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JA: Junior Anonymous [Eph Diary #1]

Frosh 2.0 

I feel like an expectant mother.  This psychosis is fueled, I’m sure, by my admitted overindulgence in trashy television, namely MTV’s new trainwreck hit show 16 and Pregnant (EDIT: It has come to my attention that the Lifetime Original Movie is actually called 15 and Pregnant.  My apologies).  This summer I am living in a city where I know approximately seven people, give or take one US President (who I only know in my dreams).  Do you really blame me for drowning my loneliness in reality TV? 

On some level, I feel like I can relate to those wayward teens, waddling around on aching feet well past their due dates.  Babies don’t come according to schedule, and apparently neither do Williams Frosh Lists.  The electronic versions of the entry rosters were supposed to arrive, all Pandora’s-box-like, via e-mail on Friday.  I spent the day like it was Christmas morning, refreshing my webmail account with the same fervor I once applied to squealing at my parents to Please Please Please Let us open the presents now! But by the time evening rolled around, the lists hadn’t come.  They still haven’t come.  I’m overdue.

There are a few things that distinguish me from the knocked up high school students portrayed on 16 and Pregnant, of course, including the insistence by the administration that “The role of the Junior Advisor is not to act as a surrogate parent”.  For one, I’m about to leave my teenage years behind and enter a category (“twenty-something”) also associated with people for whom getting pregnant is actually socially acceptable. Plus, the only change my body is going through this summer is adjusting to the poor-college-student-living-on-her-own-for-the-first-time diet of Ramen noodles (Chicken Flavor, FTW) and post-workout protein shakes.  There’s also the tiny detail that the “children” I’m expecting, all nineteen of them, are not children at all.  Rather, they are full-grown adults who come bearing their own interests, value-systems, and yes, their very own Facebooks.  

For Frosh Lists in the age of Facebook, the debate boils down to an old-cliche- To stalk or Not to stalk? 

My own JAs were firmly anti-stalk, telling the entry proudly about the pact they made to not seek us out on the internet before our arrivals in August.  It is a noble position to take, resisting the temptation to peek into the fascinating everyday lives of individuals you will likely know too well in a few months time. 

For my Co, the Facebook dilemma is a non-issue.  He is spending his summer leading youngsters on backpacking expeditions in the Berkshires, out of communicable range for weeks at a time.  He has not even gotten the e-mail alerting us that the electronic lists are on their way; he has no idea we are overdue.  It is likely that he will receive the hard copy of our list in a few weeks time, and that will be it.  The list will be a list: words on a piece of paper, names without faces.

For me, the girl with the fast internet connection and too much free time, the list is so much more than a list.  The list is a key, each name a secret password that can be used to access the online identities of the Frosh I am so desperate to know.  The way I see it, the Facebook stalking is mostly harmless.  Afterall, I assume that any initial judgements I make will soon be overridden as I form impressions from actually getting to know them in real life.  But I will admit that it still makes me uneasy; it feels a bit like cheating, like peeking at the presents before Christmas morning (I promise to stop with that analogy now… I swear I don’t think of the ’13s as gift-wrapped toys).  There is a certain appeal to the blank-slate approach, the idea that you will approach each Frosh as a stranger and build each relationship from the ground up.  

Is it enough of an appeal to ease my curiosity and prevent me from immediately looking up each name on Facebook, whenever the lists actually arrive?  Certainly not. 

The other day, I made a Facebook group for my entry to join when they get their room assignments.  For now, I’m the only member.  


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Comments Disabled To "JA: Junior Anonymous [Eph Diary #1]"

#1 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On July 13, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

My favorite movie section on Facebook said “Stop Facebook stalking me” two years ago. Towards the middle of frosh year, it came up in some conversation about Facebook stalking and one of my JAs remembered that I actually made them feel bad.

Facebook stalking is something that we really haven’t worked out the sociology or social norms of, because it’s so new. Such information used to be attainable, but only through invasive practices like searching someone’s room or asking a sibling about them.

Now, we put everything about ourselves on Facebook profiles, but the information is still tainted. Yes, you can go through all 273 photos of me on Facebook, or memorize my favorite books, but that doesn’t make it ok or normal. I even feel weird looking up one detail about a person, or commenting on a newsfeed item, because it feels like it gives the impression of obsession.

Which is frustrating in some senses, because we put the information out there for everyone, such that I think TinyDancer’s “stalking” as sensible in as much as it can augment a JA’s role as Williams’s welcome.

In any case, a wonderful first diary.

#2 Comment By Ronit On July 13, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

There are probably going to be things about your frosh that you’d be better off not knowing right now. I say wait till August.

