Smooth sailing

While I have never experienced another college, I have had the recurring thought in the past few hectic weeks of my life that, should I have decided to attend another institution, I would be feeling considerably more lost, confused and overwhelmed than I currently am. At another college, I might not yet have a group of people to surround myself with and I definitely wouldn’t have such willing upperclassmen at my disposal to answer questions and mitigate concerns at any hour of the day. While the past three weeks at Williams have been incredible for many reasons, no single factor has been so instrumental for me during the intimidating transition we’ve all faced than the entry system.

It has been argued that the entry system promotes a heteronormative environment. My entry is perhaps the embodiment of that idea in at least one way, as we refer to our Junior Advisors (JAs) as Mom and Dad. At the same time, we contradict this idea, as we call our male JA “Mom” and his female counterpart “Dad.” And for good reason, because the functions they serve could not be further removed from their genders. While each provides a specific resource for different genders should there be a need, they are both equally accessible to members of my entry in academic, social and extracurricular matters.

An important part of the JA system, at least in my opinion, is the fact that these wonderful people do not get paid for their service to the College. This service is a very real one, for it turns a potentially overwhelmingly chaotic and turbulent time in our lives into a smoother and easier endeavor. But if JAs were to be paid, what message would that send to first-years? It might spur the rational thought that they do not live with us simply because they want to help. It would almost certainly reduce first-years’ likelihood to access this resource, for we would feel like a burden – like part of the mundane duties of someone else’s job, rather than like people whose concerns are genuinely valued. I am not, by any means, trying to say that JAs do not deserve to be paid based on the time and energy they put into the entry. They do. But doing so would be bad for a system that for so many is vitally important.

The entry system, similarly, aids in the acceptance of first-years into the college community. Many students chose Williams because of the close-knit environment it fosters, an environment in which one recognizes people on a consistent basis. Even in such a close setting, more than 500 people in a class is not a small number, and further division by the entry system provides the ability to form solid friendships over shared meals, late night discussions and campus events. More than anything, the system provides a rock to which one can affix oneself, instead of being dragged along by the ever changing, busy and sometimes crazy current of college living. The entry provides the stability and consistency of a home, which may explain why I haven’t felt the degree of homesickness I expected to feel.

The entry and JA system, of course, fade into oblivion after our first year. And well they should, for as we grow, we should expand our communities to encompass not just an entry, or a particular group, but larger sections of the College. By the end of four years in the purple mountains, I hope that I think of my home as the entire college and as Williamstown, rather than just specific groups of people. This hope would be more rightly characterized as an expectation, for every sign thus far has indicated that this special place has the makings of a home. It has people that we care about, issues that we are passionate about and eventually, parts of our lives that we will never again live without.

With that said, we should not feel confined to our entries for the duration of our first year here. There are hundreds of people in the Class of 2017 that neither you nor I have met – people with incredible talents and unique perspectives, who could potentially be the best friends we will ever make. While it can be tempting to hide in our comfortable caves, we should be excited at the prospect of all those we have yet to meet and all we have yet to discover in our time here. One of my favorite quotes goes something along the lines of “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Cliché aside, there is immense value in putting yourself out into the world.

While I’m not sure how this piece turned into a motivational speech, one thing I know with absolute certainty is that I am extremely grateful for the entry and the JA system. They have provided the foundation upon which we all can build for the rest of our college careers, and that should be appreciated.

Will Sager ’17 is from Morristown, N.J. He lives in Mills-Dennett.