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JA: Junior Anonymous

Coming soon to an EphBlog near you!

Are you a prefrosh, wondering what exactly a “Junior Advisor” is, and why exactly they’re so cool?

…Perhaps a current student, curious about the real world behind the iconic purple shirt?

…An alum, eager to relive your glory days (“When I was a JA…”)?

…Or maybe an Elton John fanatic, searching for someone to hold you just a little closer?

Well, you’ve come to the right place! Except for you, Mr. Piano-Rock-Connoisseur.  I’m not that kind of Tiny Dancer.

Starting next week, I will be recording my life as a brand-spankin’-new JA on our very own EphBlog.  In installments to be posted on the second Monday of every month, I will share with the world the ups and downs of a year spent living in the very same entry I inhabited as a First Year.  And who am I?

Tiny Dancer ’11

Tiny Dancer is a JA to the class of 2013 and the author of “JA: Junior Anonymous”, a monthly series devoted to chronicling her adventures in entry life.  When not bumming around the common room, Tiny is a pre-med Literary Studies major and plays a varsity sport.  Despite her moniker, she is absolutely terrible at dancing.

Disclaimer:  

I can’t pretend to speak for all JAs, and I can’t promise that my words will be funny, wise, or illuminating in any way.  But I can promise that they will be real, and I think that’s all that matters.

Until next week…

–Tiny Dancer

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#1 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 12:02 am

Might as well give you some musical accompaniment:

Ryan Adams and Elton John duet of Tiny Dancer (YouTube)

Fixed per later request. JG

#2 Comment By Ronit On July 10, 2009 @ 12:15 am

Yes! Welcome. Can’t wait to read your posts.

#3 Comment By wslack On July 10, 2009 @ 12:22 am

Likewise, very much welcome. I took the initiative to remove some identifying information from your post so as to protect your identity a little. If that doesn’t work, post a comment and I’ll restore straightaway.

Likewise, if I’m breaking policy established by that thread a few weeks back, I believe another admin can restore as well.

I’d e-mail you directly, Tiny Dancer, but I’m not completely sure who you are.

#4 Comment By tinydancer On July 10, 2009 @ 12:38 am

@wslack:

Thanks Will… I’m not overly concerned with the anonymity thing (my identity will become abundantly clear to anyone who sees me in my JA shirt, for instance) but I guess I should start things off properly. I just took the liberty of setting up an alternate e-mail, so feel free to contact me at TinyDancerEph@gmail.com

#5 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 12:39 am

argh. i wish there were an edit function. The musical accompaniment above is Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, not Tina Turner’s Private Dancer!

#6 Comment By Ronit On July 10, 2009 @ 12:41 am

Will – thanks for noting the issue, but I have reverted your changes.

#7 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 2:01 am

In my view the key question for a “first year” to ask himself or herself with respect to any JA is “if my interests should conflict with the interests of this JA or the Williams administration, whose interests will this JA serve?”.

#8 Comment By ’10 On July 10, 2009 @ 3:21 am

frank: I think all three of those interests align a lot more often than you think they do.

#9 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 3:59 am

But when they don’t?

#10 Comment By ’10 On July 10, 2009 @ 4:23 am

Just saying that your question isn’t as “key” as you’re implying. And unless you have reason to think that there will be substantial conflicts of interest, focusing on that sort of question is not a great way to approach a friendship.

#11 Comment By JeffZ On July 10, 2009 @ 7:20 am

HWC violated 21 U.S.C. Section 382, which mandates that any mention of the song “Tiny Dancer” must reference the seminal use of same, in the movie Almost Famous. (This is the little known movie section of the U.S.C. — Section 381, for example, mandates that any person born between 1972 and 1980 must list The Shawshank Redemption as one of their favorite movies).

