for every freshman, it was truly a slap in the face for me. And a sign that the College was content to allow people to be minimized and lost by the entry system.

There is a lot more in the thread than what I have just quoted. Being a JA-reject myself, I can understand where Holly is coming from. In retrospect, I have few complaints. I find it hard to say for sure that I would have been a better JA than any of those selected my year.

If the process works as it did 20 years ago, this coming week is the notification date for next year’s lucky JAs. In the past, it was always the Wednesday just before Spring Break — early enough to ensure that everyone got the word, but still allowing 2 weeks of away time for the many unlucky applicants to come to grips with the rejection.

The good folks on the JA selection committee have more power over the lives of other people right now than many of them will have for years after graduation. It is one of Williams’s greatest strengths that it entrusts its students with such significant responsibility. I hope that they use it as wisely now as they did 20 years ago.

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