To the editor:
We would like to call attention to last week’s Record editorial concerning the Junior Advisor Advisory Board (JAAB) and the Selection Committee’s (SelCom’s) decision to shift the Junior Advisor (JA) co-pairings away from a gender binary system (“Progressing with clarity: Why JAAB’s shift away from the gender binary was a good idea executed poorly,” Mar. 1, 2017).
We support the decision made by JAAB and SelCom but seek to highlight why more students should have had input into the decision to change JA co-pairings. As the organization primarily responsible for creating the JA system in the 1930s, the Gargoyle Society believes that it represents a much-needed shift towards a greater commitment to diversity, inclusion and representation.
We aim to question here not the decision itself but rather the process by which it was made. We believe this decision advances a dangerous precedent, one that limits effective engagement of student voices and allows only for reactionary input towards newly-implemented policy.
To elucidate this point, we first ask: Who should have had the opportunity to voice opinions and thoughts regarding this change to the JA system? The answer seems clear: an amalgamation of people with a variety of perspectives on campus, with the most substantial emphasis placed on student voices. The JA system has fundamentally shaped experiences for all students for nearly a century; students, and their respective student groups, should have had more of a voice before a decision was made, regardless of whether or not they were on SelCom. Input from current and former JAs would have been especially valuable here as well. Each JA gains insight into the position by virtue of their experience, providing them with a unique perspective regarding the system’s flaws. Similarly, administrators have the long-term outlook essential to making decisions that shape the future of our college. And finally, those on JAAB and SelCom are our resident experts and what they say carries significant weight.
Having established the parties who should have had a voice, we then ask: Who should have ultimately made the decision? Here, it makes perfect sense that JAAB and SelCom should have done so, as they did. These are the JA system’s governing bodies; it is their job to think extensively about, discuss and implement these changes.
However, in this case, the process by which these groups came to this decision was faulty. It is the responsibility of our governing bodies to provide a platform to allow student engagement before making decisions on this scale. Implicit in positions of leadership at the College is the requirement that those in power positions solicit thoughts, opinions and suggestions from the student body. They should make their decision only after students have had the chance to deeply engage. Incoming JAs and first-years are the most important stakeholders in this transition. So, at the very least, gathering a group of past, current and prospective JAs would have created a platform for exchanging hopes and concerns, brainstorming and offering transparency to the stakeholders of the system. Or perhaps this platform would have created a place for reflection and exploration of institutional history: How has the JA system changed and adapted over the years to fit the needs of the student body?
The nature of JAAB and SelCom’s decision precluded students from having anything other than reactionary conversations. Moving forward, we feel it is important to ensure that future decision-making processes break this precedent. We urge governing bodies on campus to solicit and give weight to outside student opinions when determining what direction to take. And now, more than ever, we encourage students to think critically about what our expectations of the JA role are and to engage in meaningful conversations about the future of the role and the system.
The Gargoyle Society
Caitlin Buckley ’17
Jonathon Burne ’17
Minwei Cao ’17
Eric Davis ’17
Roya Huang ’17
Malcolm Moutenot ’17
Tobias Muellers ’18
Jeffrey Rubel ’17
Will Sager ’17