On entry discussions

To the Editor:

The Opinions articles written by Dan Costanza (“In defense of the entries,” March 2) and Chris Ting (“Recognizing entry strengths,” March 9) questioned the entry system’s evaluation and reform process. Both Costanza and Ting advocated for the sustenance of the entry system, posing Lili Rodriguez, director of the Multicultural Center (MCC), as the major critic of the entry system based on her statements within Austin Davis’ initial article (“Campus to begin reevaluation of first-year residential life,” Feb. 23). As a current member of the JA Advisory Board (JAAB), I hope to address the overall concerns raised on the current state of the JA and entry systems in the past three weeks. Much of Costanza’s and Ting’s arguments are a product of misinformation. This letter is intended to clarify the current confusion: The College does not intend to overhaul the JA or entry systems. In reality, the College hopes to understand the opinions of the “people who matter most”: the students.

The impetus for evaluation and reform of first-year residential life has been a collaborative effort between numerous committees and organizations across campus. As noted by Davis in his initial article, the most public form of the evaluation process was the survey recently administered by the Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL). The CUL hoped to initiate discourse on first-year residential life and document the diversity of student opinions. This recognizes both the positive and negative experiences that students have had with the entry and JA systems. As noted in discussions with the deans’ office, the primary goal of the evaluation is to get a better understanding of student experiences, not to radically alter first-year residential life. This goal aligns with Costanza, Ting and Rodriguez’s reactions – all three note that the entry system is the best system for first-year residential life amongst our peer institutions because of its great potential for peer support and growth within a diverse environment. The common thread that runs through all of these opinions is that the JA system is the best way to actualize the potential of the entry system.

The current JAAB has taken a more active role in examining the strengths and weaknesses of the entry and JA systems this year. JAAB has worked extensively to adopt a more progressive approach to locate possible areas of improvement within both systems, meeting weekly as a group to solely explore and assess overall change. We have worked with the deans’ office, the MCC, the Health Center, the Committee on Diversity and Community and the CUL to try and utilize our breadth of resources available for students, while maintaining the autonomy that defines the student-run JA system. Dean Bolton, David Johnson, associate dean and dean of first-years, and Rodriguez have all been assets to our work because we are all aligned with the same mission – improving our first-year residential system. Many of JAAB’s initiatives this year actually address the concerns raised by Rodriguez, Costanza and Ting. We adapted our recruitment and selection process for the JA Selection Committee and consequently had a larger, more diverse pool of applicants for the committee. As noted by Davis in his article, we also greatly changed the JA selection process to more closely resemble the system used by the College’s Office of Admission to try and better gauge the qualifications of the JA applicants. Other projects include exploring the mission of both the JA and the entry systems and consequently adapting the JA training process and structure to improve the preparedness of JAs for their roles. We are trying to be as thorough as possible with the evaluation, and reform and change has therefore been a slow process.

Perhaps we, as JAAB, should improve the transparency of our initiatives, as the first-year residential system affects the entire student body in some way. We are always open to input and suggestions from all members of the Williams community. We are trying to combat complacency while preserving the entry system, and we would love to hear from you.

-Danielle Diuguid ’11

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