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The Cost of a Junior Year Abroad

Junior Danger

This image considers the implications of class relationships in the context of a junior year abroad. I have colored in cells of classes that are unavailable for a junior spending the year abroad. For example, members of the class of 2009 were partially unavailable from my class in my freshman year, as compared with the nearly universally present sophomore class. In my class’s Junior year, we are unavailable to other classes.

The implications of the above are interesting. Tracing the graph left to right, you can see that although it might seem that members of my class and the class of 2010 share three years together, combined years abroad can lower that time for full interaction to one year, the same time that the class of 2008 had with us.

Granted, the effect is much less because of the low number of juniors who spend the full year abroad, but I was surprised at the implications regarding class ties. It’s certain that the next two weeks will mark the last time that some members of my class see current frosh, since some of both classes will be abroad in the next two years.

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#1 Comment By hwc On May 11, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

Now, shade in the cells that are elminated by the policy of freshman class apartheid. For example, sophs, juniors, and seniors would have been cut off from your class last year when you were a frosh and the frosh class this year is cut off from you, and so on and so forth.

#2 Comment By wslack On May 11, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

I don’t follow: this graph isn’t about who lives with who, but rather overall year interaction in class, extracurriculars, and those random meetings that give life meaning.

#3 Comment By David On May 11, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

Will: HWC’s point is that, relative to places like Smith which integrate freshmen directly in upperclass housing (i.e., there are no entries), there are fewer opportunities for cross-class interaction at Williams. This is the same point that you make (correctly) with regard to junior year activities (and I would partially include JAing here as well).

And you are exactly correct in the above. By the way, this is way any plan for neighborhood identity is doomed to failure. With 1/2 the junior class away/jaing and 1/3 of the seniors off-campus or in co-ops, neighborhoods will never, ever, ever develop meaningful identities.

But perhaps I have made this point a few times in the past . . .

#4 Comment By frank uible On May 11, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

You all know what I’m tempted to say.

#5 Comment By hwc On May 12, 2009 @ 12:47 am

I don’t follow: this graph isn’t about who lives with who, but rather overall year interaction in class, extracurriculars, and those random meetings that give life meaning.

I don’t know of a more important place for random interaction on a college campus than in the dorms and dining halls. But isolating freshmen in their own enclaves, you cut off the biggest avenue for forming friendships across class lines and for passing along wisdom about being a successful college student when it is most desperately needed by the newbies.

I think that if you color in the other three classes for your freshman year and then the freshman classes for the other three years, in addition to the junior year abroad, you have essentially wiped out meaningful inter-class opportunities.

The challenge is not freshmen bonding with freshmen. That happens automatically whereever you have four or more freshman on a hall. The challenge is to promote interaction between freshmen and upperclass students, especially sophmores. That’s how you achieve a situation where every class has friends a year ahead (peer mentors) and a year behind (peer mentorees).

#6 Comment By kthomas On May 12, 2009 @ 1:03 am

hwc: Absolutely agreed.

#7 Comment By aparent On May 12, 2009 @ 1:51 am

I agree with Will here. Given “interaction in class, extracurriculars, and those random meetings that give life meaning,” unless a first-year Eph holes up in a Mission or frosh quad single or double and never leaves, s/he will especially enjoy the company of 1) jas (and friends) from the class two years ahead and 2) sophomores and seniors met in the daily experience of classes, various and sundry groups in which Ephs spend their free (non-class) time, and the social venues (including Paresky, Goodrich, etc.) centered around eating and / or drinking.

[As an aside, too many alums too far removed (both in time and space) from campus (and with undue affinity for their soapboxes) often make far too little sense to be relevant to today’s Ephs.]

#8 Comment By kthomas On May 12, 2009 @ 2:52 am

aparent:

I didn’t mean that as a contradiction to Will, and should have been a little more careful in my phrasing.

I do not necessarily endorse ‘hwc’ ‘s description of the current entry/first-year system as ‘apartheid’– however, I suspect, especially with Mission used for frosh, his phrasing expresses something valuable.