#3 Comment By hwc On July 13, 2009 @ 11:03 pm

JA:

Do JAs do a hall theme and door decorations to welcome you frosh?

#4 Comment By sophmom On July 13, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

Tiny Dancer:

Terrific post. It really takes me back. I remember when my son was first contacted by his JAs, the warm welcome, the excitement and sense of fun we all felt. And seeing that expressed in your post, and from your point of view, just gives me a whole new appreciation for the JA system. Your frosh are lucky!

#5 Comment By frank uible On July 14, 2009 @ 1:27 am

Hello, my name is Herr Franz. See my purple T-shirt. I’m from a friendly organization called the Gestapo. We’re here to help you in all aspects of your everyday life. Tell me all about yourself.

#6 Comment By kthomas On July 14, 2009 @ 1:58 am

Sehr geehrter Herr Franz,

Vgl. DFW >>A U.S. of modern A. where the State is not a team or a code, but a sort of sloppy intersection of desires and fears, where the only public consensus a boy must surrender to is the acknowledged primacy of straight-line purse-ing this flat and short-sighted idea of personal happiness:
The happy pleasure of the person alone, yes?’<< (p. ???) Mit freundlichem Grueesen, Karl des/en/em Spassvogel(s) Arsch--

#7 Comment By frank uible On July 14, 2009 @ 7:55 am

Do not worry. We will assure that you are happy and, most of all, intrepid. But first let me examine your papers. We want to be certain that inadvertently you have not been overlooking the leadership provided by your JAs.

#8 Comment By Eric On July 14, 2009 @ 9:43 am

I don’t know how common it is overall (I would suspect fairly common even now), but back when I was a JA, the list of frosh they gave me vs who was actually in my entry once we actually moved in was fairly different.
(due to a confusion around the sex associated with a name, they put a guy and girl in the same room – he was fine with it, she complained – he was moved out – they also gave us three people who were not there when we moved in – no clue where they went – there is definitely some last minute swapping/switching that housing may have to do)

So spending too much time “with” (virtually or mentally) with any of them at this point is potentially wasted effort. That said, it is a small school and getting to know everyone isn’t a terrible thing.

#9 Comment By tinydancer On July 14, 2009 @ 10:51 am

@Eric:

That’s actually a really good point. My first year entry had two similar cases, a kid who got switched in because he had connections and wanted to live in Mission rather than Frosh Quad, and a kid who didn’t show up and was replaced a week into school with a transfer student. Come to think of it, we also had girl with a boys name mixup, but because she had a single it was no big deal.

I remember getting my entry list as a freshman and being WAY more excited to Facebook stalk than I am now, as I definitely have mixed feelings this time around. What I found out was that not only did some people not have Facebooks, but a lot of them were set to private (and I considered actually “friending” them to be too creepy). Furthermore, the people who I thought I would become good friends with, on the basis of Facebook stalking alone, largely did not end up becoming my close entry friends.

What I’m trying to say is, I am definitely approaching the situation with trepidation. I don’t intend on looking very far into anyone’s background nor following their online lives in any significant way (and, for that matter, I’m certainly not trying to imitate any member of the Gestapo. Thanks Frank). But it’s just too tempting not to sneak a peek at the faces that (may or may not) make up my entry next year.

#10 Comment By Eric On July 14, 2009 @ 11:59 am

Keeping in mind I’m like… old – back in our day, they sent us photos of themselves if so inclined, and a handwritten note (again, if so inclined – I’m sure I did no such thing when I was a frosh, but nearly all of them in my entry did, to the point where I suspect they likely thought it was mandatory, or I just had particularly eager frosh).

Getting to know their faces is certainly good – in my case I am so bad with names it didn’t matter too much either way.

Just the fact that you are interested and excited about it bodes well, as opposed to already being bitter or ambivalent about it all.
Which is pretty much how I left the process :)

#11 Comment By kthomas On July 15, 2009 @ 5:24 am

tinydancer,

Sorry for Frank and I hijacking part of your thread. You may have to put up with us, I’m afraid.

There was a time and age at Williams when some Professors, mostly older ones, went to Hopkins and pulled their students profile folders, in preparation for the semester. I doubt this practice survives much in the current day.

My experience at Telluride House at Cornell (and later at Deep Springs) is with a role slightly different than the JA, that of the ‘factotum,’ who is a stronger (slightly elder) authority figure on the one hand, and, as the Latin implies, a “do all,” beholden and at one’s disposal in a way … well, the JAs, with other duties, could never have such a role; neither can today’s professors, as such.

Anyway, I may distract.

As for Frank– remember– we only require identification for those who are not criminals, of course.