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JASC Experiences

Petya Miteva asks:

I was wondering, is there anyone around who’s been on the JA selection committee and can share something about how it was?

Hm… personal experience. Rather than what they publicize…

Good question. I wish that the JASC, and other Williams organizations, would do a better job of collecting and maintaining this sort of material. I did a bit of this, back when alumni could still contribute to Willipedia. And we have some discussion in our archives, although the primary focus is on policies associated with JASC and not the experiences of students on it.

JG is probably EphBlog’s resident JASC expert. Perhaps she could comment.

My understanding is that most students find participating on JASC to be incredibly time consuming and intense. It can also be very educational (about the politics of small groups and coalition formation) as well as extremely frustrating. My sense is that most students who serve are glad that they did so. I recommend that Miteva apply.

Indeed, serving on JASC is one of the most unique experiences available at Williams. Very few other colleges entrust their students with so much responsibility. If you find the idea intriguing, you should apply as well.


JA Tryouts

The Admissions Office has a request.

Admissions is currently looking for hosts for prospective Williams students. We need at least 60 freshmen/sophomores for the weekend of October 1-3. Incentive for Freshmen: The entry at the end of the year that hosts the most pre-frosh will get $200 added to their entry fund.

The students who host deserve our thanks. Unfortunately, I have heard mixed reports about the quality of the hosting. Did any readers overnight at Williams as pre-frosh? What was your experience? Have any readers served as hosts? Tell us about it. I have heard some less than wonderful stories about a single host getting “stuck” with 3 or 4 pre-frosh and then being too busy to do anything at all with them. Are those stories outliers? How many pre-frosh per host is standard?

The hosting process would be much better (twice as good? ten times as good?) if the incentives were better aligned. Tell students that the Admissions Office will keep track of who hosts how many pre-frosh and what sorts of experiences those pre-frosh have while at Williams. That information will be forwarded to the JASC (Junior Adviser Selection Committee) for any host who applies to be a JA. (The unstated implication will be that being an excellent host of many prefrosh will be treated by the JASC as good evidence that you would be a good JA.) Results?
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CC Minutes 2008-03-11

College Council notes from the wonderful Emily Deans ’09. Full notes below, but note this item.

The CDC [Committee on Diversity and Community] is also analyzing the homogeneity of the JA selection committee and the JA structure. In particular, the CDC is focusing on what JAs can do to ensure that minority students can feel a part of the entry. The implications of this would primarily be resolved in more in-depth and issue-specific training addressing issues that often affect minority students.

Come on! Is any reasonable person actually concerned that the JA selection committee is too homogeneous? The JASC is one of the great student institutions at Williams. It is probably biased in favor of people who are rah-rah Williams, but mainly because you have to be fairly rah-rah to care about who gets to be a JA. I would bet big money that, relative to its applicant pool, the JASC is as diverse as diverse can be. The problem with an organization like CDC is that, left unchecked, there is always the chance that it could do real damage, like insist on involving non-students from the Office of Campus Life in its deliberations.

Any JA readers can comment on whether or not they feel that the JAs need more “in-depth and issue-specific training” on these topics. I bet they get enough.

Full notes below. (Apologies for the formatting. My fault not Emily’s.)
UPDATE: Early posting was not the final version of the notes. Fixed now.
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No Dunkards Drunkards

JA selections will be handed out next week. Has the JASC made its final decisions? If not, it ought to consider my suggestion: No drunkards. Basic idea is that, given that there are so many excellent JA candidates, why not exclude the drunkards? Anyone whose idea of a good time involves getting falling-down drunk is probably not the best of all possible role models for impressionable first years.

In general, I find the almost annual brew-ha-ha about drinking at Williams to be overblown. Ephs drink. Get used to it. They get drunk now. They got drunk 20 years ago. (Hi Brendon!) They got drunk in the 50’s at the Deke House. (Hi Dad!) Alcohol consumption is just not that serious a problem and, to the extent that it is, there isn’t much that the College can or should do about it. But my suggested no-drunkards policy is one small concrete way that those who disagree, who think that drinking is a real problem, might do something about it. That they don’t take this chance to act is another indication of their lack of seriousness.

And, again, let me suggest a senior thesis: Does JA drinking correlate with first year drinking? Do the drinking habits of first years affect other first years in their entry? Some smart junior could gather all sorts of data right now and then write an amazing senior thesis with the help of Professor David Zimmerman.