Google, fortunately, abides by Section 382:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=tiny+dancer&cts=1247224786765&aq=f&oq=&aqi=g10

#12 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 8:45 am

Friendships are mutually chosen and maintained; these “friendships” are assigned. JAs are in a position and may be inclined to betray their wards – it only takes one betrayal to cause a lot of damage and, if not a lot of damage, then at any rate a pain in the ass. As a freshman in ’53, I didn’t want any JA to be my friend, but I did want each and every one of them to get off my back – which if they had done, my life would have been better for it.

#13 Comment By JA 2010 On July 10, 2009 @ 11:56 am

@frank uible:

A lot has changed since ’53…the JA’s responsibility is first and foremost the well-being of his or her frosh. No, the system isn’t perfect–yes, some freshmen fall through the cracks, and not every junior chosen turns out to be ideal for the job–but the sacrifice, empathy and selflessness I see displayed by JAs on a daily basis is truly remarkable. I know for a fact that without the sleepless dedication of some my friends this year, a handful of freshmen would not even be with us today. It’s a sobering thought. I am incredibly proud of the program. Quite simply, Williams wouldn’t be Williams without it.

#14 Comment By Chotch On July 10, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

Frank, I certainly have no idea what the JA system was like in the ’50s (perhaps you could enlighten us?) but I can speak to the current system.

(Quick background: I was a JA, a member of the JA Advisory Board, which advises the class of JAs that follow themselves, and JA Selection Committee, which selects the class of JAs for the following year.)

Given my experiences, I think JAs should, and for the most part do, make themselves available to be whatever it is each frosh needs throughout the year. In the beginning of the year it is an upperclassman who can help the student get acclimated to her new surroundings and help her find her own place on campus, which may or may not involve the entry. While not forcing the entry upon anyone, the JA should strive to make it a welcoming place, a place everyone feels comfortable calling home. To this end a JA will organize events throughout the year to help the frosh get to know themselves, each other, and other Williams students. A freshman is generally free to choose which, if any, events she may want to go to.

JAs currently do not get anyone in trouble or give them grief, except in extreme circumstances where a student’s welfare is a concern. The JA does want to make himself available to every frosh so that if an issue arises at any time during the year the frosh feels comfortable coming to the JA for assistance. JAs realize that the trust between themselves and the frosh is extremely important and I can’t imagine any but the most extreme scenarios where a JA would concsiously do anything to betray that trust. [Frank – did you have a specific scenario of which you were thinking of?]

JAs are also aware that they will likely not be friends with everyone in their entry, and they do not need to be. They need to make themselves available to any and all freshmen, so that if a particular frosh feels more comfortable talking to the JA next door she be comfortable enough to do so.

#15 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

We can’t discuss Almost Famous without noting that Kate Hudson did a stint at the Williamstown Theater Festival.

#16 Comment By JG On July 10, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

@ frank uible:

I’d say the JA is going to put the interests of the frosh over the interests of the administration almost every time if not always. Fo my co-JA and I, there was absolutely no question that we would do what was best for the kid. Sometimes that aligned with the Admin, sometimes not, but we did not feel compelled to do what the Deans told us or asked us to do with regard to our entry. This meant not revealing some information or directly referring kids to services they needed without going through the Deans, etc. This is some of why the autonomy (non-pay) of JAs is so important IMHO. There is no real sense of obligation or competing loyalties. You are there to help your frosh. To be clear, that doesn’t mean giving in to what they want all the time…we all have a paternalistic streak.

Now, whether the JA will pick the frosh over his/her own interests is a more complicated question of general human nature. I would just say that I don’t think those interests conflict very often in a way that matters.

#17 Comment By sophmom On July 10, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, the JA system at Williams is unique and wonderful, and a big part of what made my son’s entry a good experience. He was comfortable with them from Day One and they were there when he needed them, for which I will always be grateful.

I think the job takes a very special Eph and is an honor not lightly bestowed. Congratulations Tiny Dancer! I look forward to following your series.

