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Apply to JASC

Want more advice from EphBlog? Apply for the JA Selection Committee.

Applications are due tomorrow for a spot on this year’s JA Selection Committee. It’s incredibly fun and is an incredibly valubale service you can do for your school. The committee meets around 4 nights a week for the first five weeks of spring semester. It’s a legit. time commitment, but is eminently manageable.

Let your voice be heard! Make a difference! Join SelCom! Remember, everyone had different entry experiences and everyone has different visions of what a JA should be. Whether you hated your entry or loved it, we want a diversity of opinions so please don’t hesitate to apply.

Exactly right. Comments:

1) JASC represents everything that is best about Williams: a serious responsibility, lots of hard work, collaborating with your peers, and all student-run. Why is it that the less that the Office of Campus Life has to do with something, the more that students get out of the experience? Remember the tablecloth colors!

2) If Willipedia were to be good for anything, it should be good at telling us the details about the JASC. I do my best here, but I can’t edit it anymore. Perhaps someone else could add the co-chairs for this year and last.

3) Previous discussion here: 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. My opinions are the same as in past years.

We’ll know that something is wrong with the administration if they ever try to turn responsibility for JA selection over to the Dean’s Office, not because the Dean’s Office would do a poor job but because it would take a meaningful amount of power, and the responsibility that goes with it, out of the hands of students.

The JASC ought to expand its membership to include all credible applicants. More participation leads to better results. Now, there is nothing wrong with setting a high hurdle, with requiring a written essay with the application or kicking off anyone who misses more than 1 of the first 10 meetings. But, if someone really wants to participate in the process, a place should be created for them. To be inclusive you need to include people.

I realize that this will, perhaps, make the committee larger than it has been in the past. I see no reason that this will lead to better (or even different) decisions as to who is selected to be a JA. But it will lead the Williams community as a whole to view the process as more legitimate, as less incestuous. It will also cause those who are rejected to have more faith in the process since they are more likely to know, personally, someone on the committee who can vouch for its fairness.

I think that the JASC only gets about 35 applications for 25 spots, so expanding the committee is reasonable.

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#1 Comment By Dan Ohnemus On November 16, 2007 @ 1:15 pm

Having been on and helped coordinate JASC in the past, I’m of the opinion that 25 people is about as large as is reasonably manageable, for several reasons. Additional members would not only necessitate a change in venue (from the otherwise very private Hopkins 401–an extremely important aspect in and of itself), but the “roundtable” aspects of discussion would also be stretched to their limits. Equally important: a bit of a cut is useful to reduce the number of similar Committee applicants (overlapping entries, sports teams, class years, etc). Having too many people of similar voices is just as much of a potential problem as omitting a voice.

The JA Advisory Board is very mindful of the potential problems in cutting JASC applicants, and I think the appearance of being “incestuous” is simply that: an appearance. In reality, somebody has to form the JASC. Barring the involvement of administration, the JAAB (a sizeable group of 8 people itself) is extremely aware of how the JASC will be received. Their focus on the wider needs and diversity of the Williams community is paramount, and in the past the JAAB has done very well in forming balanced and diverse committees.

Furthermore, issues of JA-applicant privacy and confidentiality get much harder to manage when a group grows beyond a round-table discussion into a lecture-sized room of peers. The way the committee works now, face-to-face, members realize they each bring something unique to the discussion, rather than just having “opted” to be there (as would inevitably be the mindset of a potentially much larger, open committee). As such, aspects of personal responsibility and privacy are much more tightly held, and breaches are rare and easily identified.

On top of all this, the committee does not start meetings until ALL members are present, with no allowances for “skipping” or arriving a few minutes after discussions start. You can imagine the increase in delays an open committee would face if this rule was to be held in a larger group. All in all, I strongly defend the JAAB’s ability to make cuts in forming the JASC, and the current size of the group.

#2 Comment By FROSH mom On November 16, 2007 @ 5:28 pm

The JA system at Williams is so wonderful! I think it is a big part of making entry an easier transition than it might otherwise be.

In my many conversations with other parents whose kids are at schools across the country, I haven’t heard of another system like it.

Does it exist elsewhere or is it unique to Williams?

#3 Comment By Jonathan Landsman ’05 On November 16, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

David,

I overall applaud your yearly promotion of JASC applying. It’s a good goal and I like that you try to make sure it is a good group by giving them good choice in whom to take on. But I have one strong objection.

Nearly exactly 3 years ago, Drew Newman ’04 rebutted your opinion that the JASC’s size should be increased (point #6). To my knowledge, you never answered him, and I am disappointed to see you still advancing this opinion.

You owe it to those who give you an honest opinion, especially rare ones, especially knowledged ones, to either disagree or learn from them. That’s how a good discussion runs.