Apply to the JASC

Applications are due today for the JA Selection Committee.

The JA Selection Committee will be getting together this Spring to select the JAs to the Class of 2011! It’s a great way to have an impact on first-year life at Williams and it’s a lot of fun, too. We welcome students with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences to the committee and encourage all sophomores, juniors and seniors to apply (sorry, no freshmen). Interested students should e-mail Myron (07mm) AND Ren (07rcm) BY NOVEMBER 16th with a brief self-nomination including why you want to be on committee, whether you will be here for Winter Study and anything else that you’d like us to know. Also feel free to e-mail us with any questions you may have about the committee.

Great stuff. For background on the JASC, check out Willipedia. My comments on this are the same each year.

1) Apply! You will learn more about life its own self on JASC then almost anywhere else at Williams.

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

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

We have a couple of regulars with experience on the JASC. Perhaps they could chime in with further comment.


JA Selection Committee

Applications are open for the JA Selection Committee (JASC):

Do you want to make an impact on Williams? Apply to be on the JA Selection Committee! This student-led committee of 25 sophomores, juniors, and seniors will meet during February and March to choose the JA Class of 2010. While it is a significant time commitment, it is also a fun way to have your voice be heard regarding next year’s JA class. If you are interested, or have any questions, email a short self nomination or any questions to 06csg and 06sec.


1) If you are a student, apply for this committee. It is an amazing, eye-opening roller-coaster ride. See Richard Dunn’s commentary in this thread for all sorts of interesting background. See also previous EphBlog commentary here and here.

2) If you are in charge of the JASC, expand the membership to 35 students. I realize that it is much more difficult to work with a group of 35 than 25, but the central problem with the JASC is that it is perceived to be exclusionary. Turning down JASC applicants — especially applicants that are out of the mainstream of Williams life — reinforces that perception. Moreover, an important role of the committee is to explain/comfort rejected applicants, argue to them that the process was a fair one. In an ideal world, every rejected applicant would know someone on the JASC fairly well. Having a larger JASC helps in that goal.

3) If you are concerned about alcohol abuse on campus (I am not), then you should fill this committee with non-drinkers and/or people who think that non-drinkers (all else equal) make better JAs then heavy drinkers. Previous discussion here. There is little doubt that JA behavior influences first year behavior. If you want first years to drink less, then surround them with JAs who drink little.

Below is the e-mail that went out to all members of the class of 2007 from Sarah Connell and Chris Geissler, JASC Co-Chairs.

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JA Selection Committee

A WSO all-campus e-mail on the JA Selection Committee application deadline just came out. Are these archives anywhere? If not, they should be. You can see more or less the same message here.

As we note most every year, the JA Selection Committee is an amazing opportunity to have a real impact on campus. It is a ton of work but an intense experience. You certainly have no business complaining about the sort of people who become JAs if you decline the chance to participate in their selection. Here is more on the process and on the start of the use of interviews.

Cynics often claim that Williams exists in a purple bubble, quite unlike the outside world that students eventually have no choice but to enter. This is somewhat true. But there are many opportunities on campus to participate in activities that are real slices of the world outside. The JA Selection Committee is one of those activities. Another would be the Finance Committee (if that is still the terminology) of College Council.

In both cases, the students involved have real responsibility and are confronted with difficult choices about which reasonable people strongly disagree. Much of life in the professional world beyond the purple bubble is like that. So, for those who are curious about the many meetings that they will attend post-graduation or who want to start training themselves in the art and science of group decision-making, the JA Selection Committee is the place to be.

My one suggestion: Expand the size of the committee to include just about all applicants. Last year, the committee had around 20 members but 35 or so applicants. (Correct me if those numbers are wrong.) Although a larger group would make for a more unwieldy process, the benefits of inclusions outweigh the costs of size.


JA Drunkards

The Record published the second part of its series on alcohol at Williams. New editor-in-chief Bart Clareman ’05 is doing a great job. However, these articles and the recent selection of the JA’s for the class of 2008 raise an interesting question: How much should one’s alcohol consumption influence one’s chances of being a JA?

It seems that many people at Williams agree with the following claims. 1) There is too much heavy drinking, especially binge drinking leading to trips to the health center, among first years. 2) First years are influenced by the behavior of their JAs, for better or worse.