Equally, if we take the collected experience of multiple generations, who have seen Williams work in many different configurations– well, I spent nine years closely associated with the campus, but I think there’s some value in distance.

hwc’s comment touched me particularly, because I was befriended by a group of frosh when I visited campus, who became my sophomore friends when I matriculated. The value of their friendship– and the advantages it gave me– I can’t express the appreciation. (“No way” I would have gotten through five courses a semester, without a lot of help).

“Apartheid” is pejorative, and perhaps a soapbox (I mean: here I go on the soapbox!). But I think that every generation thinks about how things could be better at Williams– how we could change– what works well and what does not. Historically, as well, I think there is a lot of evidence that the Student Body has been highly skeptical of the Administration, –to the point of direct confrontation– and that this has been very good for the course of the institution.

Well– one could question that interpretation, as well! One has to be careful– or at least, I think there is a value in being as precise as possible– one-to-one confrontations and debates are one thing; the idea of the masses, en masse, confronting the “powers that be”– the romanticism of that– quite another.

If you look at the grand duree, I think it becomes clear that is one of the best things about Williams– we’re never satisfied, we’re constantly critiquing the institution and quibbling among ourselves– looking for new possibilities.

Yes, it’s often tedious and annoying; nine times out of ten, we’re wrong. We’re out of touch– but you might be surprised, how out of touch members of the faculty and the administration can be. (I’ll defer on quoting from Deans’ meetings of old.)

The plans we discussed in my time at Williams– frosh in Mission was referred to (by the Admins) as the “Freshman Ghetto” option. That was the “minority” option– a sort of joke– even “worst case–” no one I knew, seemed to think it possible or to take it seriously. The other option– a lot more difficult to engineer the logistics of– was to embed first-year entries in upperclass housing.

It’s hard to say I entirely disagree with David on Housing– but I agree with him, (and probably with Frank), that the course of the recent housing changes has been pretty “out of touch” and pure folly. I think neighborhoods and neighborhood identity are quite possible ideals– and that they worked OK when I was at Williams– and that the idea of ‘free agency’ was one of the administrative mistakes (conveniences) that broke the system.

Fraternities? Not very popular of late, when called that– I think the judgment may change, if we talk about self-governance, and taking the risk of giving students the primary responsibility over their lives.

At an institution such as Deep Springs– the way it is put, is that if you give highly talented, highly capable young people, enormous responsibility– they will rise to the challenge, they will learn from that opportunity, they will meet the challenge.

My problem with the Williams I have known: a weak parentalism, which fails the obligations parentis, — to nurture — which underestimates and constrains, which hobbles the children for the parents’ narrow needs.

I’ll step down– no Freud, or Nietzsche, or Ree and Salome, nor Hobbes and Leibniz and Kant, nor Plato and Aristotle tonight.

But– did I just claim again– that academia misses the meaning of this tradition– out of presentism and self-interest and?

Off soap-box.

#9 Comment By aparent On May 12, 2009 @ 3:12 am

ken:

I have to say that I always enjoy your measured, reasoned discourse — which wasn’t what I had in mind when I stepped on my soapbox in my “aside.”

As always, thank you.

#10 Comment By JeffZ On May 12, 2009 @ 6:39 am

First of all, HWC, when you are trying to make a (reasonable, albeit one I disagree with) point, I’d avoid using loaded terms like “apartheid” — doesn’t really help people to take you seriously.

That being said, there are plusses and minuses to every system. I happen to prefer the one at Williams for many reasons — first of all, there is ample access to upper class role models in the current system, between exposure to JA’s and their friends who often will hang around the entry, sports teams, arts and service activities, student gov’t, classes, and on and on. Williams is a small place and I think very, very few people lack meaningful interaction with upper class students during their frosh year. But of course, relative to other schools, Williams frosh will spend proportionately MORE time meeting a far wider variety of frosh, and LESS time in small enclaves of like-minded upper classmen. To me, this is a huge positive for Williams — by the time most people graduate, they know a huge percentage of their classmates. This is great for class bonding, from day one through reunions down the line. It exposes frosh to a wider variety of similarly situated people, and maximizes the opportunities to bond with a broader spectrum of classmates.