#18 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On July 10, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

The entire JA system is specifically set up to insure that JAs are NOT beholden to the administration. JAing is its own institution, and that’s why they react swiftly whenever the admin seeks to encroach on JA’s and their role at Williams as the students define it.

I can’t remember a single instance of JAs putting the admin over their frosh. @13 is right.

#19 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

This meant not revealing some information or directly referring kids to services they needed without going through the Deans, etc. This is some of why the autonomy (non-pay) of JAs is so important IMHO.

That’s a mythical strawman argument. Williams is hardly unique in having residential advisors who refer students directly to services, bypassing the deans office. That’s ultimately the role of a residential advisor — to know the available resources, recognize when a student needs something, and guiding the student in the appropriate direction. There are times when good RAs would involve the Dean’s Office and times when they would not.

Some of that also depends on the structure of the Deans office and the role the deans play on campus. For example, some schools have an assitant dean who is the staff person for the black cultural center and another who is the staff person for the multicultural center and another who is in charge of gender issues (i.e. the women’s center or sexual assault). The job descriptions of these deans may make them anything but “adversarial” for students in a particular situation. So, where a Williams residential advisor might refer a black freshman who is feeling isolated to the multicultural center staff, at another school, that referal might go to the dean who is the staff manager for the black cultural center and who can expedite a reaching out from the student organization to the freshman student.

If something seems “unique” in higher education, it probably isn’t.

#20 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

I’m curious. The implication of the praise for the Williams non-paid residential advisors is that the Deans are viewed by the students as adversarial. Is that a widespread belief on campus?

#21 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

The typical American 18 year old can go to war, get married, vote and consume tobacco products (not to mention eat, sleep and bath), all without the help of a surrogate momma. It is beyond belief that Williams’ highly intelligent 18 year olds can’t navigate (literally and figuratively) a small college with a small campus in a small town without someone hovering over them. Time to grow up!

#22 Comment By Vicarious’83 On July 10, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

Frank,
My son starts at Williams this fall, and you are EXACTLY what he needs. Would you be his JA?

#23 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

frank:

It’s a different era. Back in the day, you didn’t have Psych Services, a Writing Center, Sexual Assault counseling (boys will be boys, after all, she shouldn’t have dressed like that!), a black students group (or black students), a gay students group (or students who told people they were gay), a Latino students group (or Latino students), a women students group (or women students), and so on and so forth. Life was a lot simpler when all you had was rich white male students from New England prep schools and, if they hit a rough patch, so what, a 70% graduation rate was OK.

Many of the changes are for the better. Many are not. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

#24 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On July 10, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

@hwc:

The Deans are perceived as beholden to certain interests that students don’t care about as much (which is accurate) and students know that some of the things they want to consume aren’t gravy with the Dean’s office (which is universal across all colleges).

I think it’s more a case where interests don’t always align, but generally do.

#25 Comment By sophmom On July 10, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

Before anyone takes the bait @20, have a gander at this thread, particularly (and again) the last paragraph in comment #20..

Wow, not only is the rusty old hook exactly the same…so is the timing!

#26 Comment By Ronit On July 10, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

@frank uible: What was the drinking age when you went to college? Was there a culture of binge-drinking fostered by the inability of underclassmen to openly enjoy alcohol at parties?

#27 Comment By hwc On July 10, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

The Deans are perceived as beholden to certain interests that students don’t care about as much (which is accurate) and students know that some of the things they want to consume aren’t gravy with the Dean’s office (which is universal across all colleges).

Will, thanks!

I honestly don’t understand what that means, though. It sounds like you are talking about drinking, but I’m not sure I completely grasp the point you are making. Are you saying that drinking makes the relationship between the students and the Deans (at least in part) adversarial and this impacts the relationship between the JAs, the deans, and the students negatively?

#28 Comment By rory On July 10, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

sophmom–i knew i had gotten into this before and i knew i didn’t enjoy it. thanks for finding the link!

