The Yale Herald reports that freshmen counselors (seniors who are paid by Yale) are forbidden to become romantically involved with freshmen. If they do, they are fired. But

[a]t Williams College, Junior Advisors (Williams’ version of the freshman counselor program) are discouraged from having relationships with their freshmen, but are not punished for doing so. The prevailing mentality is that if a relationship happens, there is nothing that can be done to stop or prevent it. There are no official ramifications —- just the embarrassment of exposing oneself to the judgment of fellow students. But Jumi Song ’05, a former JA, insists that it rarely happens because, “It is very much a self-regulating system in that the entire community frowns upon it. It can be seen as an abuse of power because they are looked upon as role models.” Adds Tseli Mohammed ’06, a current JA, “The JA Selection Committee generally picks people who can make the right choice.”

Hmmm. I seem to remember that, back in the day, this was an official, albeit sotto voce, policy. If it isn’t, shouldn’t it be? I think that if a JA sleeps with a first year, he has demonstrated such a profound lack of good judgment that his ability to handle other aspects of JA’ness is called into question. Why keep him on as a JA when there are so many excellent candidates to replace him with?

I don’t believe that he should be punished or fined for this transgression, but he certainly does not deserve to stay in a position in which first year women look to him for guidance and advice.

Empirical question: How many JA’s have become romantically involved with first years this school year?

But it is not simply some idealistic faith in the JAs that keeps this system operating. The issue that sets Williams apart from Yale is one of liability. Part of the reason that the Williams administration does not enforce binding regulations on its JA is that the JAs are not technically employees of the college, because they are not compensated in any way for their work. Conversely, Yale freshman counselors are University employees because they receive, as a factor of how many freshmen they are in charge of, a certain discount on their room and board.

Every decade or so, the issue of paying JAs comes up. Fortunately, it is shot down everytime, although the most recent call was too close for my taste.

The problem with paying JA’s is not, of course, that they don’t deserve the money or that the services that they provide aren’t worth anything. In fact, they are easily 50 of the most important students on campus. The problem with paying them is that their relationship to both the dean’s office and to their entries would change, and not for the better. Moreover, the subset of people applying for the position would change, also not in a good way.

I suspect that some of the problems associated with the new CLC/HC system are not unconnected to the (modest) salaries associated with these roles.

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