I think of my own experience: my closest friends at Williams (and in my life) I may never have known, and probably never become close to, but for the opportunity to spend a ton of time with a huge group of different classmates sophomore year in Mission. Because I had two years with tons of classmates around, I had the chance to acquire a large, diverse, yet still intense group of relationships that really grew over the course of four years. Yet, despite never being on a sports team or anything like that, I had ample opportunities to learn from upper class role models. I think most people really, really love the entry system at Williams, and it is one of the things that makes Williams stand out from its peers. While there will always be dissenters, I guarantee that a poll of alumni would find few Williams institutions with as much support, on a percentage basis, as the JA / entry system.

There are plenty of things in Williams that should be fixed, but why touch something that is such a profound and integral, not to mention largely positive, aspect of the Williams experience for the vast majority of alums? HWC is always fond of saying that Williams should embrace what makes it special and so on and not try to be something it is not — well, Williams is not Swarthmore, thankfully, and the entry / frosh living system is one of the very best aspects of the Williams experience. Really gives a chance for frosh to grow up together with the unique bonds that emanate from that experience.

#11 Comment By hwc On May 12, 2009 @ 9:37 am

Apartheid, ghettoization, Balkanization, segregation. Pick your term for mandating separate housing enclaves for a group.

I am perfectly aware that Williams will never consider changing its freshman housing policy. It’s a sacred cow.

That doesn’t change my opinion. Having first hand experience with the Williams model and seeing how the other model works for an offspring, I feel very strongly that the Balkanization model for freshmen is a major policy issue with ramifications that reverberate trhough many areas of campus culture and that it is a bad policy. Specifically, I believe the ghettoization amplifies the natural feelings of being a bit adrift for college freshmen and contributes to the “kids gone wild” problems typical of freshman dorms.

#12 Comment By ’13 On May 12, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

Other “ghetto” colleges:

Harvard, Yale, Princeton…

#13 Comment By Parent ’12 On May 12, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

Is it possible that there’s a high correlation between alumni donations & first year students housed together?

Or, to be blunt, using HWC’s terms & ’13’s list, do “ghetto” colleges have the highest rate of alumni giving?

#14 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 12, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

I agree with HWC in this sense. When I look back at my time at Williams, most of friendships at Williams are with people from my class, or people I knew from the rugby team. I had relatively few long term interactions with people from other classes (I was not a JA, and lived for 3 years in Bryant House). I suspect that had I not played rugby (which during my time had as many as 100-150 players, men and women) or some other sport/activity, I would have been friends with very few people outside of my class. However, during my time (and I suspect now as well), most people had some type of extra-curricular activity (sports, a cappella, theatre, Record, WCFM, College Council) or majored in small enough departments, so that they would meet people from other classes.

I think the Williams model does have long-term effects, but like Jeff I think they are on balance positive.

#15 Comment By hwc On May 12, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

Is it possible that there’s a high correlation between alumni donations & first year students housed together?

That was certainly not the original motivation. Originally, freshmen were housed separately because they had to put them somewhere before they all moved to the frat houses sophmore year. Williams, like most schools, basically turned the housing and dining over to the fraternities until they were abolished just a generation ago.

#16 Comment By JG On May 12, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

Apologies for the long comment…

That doesn’t change my opinion. Having first hand experience with the Williams model and seeing how the other model works for an offspring, I feel very strongly that the Balkanization model for freshmen is a major policy issue with ramifications that reverberate trhough many areas of campus culture and that it is a bad policy.

I think I understand where you’re coming from on this hwc, but I respectfully disagree. I think that there are extremely positive ramifications from the freshman housing situation that outweigh any limitations on social interaction (which I think are relatively minor).

As someone who was a JA and lived with frosh problems and whose brother was an RA at an integrated frosh housing school and dealt with those problems, I absolutely think the Williams system is better. I also attended grad school where there were frats and integrated frosh housing. There is a problem of older guys (and some gals) preying on frosh. There are unique problems any frosh deals with in adjustment that I think are lessened by living with other frosh to know they aren’t alone. I admit that the real need, IMO for the entry system somewhat disappears after the first semester but we’re not in the habit of making everyone move at Winter Study.