#29 Comment By sophmom On July 10, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

Rory,

The reason it felt familiar is because it wasn’t just once before. That link was the very first one that I happened to look at under the JA category. There are several more with much the same pattern and gist, some under other categories. It’s amazing how similar they are when you look at them right next to one another. The newer bloggers, and the JAs participating here, might find them interesting reading.

#30 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

Must this blog be a lovefest for all things Eph, including all things JA?

#31 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

Ronit: Are you saying that the duties of today’s JA are exclusively or primarily comprised of being the College administration’s traffic cop against possible alcohol abuse by first years? If so, what a crappy job – then if alcohol abuse by first years is such a problem, the College should eliminate the JAs and cause the alcohol laws to be vigilantly enforced on campus by non-students with such long and sharp teeth that the laws are gladly complied with, given the alternatives to non-compliance!

#32 Comment By JG On July 10, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

frank – Williams students certainly CAN do lots of things without additional resources. You can go to college without football, a fancy theater, squash courts, etc. But some things are nice to have.

I believe you’re our leading proponent to bring back fraternities…but you can go to war, vote, smoke, and get married all without them, so why bring them back?

#33 Comment By frank uible On July 10, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

In my view JAs as stoolies for the College administration tend to interfer with and otherwise inhibit first years’ freedom of action and personal growth related to independent decision making.

#34 Comment By Dick Swart On July 10, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

Ronit @Frank and drinking age.

Class of 1956 drinking age was 21. Drinking laws were rarely enforced anywhere in the US as long as you looked old enough and weren’t a problem.

The College stood in loco parentis and occasions for drinking, both casual and sponsored, were frequent. Drinking was considered a part of ‘gracious living’. Certainly, drinking was common in the houses and in the dorms and at college events. I believe there was a belief that the ability to behave properly at a cocktail party was both a desirable social grace and a business skill. I still believe this.

‘Binge drinking’ was around, but was prefaced by “God, did I get shit-faced last night” or “I wasn’t tooo drunk”.

No attitude toward binge drinking was fostered by lack of opportunity. However, boys did learn that drinking until he threw up and passed out was not really the way in which one might best shine his light to his peers.

In short, drinking was a non-starter as an issue and an attribute as a learned ability.

Rechtal, Is the sun over the yardarm? It is? Then two icy cold martins coming up!

#35 Comment By ’10 On July 11, 2009 @ 3:20 am

frank: I don’t know how things were in your day, but modern JAs are not in any way, shape, or form, “stoolies” for the administration.

hwc: The relationship between frosh and the administration is not particularly adversarial on any issue except alcohol, and on that issue there’s no way it couldn’t be adversarial, since kids will always want to drink and the deans cannot legally support that. The Dean’s office does provide tremendous support on a lot of other issues – I’ve heard too many stories to count of Dean Dave in particular personally pulling every string and breaking every rule to help out kids who were going through serious family/personal problems.

But I don’t think any of this has much to do with JA not being a paid position. Even if alcohol were completely off the table (say if the drinking age were lowered to 18), there would still be plenty of compelling reasons not to pay JAs.

#36 Comment By frank uible On July 11, 2009 @ 4:30 am

Just a few questions. Do the Deans or other members of the College administration provide an indoctrinaion or other education program(s) for the JAs with respect to any of their JA duties? Are the JAs required by the College to attend and otherwise participate in such program(s)? Do any JAs qua JAs otherwise meet, formally or informally, with any of the Deans or other members of the College administration from time to time during the course of the school year? Are the meetings usually held on the Deans’ or other administrators’ turf? In such meetings and elsewhere are the JAs usually deferential to the Deans and other administrators? Do any of the JAs from time to time strongly and openly disagree with the Deans or other administrators? Do any of the JAs ever take vigorous action on any such disagreement? How do the Deans and other administrators respond to any such action? Do the Deans have any disciplinary power over the JAs?