From these premises it would seem to follow that the College should have fewer heavy drinkers among its JAs. Of course, there are a lot of details that I am skimming over here, but the current mechanism of JA selection would allow for such a policy to be implemented. All Dean Roseman — or whichever administrator is most connected to the JA Selection Committee — would have to do is say: “JA applicants who drink heavily — who think that a fun week-end involves at getting difficult-to-walk drunk — should be turned down by the Selection Committee.”

I am not sure that I would be in favor of this because I am not sure that I agree with the premises of the argument. In fact, it would make for another great thesis project for one of David Zimmerman’s students to see whether or not JA alcohol consumption in fact influences first year alcohol consumption.

But given that abundance of strong JA applicants, the College does have these sorts of options.


JA Answers

Maria Lapetina ’04, chair of the JA Selection Committee with Dan Ohnemus ’04, was kind enough to answer my questions about the process. Here are the questions aloong with Maria’s answers:

0) Who is on the Selection Committee?

The committee is comprised of 25 students — sophomores, jrs,and srs. Some past and present JAs, some not. We try to make the diversity as diverse as possible (including all types of diversity — from extracurriculars to ethnicity, etc), but this is obviously contingent on the self-nominations that we get.

1) Who were the lucky winners?

The list will probably be printed in next week’s record. The choosen JAs have until wednesday to decide – then we need to move on to the waitlisted candidates.

2) How many people applied, and how does the number compare with the recent past?

We had about 140 apply this year — which is slightly higher than last
year. I think about 130 is average.

3) How was the process different this year, if at all?

Yes, the application consists of 3 recommendations — self, peer, and JA — and a 3 hour interview with scenarios and a group section. After all the interviews are conducted (usually over winter study) — the cmte begins to meet late at night to deliberate. we read every rec out loud then discuss the candidate’s interview – then people who know the candidate can speak. After the discussion, we vote. if the candidate has a majority vote- they move on to the second round. In the second round, we briefly re-cap everything that was said in the first round. Voicing additional concerns if necessary. After completing the second round, each committee member has 60 votes – 30 for girls, 30 for boys. after voting, the 38 candidates with the highest number of votes make the final ballot. The second round is split by gender. The final ballot is 6 tiers and each cmte member votes according to their preference.

Top 25 boy and 25 girls get it. The next 10 of each gender are waitlisted.

The main difference is that we now discuss and vote gender-separate. In
the past, it was just one big pool of applicants.

4) Does the Selection Committee write an after-action report of some sort?

No, the cmte, as of yet, has not discussed or written a report. the
advisory board (consisting of 7 former JAs and 2 present JAs) might
discuss to see how to the process should be revised. but, we haven’t done
this yet – we just got back from spring break!

Many thanks to Maria for taking the time to answer these questions. She and Dan, along with all the other members of the Selection Committee, are to be commended for spending so much time — much of it no doubt emotional and contentious — on such a project.


JA Questions

Perhaps someone on campus could update us on the JA selection process.

0) Who is on the Selection Committee? I assume that this is public knowledge. If not, it should be.

1) Who were the lucky winners? In the past, I have seen the list in the Record, but not this year.

2) How many people applied, and how does the number compare with the recent past? I think that around 150 applied each year in the 80’s.

3) How was the process different this year, if at all? A Record article from 2 years ago provides a nice overview of the process then. It is especially nice to see the use of interviews.

4) Does the Selection Committee write an after-action report of some sort? This would add even more work to an already busy group of people, but I think that they should. Even a one page blurb — X people applied, Y interviews were conducted, Z recommendation letters were read, many hours were spent — would be useful, both for people grappling with the disappointment of being rejected and by Selection Committees in the future.


JA Decisions

JA letters have been mailed, and Joseph Shoer ’06 wasn’t accepted.

I really didn’t think I was going to react this badly, but then again, the full impact of the rejection letter has only been hitting me slowly. I’m not over it yet, not gonna be over it till after spring break at least. It’s funny how we never realize how much we wanted something until we can’t have it.

So true. I am certain that Shoer is not the only rejected applicant who feels this way.

One nice thing to note is that they seem to still be doing interviews as part of the process. In my day, there were no interviews, which tended to make rejected applicants feel even more bitter about the process. (How could they reject me? They don’t even know me.)

Jim Reichheld ’87 was the key person in adding these interviews to the JA selection committee’s deliberations. There are very few people who changed Williams for the better, both while they were there and for decades thereafter. Reichheld is one of those lucky few.


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