I guess I just never saw this as a big problem – I was a pretty shy kid (my how times have changed…) who knew zero other students at Williams and came to school from 3000 miles away as a first-gen kid having not been to previews. I was on financial aid and assumed everyone else had more money than I did which additionally made me uncomfortable. But by the end of the year, I had a core of friends in my entry, but I had met upperclassmen through Newman, Amnesty International, classes, a brief brush with Women’s Rugby that gave me friends for the rest of my time at Williams, and also my PE classes. I was terribly homesick/out of my element at first and suffered from the “how did they accept me when everyone else is so smart” syndrome that is pretty common among Williams frosh. It was a great comfort to have JAs to help me out and 20 other kids who, at some level, were dealing with that same adjustment. Despite adoring my upperclassmen friends, it was nice to come “home.”

There is some possible limitation with frosh not living with upperclassmen, but honestly not *that* much. There are clubs, sports, and other activities with lots of cross-class mixing. Also, particularly by second semester, there is a ton of interaction in classes. Later on when the sophs-seniors are theoretically integrated, the classes end up self-segregating anyway to a certain extent or not mixing within the dorm outside of a suite. That situation could theoretically leave a suite of frosh functionally alone within a house full of seniors. Not exactly a warm and fuzzy environment.

My other question is how do you have a JA system (or some kind of RA system?) with mixed frosh housing? The only way I could see that is either eliminating the program or switching to RAs that somehow have authority over other upperclassmen which would also fundamentally alter the relationship of students within dorms.

Those are my two (or four) cents. Perhaps others with bad entry experiences or who didn’t meet upperclassment don’t see the same positives. We don’t all need to agree. But I do wonder if anyone can describe what an integrated housing system at Williams would look like that preserved some elements of the autonomy of Williams dorm life while still providing some kind of advisor/protector/structure for frosh. I’m not saying there isn’t a better system out there somewhere, but I don’t think lumping frosh in with everyone else solves the alleged non-interaction of classes problem.

[Side note: I personally don’t want to use any of those loaded terms because people who actually lived through or know anything about apartheid, etc. realize it was about more than privileged kids living in dorms. I also think using terms like “ghetto” and “apartheid” presumes that the decision was somehow made to keep frosh away from the rest of the school for some benefit to the majority while in actuality (even if you disagree with it’s success) the motivation in housing frosh together is to help them adjust more easily and in essence provide a “safe space.”]

#17 Comment By Parent ’12 On May 12, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

JG- Thanks for taking the time to write the long comment.

I think, which seems to have been confirmed by my Eph, & in agreement with you, that the entries serve as a home away from home. My guess is that this might be even more so for students with siblings.

Because the entries are insular they might actually motivate the frosh, particularly those not involved heavily in sports, to find & become involved in extra-curriculars that would provide social mixing across classes.

As for how one could mix class levels in the dorms, the building complexes that form a unit– Frosh Quad, Mission, Odd Quad, maybe the Dodd group — could have 1st year entries in just part of the complex. However, having heard how tiny the rooms are in Frosh Quad, I doubt anyone would voluntarily choose to live there.

Lastly, shy & rugby?

#18 Comment By hwc On May 12, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

Freshmen in mixed dorms bond with freshmen just the same as at Williams. My daughter’s freshman year hall was known as the [name of dorm] Cult because they always travelled in a pack first semester. Heck, a seventeen of them went to NYC on a Chinatown bus crashing on the floor of a parent’s upper East Side apartment — doing MOMA and the Guggenheim, student tix for Broadway, and Central Park fountain group photos. Looking back at those pictures, I see all of my daughter’s best friends — she has lived with various combinations from that group for every semester in college (except when she was abroad) including a summer and now sfter college in two different houses, down the street from another. Two of her housemates graduated a year before her and she’s been busy house hunting in her neighborhood for a group graduating this year. Most of the kids from those first semester freshman photos in Central Park showed up with their parents for a little impromptu afternoon wine and cheese party the kids put together for us the day before graduation four years later. I see no evidence to suggest there is less freshman bonding in a mixed dorm.