Instead, you have every year since hammered this same point with the same justification as though you were unaware of controversy over it. This is poor. It’s fine to post and repost on x, it’s not fine to do so statically, non-dynamically.

How do you answer the opinion, agreed to by Drew, Dan, and myself that 35 sinks the ship? I am very surprised to hear you pushing for the extra ten, as though that will change campuses feel of insularity. Which serious advisory groups do you consult or serve on that number 35?

#4 Comment By frank uible On November 16, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

At any point in time there are almost innumerable, attractive activities occurring on the Williams campus. Given the opportunity cost, what might motivate a Williams student to serve on the JASC?

#5 Comment By David On November 16, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

Jonathan asks a fair question.

How do you answer the opinion, agreed to by Drew, Dan, and myself that 35 sinks the ship?

Easily! Imagine instead that the JASC had had 8 members for the last decade, 8 students, perhaps even the members of the JA Advisory Board. How different would the world be?

1) Meetings would be quicker. It is much easier for 8 people to get together in one place and at one time than it is for 25 people. (Is 25 the current size of the JASC?)

2) The selected JAs would be just as good. From what I have been told (corrections welcome!) out 130 applicants, all agree that 25 or so would be great JAs and 30 or so would be bad ones. The trouble is the 75 in the middle. Which 25 to pick? A committee of size 8 would probably pick the 25 good and 30 bad ones just as well as the current JASC. They might pick a slightly different set from the remaining 75, but there is no reason to think that it would be a worse set. If anything, it might be a better one because there would be less of a tendency for (a few) people to make a big push for “their” candidate.

3) Privacy/security would be better. 8 people keep secrets better than 25.

Great system! Then imagine that some goofy alumn comes along as says, “No. Instead of 8 we ought to triple the size of the committee to 25 because that will lead to everyone, especially those who are rejected, trusting the process more.”

Oh! The hue and cry that would arise from the (excellent and well-meaning) Ephs involved in the 8 person process. Going from 8 top 25 would, obviously, “sink the ship.” Who could be so stupid as to believe otherwise? In that alternate reality, folks like Richard Dunn ’02 and Dan Ohnemus ’04, folks on the 8 person JASC, would complain mightily. They would point out (correctly!) that moving from 8 people to 25 makes meetings exponentially more difficult, makes privacy much less secure, makes life more difficult for everyone involved in the process. Increasing the group size puts an increased burden on precisely those Ephs, the very best among us, who are already devoting so much time to ensuring that the JA system is everything that we could hope for.

In that alternate world, I would say the same thing to a JASC of 8 as I do in this world to a JASC of 25. I know that the process is harder. I recognize that this is an added burden. I agree that fewer members on a committee make the work of that committee easier (for those who retain their spots). I grant that increasing the size of the committee is unlikely to improve (or even very much change) the selections made by JASC.

But none of that is the point. The point is to achieve a process which achieves the maximum buy-in from the community at large, especially from members of the community who operate on its edges, who are not the Richard Dunn’s and Drew Newman’s and Dan Ohnemus’s of Williams.

The importance of the JASC is not just (or even primarily) about who it selects. The feelings of those it rejects are just as important.

Almost any cost that increases the faith of the entire Williams community in the process by which students select JAs is a cost worth paying.

Now, I am not claiming that the committee needs to be 35 or 25 or 8. The actual size is not that interesting to me. What matters is that the JASC be as inclusive as possible. Indeed, I would recommend that the JAAB structure the JASC application process (by, say, requiring a one page essay) so that only those who really want the job bother to apply. There would be nothing wrong with making the application rigorous enough that only 10 people apply, and then just taking all 10.

The fundamental principal is that any Ephs who is willing to make a good faith effort to spend 100+ hours selecting the next set of JAs should be allowed to participate in that process. Such is the Williams way.

#6 Comment By frank uible On November 16, 2007 @ 9:57 pm

The whole damn matter appears to be solely a breeding ground for petty politics.

#7 Comment By Dan Ohnemus On November 17, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

Just a quick few points:
-The JASC is 25 people at this point (at my last knowing).
-The JAAB is, to the best of my knowledge, 7 people (not 8): the two co-presidents and five other JAs (chosen from about twice as many), who know going in they will have to serve on JASC. JAs who don’t get JAAB are, of course, encouraged to apply for JASC on their own.
-JASC applicants ARE asked to write a short statement discussing their reasons for applying. This does, of course, help winnow the applicant list to those who take some time to consider their reasons.

It comes down to simple cost-benefit. A JASC of 8 doesn’t maximize community inclusiveness, so an increase to 25 is an overall benefit, despite the added costs and risks. My point is that 25 is at the breaking point of these benefits, and increasing beyond that would be an overall loss, even if that means shutting out a couple people who wish to be involved.