Previews are going on right now. Comments:

1) Below the break is the e-mail that Bolton/Nesbitt sent out. Best part:

In general, students visiting for previews are not looking to make intimate connections during their visits.

Wouldn’t the Administration be more effective if it were more truthful? The vast majority of male previews would love nothing more than to make (several!) “intimate connections” with cute female Ephs. Surely Nesbitt, at least, remembers what it was like to be 17? Of course, few/none will act on this desire, but denying its existence is another example of the College’s willful blindness to biological/cultural reality.

2) Here (pdf) is the official schedule. Best part:

Departs from Greylock Hall Lobby
Join the Williams Outing Club for a short hike that will include s’mores and great views of campus.

This is genius. First, it shows off Williams beautiful setting in an unforgetable way. Second, it keeps the future-Ephs from getting in too much trouble! No time to party before the hike and too tired to party afterwards. How long has this been a part of Previews? And who thought it up? Kudos!

3) The single biggest improvement that could be made to Previews is to make hosting it a part of the JA application process.

Inform freshmen and sophomores (during the fall/winter) that any experience they have hosting overnight visits from applicants will be considered when they apply to be JAs. No JA wanna-be is forced to participate, but many/most would. There is a huge demand for JA spots at Williams. Would-be applicants know this and will act accordingly. The Admissions Office (or is it Purple Key?) would keep track of how many applicants each student hosted (I assume that it already does this), survey hosted students on the quality of their visit, and then report the results to the JA Selection Committee. The JASC would be under no obligation to use the survey results. Such a scheme would:

a) Dramatically improve the overnight process. If you motivate a Williams students to show off the campus in the best possible light, then she is likely to do a marvelous job. I bet that applicants under this scheme would have much more fun during their visits and, therefore, be more likely to select Williams.

b) Make the typical overnight visit for non-athletes as fun as those for athletes. I believe that most (all?) overnight visits involving athletes that a coach is interested in are handled outside of the standard system. In those cases, the coach (who wants to applicant to have a good time) ensures that the visitor is placed with player on the team (who both wants to make the coach happy and improve the quality of the athletes she plays with), thereby generating fun-filled visits. No one can sell Williams as well as an undergraduate who wants to.

c) Provide would-be JAs with some insight into what they might be getting themselves into. Although the vast majority of JAs perform superbly, some discover (once it is too late) that the sacrificing their own time and GPAs for the benefit of selfish, annoying and socially-awkward 18 year-olds is not for them. Alas, once they are a JA, it is too late, much to the chagrin of the students in their entry. By ensuring that these Ephs have some experience with hosting overnights, the College will decrease the likelihood of such mismatches.

d) Provide the JASC with more information. The JASC would be under no obligation to use that information, but, if I were a member, I would certainly be impressed with an applicant who hosted 5 or 10 high school seniors, devoted a lot of time and energy to their visit, and received lavish praise from those visitors. I would suspect that, all else equal, such students make for better JAs than those who don’t host visits and/or don’t do a good job of it.

e) Any applicant who, after such a visit, doesn’t like Williams probably shouldn’t come. The fit just isn’t right.

2) Besides JA-applicants, we should incorporate the enthusiasm of sophomores who have already been selected for JA by having them host during Preview Weekends. [I think that the first (of two?) such week-ends is coming up. Can anyone confirm?] This might be tough to do this year (although I bet that Dean Dave could swing it if he wanted to), but, in future years, JA applicants should be told that, if they are accepted, their first obligation will be to host visitors during Previews.

I don’t anticipate many objections from the future JAs. After all, they have just been selected and are very excited. Moreover, these visitors will, in 5 short months, become their freshmen, so there is every incentive to get to know them. Moreover, the Admissions Office could ensure that the students it most wanted were placed with JAs with similar interests.

Imagine that you are a high school senior choosing between Yale and Williams. At Yale, your visit consists of sleeping on the floor with four other students while your “host” ignores you. At William, your host is someone with the same interests as you (whether that be an academic subject or an extra-curricular activity), someone who spends the week-end with you, someone who will be a JA next year, already giving you a direct connection to Williams.

After two such week-ends, aren’t you much more likely to choose Williams than you otherwise would be?

I first suggested this 5 years ago. Alas, like most of my genius ideas, it has been ignored by the College. There is always next year!

From: Sarah Bolton
Date: Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 9:42 AM
Subject: On Responsible Hosting of Prospective Students – from Dick Nesbitt and Sarah Bolton

Dear Williams Students,

This year our April Previews program will be held on April 13th and 14th. If you are hosting one or more students for this event, please know how grateful we are for your help. For many of you, the quality of the overnight visit was a determining factor in your own decision to attend Williams. Since it is now your turn to influence prospective students’ impressions of Williams, you should be aware of our expectations for the hosting program, particularly with regard to the College’s alcohol and drug policy.

Williams urges students to act responsibly and in accordance with the law and the Williams Code of Conduct. Providing alcohol of any kind or quantity for underage prospective students is simply illegal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this policy because there are serious risks involved in not abiding by these rules. Please also be aware that any pre-frosh who chooses to engage in illegal activities puts his or her admission to the College in jeopardy. We are not asking you to “police” pre-frosh or make their decisions about alcohol for them. We do ask that you please use good judgement and not put pre-frosh in a position of feeling pressure to drink to “fit in”. Any form of peer pressure to abuse alcohol conveys an image of Williams that is simply not positive for the vast majority of prospective students.

We also ask that you keep your eyes out as active bystanders as regards questions of consent and respect. In general, students visiting for previews are not looking to make intimate connections during their visits. However, occasionally students visit with expectations around sexual interaction that are not in line with our community standards. If you observe a situation that seems to be heading in a dangerous direction, please do either intervene or call for help. Your contributions to the safety of everyone in our community, including prospective students, are very important.

Your attention to these concerns during the April 13th and 14th Previews program, as well as throughout the academic year, is greatly appreciated. If you have any questions about the policies referred to in this letter, please contact Sarah Bolton, Dean of the College. For assistance after hours, please call Campus Safety and Security at 413 597 4444.


Dick Nesbitt, Director of Admissions
Sarah Bolton, Dean of the College

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