What is more difficult is role modeling so that freshmen can see how actual grown up college students apportion their time, write a senior thesis, pass along study tips, and the collective wisdom on professors. Or even just to say “STFU, some of have honors seminar papers to write”. I also remember my daughter going to D.C. for a big party weekend with alums who were seniors on her freshman hall — an opportunity to see first hand what post college life would be like.

As for RA/JAs, since they are so helpful in a dorm, you simply have them in every dorm and treat freshmen, sophmores, juniors, and seniors all the same.

#19 Comment By JeffZ On May 12, 2009 @ 10:21 pm

HWC, your view is myopic. There is a zero sum game in the amount of time anyone can spend forming relationships period, let alone close relationships during the most intense formative period at college. I think everyone taking the contrary position has accepted that there may be some benefits to mixed class housing; but you want to suggest (in your above comment) that having mixed housing loses none of the benefits of frosh concentrated housing outlined by many on this thread, most eloquently by JG. That is ridiculous — obviously, if you are spending more time hanging out with a mix of upperclassmen as a frosh, you lose the many benefits and bonding opportunities of a frosh-centric living environment. And as JG pointed out, there are real negatives to having upperclassmen too closely integrated into frosh life. If you want to have an honest debate about these trade-offs, that is fine. But you don’t — in your argument you want to have your cake and eat it too, focusing only on the benefits and claiming — falsely — no costs to your proposed adjustments.

The entry system works well for Williams. In general, I doubt 1 in 10 Williams kids would trade their social experience for that at Swarthmore, and for very good reasons. (You give the example of your daughter; well, I could give counter examples of people I know who went to Swat who had VERY different experiences). It’s all moot anyway because, thankfully, entries are probably the last aspect of residential / social life that anyone is looking to alter. Again, over and over again, many, many, many people cite the entry experience as one of the very best things about Williams. There are plenty of things to work on changing on campus without trying to change one of the most popular things about the school, and something that helps define its institutional character. We all know you aren’t a fan of Williams and much prefer Swarthmore. That is your right. And guess what — for you and people who are like-minded, they can send their kids to Swarthmore. But for those who like the entry system, who think having a strong social and extracurricular and athletic life on campus, are generally positive things, and all the many other aspects of Williams that you love to berate, well, those are the very things that attract many to Williams in the first place, and which inspire among the highest alumni giving rates in the nation, year in and year out. I am not saying Williams is immune from criticism. But you spend an awful lot of time writing about Williams on this and other blogs and sites for someone who is so disenchanted by the institution. At a certain point, do you want to change Williams at the margins, which makes sense, or do you fundamentally despise major elements of what makes Williams, Williams, and wish it would transform into an entirely different institution (“Warthmore” perhaps), which is just sort of a waste of your time?

#20 Comment By JG On May 12, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

HWC – I’m glad it works/ed at Swat for your daughter. I don’t think it’s a situation where one way is necessarily bad. But I think it somewhat depends on the size/character of the dorms and the school itself. Williams students seem to have always liked that after frosh year, nobody “supervises” you in whatever shape or form. Williams seems unlikely to go to an RA system where there is any real authority or enforcement power (and it would cost a LOT of money to start paying people).

Personally, I would not have wanted to be a “JA” or an RA of older students. There is very little benefit in that situation – I’m a role model as a junior for a senior? No thanks. Or, alternatively, I’m supposed to enforce (or quasi-enforce) rules among my friends or seniors? Also a no-go.

It’s not an impossible situation, but the design of Williams dorms doesn’t seem to allow for 20 frosh in one dorm anywhere nearby – they are too broken up. Also, are you going to force upperclassmen picking rooms to either pick into what is now the frosh quad (smallest rooms EVER) or to save some rooms in desirable row houses for frosh? I just don’t see this working out well. I’m glad it works elsewhere, and there are probably 20 different (or more) iterations of how housing or frats or theme housing or whatever else works at other schools. But entries seems to work at Williams. Most alums I’m in touch with actually look back on entries as one of the most unique and special things about the school – why would we want to end that?

