JA Committee selected to discuss issues

A recently formed committee met for the first time this week to discuss the status of the Junior Advisor (JA) system, especially as it relates to the Dean’s office. The committee, consisting of seven elected JAs and Dean Murphy, will address issues of communication and organization of JAs.

“The purpose of the advisory group is to provide a venue for developing clearer and stronger direction for the JAs, to facilitate communication with the JAs, and between JAs, and just in general to think of ways of doing the work that will make the system work better,” Murphy said.

“My goal is to strengthen the independence of the JA system by developing a strong sense of actual self-governance. Bringing the group into existence is itself a major step towards that goal.”

Murphy originally appointed a committee during Winter Study to address the same issues, but many Junior Advisors expressed the desire to elect a representative body to sit on the committee.

“I formed the original committee because I needed a group of JAs to work on several issues that I thought were very important,” said Murphy. “I didn’t want us to make decisions or changes without strong JA participation. The JAs themselves know much more about how things work than anyone else. I asked many members of my staff to recommend people they thought would be good for this sort of work, and then I asked them. It was actually a wonderful group, and they were very helpful to the process.”

According to JA Nelson Hioe, Murphy’s impromptu formation of the committee raised suspicion among many JAs. The valued independence of the JA system seemed threatened, Hioe noted.

However, Hioe sees lack of communication with the Dean’s Office as a big dilemma to many JAs who do not know when freshmen in their entries are on academic probation or having serious academic or health problems.

“I think that kind of lack of communication is what got prople suspicious of Dean Murphy when he formed the committee,” Hioe surmised.

Hioe has high hopes for the committee’s success. “At the very least it will open up lines of communication with the Dean’s Office,” he said.

JA co-presidents Carrie Sloan and Dave Erickson called a meeting to discuss the committee at the end of Winter Study and elections were held during the first week of the new semester. Candidates for membership voiced concerns that ranged from the need to improve communications with the administration to a need for preservation of self-governance. Others opined the need to revamp the JA selection process.

Murphy expressed satisfaction with the election process. “I think a representative group is far better for the purpose than a group selected by me,” he said. “I created a group myself only because a representative group didn’t exist, so I was delighted that the JAs wanted to take charge.”

Five members were elected to the committee: Nat Bessey, Ben Smeal, Chuck Munyon, Medha Kirtane and Katherine Fogg. Seniors Dede Orraca-Teteh and Jon Putman as well as JA co-presidents Carrie Sloan and Dave Erickson will also sit on the committee. Faculty members on the committee include Associate Dean and Chair of Classics Kerry Christensen and Health Educator Donna Denelli-Hess. Murphy will serve on the committee for one semester, after which Christensen will assume his role.

The committee met for the first time last week and will meet again in the coming week. Three more meetings have been planned for after spring break. The meeting addressed the concern over JA interaction with the Dean’s Office and about the need to define the role and responsibility of the JAs.

“We committed ourselves to working up a kind of ‘job description’ that would take account of what the JAs expect from themselves, and from others, and also of what the College expects of them,” said Murphy.