#37 Comment By PTC On July 11, 2009 @ 6:40 am

Frank has a point. There is pressure not to snitch. That has to mean something in terms of how a JA or other type student moderators at like type institutions are viewed by piers and others? Frank is simply expressing a well known and natural point of view.

However, back in Franks day there was social pressure and much more involvement of upper classmen in the frat system (hazing and ostracizing) – as well as Profs and Deans who were much more involved and engaged in student affairs and discipline than they are now. The faculty does not want the job, so they have passed it on to others. Do others have the same gravitas at academic institutions as the faculty and deans to promote and moderate behavior? Probably not.

While the mechanisms of control continually change they will always exist.

#38 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 10:56 am

RE: #35

Thanks for the explanation.

I can see advantages to the College in not paying JA’s. It saves a lot of money and puts the entire burden of legal liability on the backs of the JA’s. From a risk management standpoint, that’s great for the College.

I can’t think of a single advantage for the JA’s. First, they are loosing out the free room and board that is widely the standard compensation. More troubling, and I doubt that they think about this, is that the College has left them out to dry from a legal liability standpoint. Who is going to pay their legal expenses if a frosh dies (say, from alcohol poisoning) and sues the JA and his or her family?

#39 Comment By JG On July 11, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

hwc, we’ll now go through this for the 100th time, since you bring up the exact same argument any time anyone says JA…

You’re only going to have even a colorable suit against a JA if s/he hosted the party/event, in which case you could sue any Williams kid who hosts a party. It wouldn’t be based on JA-dom.

Part of not being paid is that the JA has no official duty to supervise the kids or enforce school policy. At all. They do not enforce “no alcohol” rules. They are not obligated to report drinking any more than any other student who might be in the dorm or on the floor. For the kind of lawsuit you seem to be aiming at related to JAs (negligence in performing your duty to supervise/protect the student), the first step is establishing that the defendant actually had some kind duty that could then be violated. Seriously, I’m not seeing how a JA, whose job description and explanation to students and parents is explicit about what they WON’T do, would be liable. I’m not saying some parent wouldn’t/couldn’t try, but it seems pretty likely to get dismissed early on by any lawyer who made it past first year torts class. The school is the deep pocket and the most obviously liable party. After that, you go to the party host and/or the alcohol server. Is the JA supposed to walk around behind all their frosh watching what goes in their mouths? Search rooms? It’s just absurd.

Now I would never sign up to be a party host/server at a Williams party. That is all kinds of liability waiting to happen. There the school does put kids in a rough position. You have to sign something basically claiming you’ll personally police anyone who drinks at the party and take responsibility for it. If you’re the one who gets ’em drunk, you’re on the hook for anything they do just about until they get un-drunk.

#40 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

The issue is not whether or not a lawsuit would be successful against a JA, but rather that the College provides no liability protection (insurance policy) or legal fees, since the JAs are not agents of the college. If I were a parent, I would try to make sure that my son or daughter never purchased a drop of alcohol for a freshman. BTW, I believe that the arms-length liablity issue is a big reason that Williams loves the system just the way it is. I don’t think saving the cost of a free dorm room is a big issue one way or the other to the College. Their lawyers probably like the plausible deniability that comes with having independent JAs “in charge” of entries.

Trust me, I hear ya on the party host issue. My daughter was a senior class officer and involved in putting on the weekly campus-wide Pub Nite hosted by the senior class. There was nothing to be done but just pray that no liability issues arose.

#41 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

Is the JA supposed to walk around behind all their frosh watching what goes in their mouths?

My JAs were expected to, and did, purchase the alcohol for my freshman entry. I don’t know what the custom is today.

You highlight the bind JAs are put in. In reality, their de facto role is to know what is going on in their entries and step in when they see problems. Otherwise, why would they get training in alcohol, sexual assaults, diversity, and so on and so forth?

However, there is a legal pretending that they have no responsibility in these or any other areas, that they serve only as good time gals and guys, best friends to all frosh.