Parent ’12 – I’m a bundle of contradictions :) Nobody who knows me now would believe I ever was shy…I was nervous around new people but would compensate by getting very involved in activities or forcing myself to get out there and meet folks even when it scared the crap out of me. So I went out for rugby with one of my entrymates (thanks Erin!) and met the ruggers. They taught me the wonders of Thursday night parties, singing raunchy songs, and being unapologetically and joyfully exactly who you were. Even though I stopped playing after about 2 weeks, I had a standing invite to all of the parties and events, and a whole lot of good friends. I still look back fondly on the completely stupid, dangerous, wonderful, and fun adventures I had. Without an entry, who knows if I would have gone.

#21 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 12, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

Jeff is right that there are trade-offs in the two systems. I, like most on this thread, liked the entry system, but I’m certain its not for everyone.

Parent ’12, I can’t speak for JG specifically, but many ruggers are shy and retiring.

#22 Comment By sophmom On May 12, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

I can’t believe this argument is going on yet again. The effectiveness of the JA system at Williams vs. um…Swarthmore? (surprise, surprise!).

Okay, for the third, or fourth, or fifth time, I will spill a condensed version of what I have said before. The JA entry system at Williams is unique. It is terrific. It works. It makes for a much smoother, easier freshman transition than any I have discussed with parents whose kids are at colleges and universities across the country. When I describe the Williams system, their jaws drop and they take on an envious, admiring tone.

There. Now, the next time EB has this argument, I’ll try and condense it even more.

As for freshmen bonding naturally with upper class students? Just one of the many benefits of team sports.

JG: Your comment is terrific. File it so you can just cut and paste the next time hwc brings all this up.

Will: Your graph is really interesting and I look forward to discussing the implications of it with my son once he gets home. Well done.

#23 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 12:07 am

I know that Williams will never change its entry system, even though it has serious drawbacks — such as very high numbers of freshmen hospitalized with alcohol poisoning. Freshman-only dorms are notoriously bad in terms of behavior on every campus that has them. There is nothing unique about Williams freshman housing except that the college doesn’t give free room and board to its RAs. Otherwise, it is identical to the segregated freshman housing at the majority of colleges in the country.

I brought it up because it is exactly on point for Will’s topic — impediments to mixing between class years.

#24 Comment By ’10 On May 13, 2009 @ 12:40 am

hwc:

There is nothing unique about Williams freshman housing except that the college doesn’t give free room and board to its RAs.

The relationship between JAs and frosh at Williams is utterly different from the relationship between RAs and frosh at every non-Williams school I’ve ever heard of. If you don’t understand how that’s the case, you’re not qualified to criticize the entry system.

#25 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 2:38 am

“The relationship between JAs and frosh at Williams is utterly different from the relationship between RAs and frosh at every non-Williams school ”

No it isn’t, except that at most schools the RAs won’t buy booze for the freshmen. Otherwise, the relationship is exactly the same.

#26 Comment By kthomas On May 13, 2009 @ 2:58 am

hwc:

Respectfully submitted: please consider that the relationship between JAs and (:) first-years at Williams, at its best–(::) may be closer to the relationship between second-years and (:) first-years at Deep Springs–; where alcohol is strictly prohibited and “sober inquiry” figures highly in the ‘ethos’.

At its worst– exactly as you suggest. But– neither moment on the pendulum, “defines things.”

#27 Comment By frank uible On May 13, 2009 @ 5:04 am

When I was a freshman in 1953-54, the entry system was at the center of a social disaster for freshmen due to the College’s non-feasance, misfeasance and possible malfeasance. It must be better (probably a lot better) today because it couldn’t possibly be as bad or worse (short of imprisonment) even if the College tried to make it so.

#28 Comment By rory On May 13, 2009 @ 8:40 am

anytime i hear that we should model our social scene in any way, shape, or form after Swarthmore, i laugh. that’s not a model i’ll ever want to follow. And my brother’s a swattie. and his wife. it was great for them (well, not really…my brother’s freshman year experience was pretty awful socially), but whenever i visited all i knew was “not for me! not for me!”

#29 Comment By JG On May 13, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

Yeah, Swarthmore RAs (nor those from any other school) have never ever bought booze for their frosh. I’m sure. EVERY school has RAs that buy for those frosh they think can handle it. Every school. Segregated frosh housing is not to blame for the binge drinking – that’s puritanical laws about the drinking age and the lack of real attempt by schools to creatively solve the problem (or really care).

