My normal project around this time of year is to try to figure out who the co-presidents of the incoming JAs are and send them this letter.

What we have, as current-President Schapiro can explain better than I, is a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing The Mountains at events ranging from basketball games in the gym to hikes up Pine Cobble to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. We are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

Fortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn The Mountains together, as a group, during your JA orientation this week. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days next fall. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Schapiro, between the different dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall?

I have been doing this, off and on, for a decade now — so far, without success. Some years I forget. Some years I just e-mail the co-presidents. One year I even e-mailed all the incoming JA’s (whose names had been listed in the Record). Before, EphBlog came along, I had a lot of spare time.

Some years, no one seems interested. Other years they seem to be, but nothing much happens. A few years ago, the co-presidents were extremely gung-ho on the idea and did there best to implement it, but failed. It just seems like the current (?) practice of teaching people at the first class meeting in Chapin can not work because it is not enough time to learn the song. First years need to learn it in their entries before the meeting. And the only way that will happen is if the JAs learn the song before First Days and then teach the first years. The natural time for that learning to occur is, obviously, during JA training.

Anyway, I never got around to it this year. Does anyone know who the new JA co-presidents are? I believe that JA training starts next week . . .

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