That’s what I mean by hanging them out to dry by not providing a liability umbrella.

#42 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

Here’s what Williams College says about the JA’s role:

Support from the college administration has been a constant across the years for Junior Advisors. Along with the support of colleges presidents (after all, President Garfield believed JAs to be of the highest moral character), College Deans and JAs have always worked hand in hand, with the Deans lending support to JAs when needed, and JAs keeping the Deans abreast of first-years’ issues on campus. John Hyde, former Dean of the Freshman Class reminded JAs in 1963 that “It is�your personal counsel and example which bear the most weight with the freshmen. Get to know them as quickly and as well as possible,” all the while encouraging JAs “to drop by for a chat, for it is only with your help and cooperation that I can perform my duties effectively.” The reciprocal relationship between the Deans and Junior Advisors is essential in the success of the JA system.

This certainly makes it sound like the JA’s have an expectation of being the eyes and ears of the Deans Office. I’m all for that, but I think the JA’s are owed the liability coverage of the Dean’s Office as well.

#43 Comment By JeffZ On July 11, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

It seems like HWC thinks that JA’s need to be more formal / have more responsibilities, and Frank thinks the opposite, and most everyone believes that the current system is working great and need not be changed.

As for the liability issue, first, it’s never happened in how many years of the JA system — no one has ever even tried to sue a JA so far as I am aware. So there is that. Plus what JG says. Plus were ever a suit to arise, it is far, far, far more likely that a parent would sue the college, as the deep pocket and institutional actor, rather than try to pin the blame on some other kid. Of course, anyone can sue anyone for anything, but you can’t have every policy crafted to reflect a potential outlier legal scenario, especially when in decades of experience, such scenario has never arisen.

The vast majority of folks on this blog and folks that I know who have gone to Williams cite the JA/entry experience as one of the most positive aspects of the Williams experience. Despite all of HWC’s protestations to the contrary, it IS a different experience than other schools — if it were not, there were not be such a dramatic difference between folks at Williams reflecting upon the JA/entry system vs. folks I’ve met at other schools, who rarely mention this as a special or distinguishing characteristic of their college experience.

Again, we’ve been through all this before, and it’s all sort of silly anyway — you could easily, as Frank and HWC do, argue for polar opposite approaches, but Williams has found as good an answer as you can ask for right in the middle, and is not about to change one of the most popular and successful aspects of the Williams experience.

#44 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

…folks I’ve met at other schools, who rarely mention this as a special or distinguishing characteristic of their college experience.

That’s because other schools don’t make a big deal about it since vitually every college has RAs. It’s like talking to anyone from Haverford. You’d think they are the only school on god’s green earth with an honor code, because they make a big deal about it so their students think it’s something unique. The only think really unique about Williams residential advisor program is that the kids who do it don’t get bupkis in terms of compensation. It’s also a little unusual that they don’t have RAs anywhere but in freshmen dorms.

#45 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

BTW, I don’t see where I’ve argued that JAs should have more responsibilty. I think their role is exactly the same as at many other colleges and a role that is, by and large, appropriate and useful. As long as the College can get away without paying them, why not? Heck the endowment just took a hit. Save the cash!

#46 Comment By JeffZ On July 11, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

Right, we’ve been through this a million times. Basically, either HWC is right that the entire Williams community is involved in a mass self-delusion that the JA/entry system is something that distinguishes Williams from its peers, or maybe, just maybe, HWC has it wrong. And OF COURSE Swarthmore’s rival school would also be similarly self-deluded in HWC’s mind — what a shock. I could say similar things about some of the “signature” aspects of Swarthmore (social activism emphasis, etc.) that HWC always touts, but we’ve also been down that road before, no need to rehash.