#30 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

There’s no need for RAs to buy booze for freshmen when there are seniors and juniors on hall who make booze runs for them.

#31 Comment By Parent ’12 On May 13, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

JG- Ah, 2 weeks of playing rugby & many times of raucous fun makes a lot more sense.

WW’90– Some ruggers as shy & retiring reminds me of the first time I met someone who played– a very intellectual guy who arrived at a seminar with oddly placed bandages, injuries clearly not from a brawl.

As an aside related to rugby, can you or anyone else explain the recent shirt burning. It sounded as if there’s some sort of history to the incident.

Frank- What were entries like in ’53-54? What did/didn’t the College do?

#32 Comment By JeffZ On May 13, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

Uh oh Parent ’12, you’ve opened a powderkeg asking Frank to opine on housing at Williams …

#33 Comment By rory On May 13, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

There’s no need for RAs to buy booze for freshmen when there are seniors and juniors on hall who make booze runs for them.

well, that’s MUCH better then. And my (second) entry generally got its booze from people other than our JAs…one wasn’t 21 most of the year and the other didn’t want to do it. no big deal.

#34 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 13, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

Parent ’12,

Not sure about the details about shirt burning, but here’s what may have happened. Historically (and as I far as I know, currently) Williams and Amherst play twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. (I have a feeling that they may play more often now, as part of league scheduling). The tradition is that the A and B sides (the best two sides for each team) bet their shirts for the game, so that the losers give their $60-$75 (??) shirts to the winners. Sometimes, even the C-sides bet.

Thus, having an aMherst jersey is a sign of accomplishment for a Williams rugger, showing both an ability to play on one of the upper sides and – more importantly – beating the Defectors.

In my day, the night before the Amherst game, individual ruggers, and sometimes whole sides, would burn their aMherst shirts in the bonfire in a show of confidence that they would be getting a new one the next day. It was an act which fired up the team and was a sign of confidence because you may only get a few chances ever to play for a jersey and who knows how many you might win.

Is your son a rugger?

#35 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 13, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

Actually, I should have asked: “Is your son or daughter a rugger?”

#36 Comment By JG On May 13, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

hwc – I did not postulate that as a reason to have JAs. You claimed the only difference was that JAs buy booze for frosh while RAs don’t, which was a completely false and stupid thing to say.

Frosh who want booze will find booze. I’m not sure what that adds to your argument that they magical wonderland of Swat housing is somehow perfect for Williams.

#37 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

hwc – I did not postulate that as a reason to have JAs. You claimed the only difference was that JAs buy booze for frosh while RAs don’t, which was a completely false and stupid thing to say.

OK, forget the booze runs (although JA procuring booze was cited as a significant issue by the recent Ad Hoc Committee on Alcohol report). Go back to my initial statement that the relationship between JAs and frosh is not “utterly different” than the relationship between RAs and frosh. That distinction is a bit of Williams lore that has no basis in reality. The lore is a ruse to keep from giving JAs a free room in exchange for their hard work.

#38 Comment By Parent ’12 On May 13, 2009 @ 2:20 pm

WW ’90- As far as I know, my son is not a rugger. That is, he didn’t play in high school.

But, whether he’s tried rugby at Williams, a la JG, I don’t know.

And, thank you for the background on the rugby shirt tradition. Do you still play? The friend I mentioned was in his thirties when he explained about the bandages.

#39 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On May 13, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

Parent ’12, I did play when I was in 10th grade, but not afterwards until my freshman year at Williams. All that meant was that I had a better understanding of the rules at the beginning, because I ended up playing a completely different position at Williams (think wide receiver (10th grade) vs. offensive lineman (Williams). In the late ’80’s at least, very few ruggers had played before arriving at Williams. I don’t know your son, so I won’t presume to tell him how he should spend his time, but I will say that the Williams Rugby Football Club (WRFC) played an enormously positive role for me, both on and off the field, during my time at Williams. If he has any interest at all, i would urge him to give it a shot.

