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Junior Advisor Selection Committee
The Junior Advisor Selection Committee (JASC) selects the Junior Advisors (JAs) for the following year. The JASC is composed of approximately 25 student members but works closely with the Deans' Office. Self-nominations are usually solicited in the fall; committee work begins during Winter Study. All JA applicants are offered interviews with Committee members. The selection process occurs mostly in February and March, with all applicants notified of the results during the week prior to Spring Break. The co-chairs of the JASC for 2006 are Chris Geissler '06 and Sarah Connell '06.
Eric Hsu '05 and Nicky DeCesare '05 were in charge in 2005. Maria Lapetina '04 and Dan Ohnemus '04 headed the JASC in 2004. There were 140 applicants that year, slightly more than the typical average of 130. Maria provided this overview of the selection process at that time:
"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 committee begins to meet late at night to deliberate. We read every recommendation 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 committee member votes according to their preference.
Top 25 boy[s] 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."
Richard Dunn '02, notes (see the link for full context):
"As a former member of the committee, let me explain how things work.
First, a majority of the committee is comprised of current or former JA's. The only times available to meet were from 10pm to 1am because these were the only times that didnt conflict with practice, rehearsal, or snacks. The current JA's were already leading quite busy lives, while the former JA's were frantically finishing theses and planning for life after Williams. I completely reject the notion that these individuals were on selection committee to gossip. First, we were too busy with other things to have an extended gossip section. Second, for the former JA's, we were discussing our frosh, and our friend's frosh. In other words, they were some of closest friends, and frankly, one of the more difficult parts of being on committee is revealing that you believe there is something that disqualifies one of your frosh from consideration. Often, we would just sit in silence until someone spoke up and said, "Hey, wait a minute, weren't they your frosh, Rich?" In the end, I think we all spoke up when we thought it necessary, despite our attachments and allegiences because we felt it important to make an informed decision.
That said, a candidate should not and is not immediately disqualified because their former JA, or any committee member for that matter, has reservations. We cannot simply say, "Well, you just have to believe me on this one." We have to support what we say with first hand evidence. A "less naive alum" could learn something because in committee, we cannot say things like, "I heard from" or "I've been told." If we believe an individual is not capable of handling the stress of being a JA, we have to say why we believe that and sometimes the reason is that when they get stressed, they turn to alcohol, they become depressed, they become suicidal. Is this gossip? Depends on your definition. Is it important and sensitive information? Undeniably. But the trade off is between blind trust in someone's opinion and privacy. I believe candidates know this coming in, and if not, the committee should make it plainer.
But there are many other "personality traits" that are important and certainly cross the line into gossip. The committee needs to know if a JA candidate is a raging bitch who only associates with people that they believe are cool. We wouldn't want that person as a JA. We need to know if someone consistenly shirks responsibility. We need to know if a person is so opinionated they will not respect their frosh's or co's opinions. We need to know whether an individual is a good listener and can keep secrets. These are all important traits for a JA to possess and sometimes discussing these matters sounds a lot like gossip. But the information is still necessary, and so we do our best to maintain a respectful tone. We are not an admissions that will never face these people again. We understand the responsibility entrusted to us, and we also understand that these are our friends, our classmates, our frosh, and our colleagues.
It may be that a handful of individuals do not live up to this expectation. But this is the exception and not the rule.
Additionally, much of what we disucss is not gossip at all, its what they wrote in their personal statement, what other's addressed in their recommendations, how they answered questions in their interview, how they interacted with others in the group part of the interview. We make positive notes when they mention various resources on campus and mentally deduct when they inadequately address the hypotheticals they present "How do you deal with a drunk and violent frosh?...Answer: I tackle him and restrain him with duct tape."
Really, we spend a lot of time talking about how intelligent, caring, respectful, thoughful, strong, compassionate, funny...the list goes on...these candidates are. From my experience, there are about 35 people who just knock your socks off, you knew they were JA's from the time they walked into the common room ... and then 15 people have to be chosen from a group of 50 really strong people, many of them wonderful friends.
Finally, there will be those who say that the committee is too secretive. This is always a complaint that comes out after the actual selection has taken place by individuals who never asked how the process operated in the first place. All of us on committee are more than willing to explain the process, the various checks and double checks to ensure every candidate gets a fair shot, and that unsubstantiated opinion is not allowed to influence our decisions."