#47 Comment By 1980 On July 11, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

I barely remember my JA’s – they were nice women but I really didn’t see them much after orientation, and that was fine with me. I don’t really get why the JA is viewed as so sacred at Williams (or for that matter, why the position was/is so desirable – live with freshmen your junior year in college? that’s a good thing?) I do think the freshman entry system is a plus at Williams – the friends I met in my entry were my best friends throughout my time at Williams and we are still close today.

#48 Comment By frank uible On July 11, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

Make of the JA system what you like, but don’t believe that you can convince an authority doubting, inner city street kid that JAs are not a bunch of stoolies for the College administration.

#49 Comment By tinydancer On July 11, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

@1980:

As far as why the position is so desirable, it seems as though the up and coming JA class falls into two camps- those who had great entry experiences as first years and want to do everything they can to “pay it forward” to ensure that their own frosh have the opportunity to live in the same type of welcoming and fun environment, and those who were displeased with their own first year entries and hope to do better for the next generation.

Like it or not, the social scene at Williams is largely influenced by the entry system, particularly in the day and age of the cluster housing. And the JAs function in part to set the tone for their own entries, and for the entry system as a whole. The way I see it, I can complain about everything that’s wrong with Williams and its social system… or I can do everything I can to make it the sort of place that I want it to be.

#50 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 7:57 pm

You are welcome to substitute Davidson for Haverford as far as beating you over the head with their “unique” honor codes, if you like…although it’s difficult to imagine a school that beats the honor code drum harder than Haverford.

Swarthmore’s signature marketing riff is the “unique” rigor of the academics. It’s even on the t-shirts and coffee mugs in the college bookstore (“Anywhere Else Would Have Been an A, Really”). I guess the closest thing to the way Williams touts the JA/entry system would be either the Honors Program (which is unique) or perhaps touting that everything on campus is free and open to all students (which is not really unique).

This whole JA/entry riff must be a fairly recent distinguising pitch at Williams. I don’t recall any huge deal being made about it in the 70s. I mean, the dorms were divided vertically, rather than horizontally, but so are Harvard’s dorms. Having juniors as live in advisors was hardly unique. Almost every college in the country has that. I can remember one of mine. I can’t even come up with a face or a name for the other one. Having freshmen dorms is hardly unique.

There is very little truly unique in higher education. Too much cross-pollination, especially through the formal accreditation process that spreads trendy programs across campus lines like brush fires.

#51 Comment By frank uible On July 11, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

Just for fun and in the spirit of democratically improving things, how about setting aside an appropriate number of “JAless” entries to house first years who choose to reduce the proximity with which they live to designated agents of authority?

#52 Comment By 1980 On July 11, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

tinydancer, we’re in agreement on the value of the entry system. It’s just that the JA played a very minor role in my freshman entry experience … and I guess I’m curious why the JA is so vital in driving the experience today. At the age of 18 I didn’t need or want someone two years older helping me with my social life. My college age children today feel the same way – although they both (not attending Williams) lived in freshman dorms with RA’s who served as essentially deputized campus security officers – and I certainly wouldn’t advocate that as an ideal freshman living situation. What’s the difference between 1976 and 2009? Is a more proactive JA/RA simply reflective of the different alcohol laws?

I think it’s wonderful that you want to “pay it forward” and ensure a great Williams experience for those who follow you – I absolutely get that. I look forward to reading your blog posts this year.

#53 Comment By hwc On July 11, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

1980:

I think that the majority of students would never see the work of a good RA. An RA is doing good work quietly intervening to help a student who is struggling. Maybe a shoulder to lean on. Walking them over to see a counselor. Arranging for a tutor. When it really works well, nobody but the RA and the struggling student are even aware.

#54 Comment By soph2012 On July 12, 2009 @ 1:46 am

I personally think that doing away with the entry system would be an interesting experiment. The entry forces certain friendships on you and also imposes the will of the JAs. If you have JAs who love to party, you are going to have a very party oriented entry which can be uncomfortable for freshmen who don’t necessarily like to party or vice versa…