I don’t play any more, though my friend and classmate Chap Petersen (WRFC President 1989-90) still does: http://oxroadsouth.com/2009/03/21/nova-old-boys-roll-to-rugby-victory.aspx.

#40 Comment By JeffZ On May 13, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

The very fact that JA’s DON’T get free room and/or other substantial compensation, HWC, is what makes the program different. Were the primary, or even one of the primary, motivations compensation, it would dramatically affect the applicant pool (in my view, substantially for the worse), and were they compensated by the administration, that would necessarily change both how they were viewed by frosh and how they viewed their own roles. In all events, why would the college compensate folks for a job that as-is features three applicants for every slot. And it’s not like the college is struggling for top-notch applicants, either (I say this as someone who was involved in a huge amount of stuff on campus, and was as engaged with social life as someone could really be, and didn’t make the cut as a JA back in the day).

#41 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

There would be more slots if the College expanded this fantastic program to place JAs in all dorms.

You say that giving them free room would change the way JAs are viewed or that it would change the applicant pool as if those are establish facts. I have never seen one shred of evidence that is the case. Maybe you are thinking of schools where graduate students are hired as RAs?

#42 Comment By rory On May 13, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

the more things change…

#43 Comment By frank uible On May 13, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

Parent ’12: Thank you for asking – but a fair explanation would be lengthy and necessarily full of carefully drawn nuance. Maybe someday my motivation will be sufficient to meet my desire to pontificate well – not today.

#44 Comment By student10 On May 13, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

hwc: I have it on good authority that a Swattie RA in a freshman dorm regularly bought alcohol for his frosh. Also, I have compared my experience with this source and despite your protestations that our experiences are the same, I believe that my entry experience was vastly superior for any number of reasons. This is not even comparing the experience to that of most of my friends in larger schools, where the RA was a figure that was mainly hated and feared because many used their position as one to get back at people they didn’t like and had minimal, at best, contact with the younger students they lived with. As far as putting JA’s/RA’s into all dorms, I believe it has been addressed, but I do think that it would be met with a lot of anger and resistance. JA’s serve as a mentoring figure for freshmen, which is why they are in freshman dorms. By sophomore year, students want to get out on their own, unsupervised even by someone as peripherally in a position of authority as a JA. Nowadays, the school has a system called Baxter Fellows, where two students in each dorm act to try and get students together for events, schedule rooms, etc. This program has been, as far as I can tell, a failure.

#45 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

Nowadays, the school has a system called Baxter Fellows, where two students in each dorm act to try and get students together for events, schedule rooms, etc. This program has been, as far as I can tell, a failure.

That’s because they need candidates of the quality of JAs to make it work.

your protestations that our experiences are the same

Woah. Back the truck up. I did not claim the experiences are the same. Quite the contrary, I believe that a freshman-only dorm is a inferior experience from the standpoint of the students and the school. I feel strongly about it. Mixed freshman housing one of the things I recommend students specfically seek out. Colleges that have it tend to have lower binge drinking rates, fewer alcohol poisonings, etc.

I said that the relationship of the JA to frosh and RA to frosh is the same.

#46 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On May 13, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

I said that the relationship of the JA to frosh and RA to frosh is the same.

I’m in finals, and don’t have time to respond to anything in detail, but this point is, in my and friends’ experience, 100% wrong. RAs can act as JAs, but by that argument, so can anyone.

#47 Comment By rory On May 13, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

*yawns* some like it hot, some like it cold.

anyway, the failures of the baxter fellows/house presidents is institutional and not because the candidates are bad. it has to do with the architecture of the housing @ williams, the social life options, and students generally enjoying a non-programmed social scene.

can we stop tilting at windmills–hwc clearly hates the frosh housing, most of the rest of us (all?) disagree.

#48 Comment By hwc On May 13, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

RAs can act as JAs, but by that argument, so can anyone.

That’s kind of true. Older students in a mixed class dorm do act as informal “JAs” from time to time, maybe on academic issues as much as anything. However, a good RA, like a good JA, is

specifically focused on building a community in the dorm, keeping an eye out for freshmen who may be struggling to adjust, and generally serving as a shoulder to lean on, and so forth.