Given that the Junior Advisor (JA) system is a unique and defining feature of campus life with a longstanding history at the College, we at the Record feel compelled to lend our voices regarding the recent changes to the system.
As announced by the Junior Advisor Advisory Board (JAAB), there will be fewer than the standard 52 JAs to the class of 2022, resulting in significantly larger entries led by teams of three or four, rather than pairs, of JAs. This change is, in many respects, the best solution to sinking application numbers and a large volume of accepted JAs declining the position. It offers potential benefits to first-years and JAs alike. Larger entries might reduce the sense of isolation and tokenization felt by first-years who, in a smaller entry, may be the only individual of a certain identity. These larger entries could also potentially diminish the expectation that JAs, who will now have many more first-years, provide one-on-one care beyond the scope of their roles.
However, this new arrangement also brings significant challenges. The larger entry size creates a fundamentally different atmosphere within the entry, potentially distancing JAs from their first-years. While JAAB has spoken about the first-year-to-JA ratio remaining relatively constant, in reality, each JA thinks about and cares for all of their first-years. Consequently, this change might only increase the burden of care JAs feel they must rise to. We implore JAAB to carefully consider potential pitfalls and ensure that the training and support that the JAs to the class of 2022 receive will enable them to thrive in this new paradigm.
JAAB’s decision not to extend offers to denied applicants, even in the face of too few JAs agreeing to serve in the role, is also an area of concern. While certain red flags preclude some students from selection, many rejected applicants might, with proper training and counsel, serve as excellent JAs. The JAs to the class of 2022 ought to be assessed by the service they give to the first-year class, not by potential preexisting merit. Indeed, to insist that failing to reject applicants in current circumstances somehow equates with creating an intrinsically worse JA class seems condescending.
Finally, we believe that these changes call for a broader reassessment of who provides leadership to the JA system. The JA system exists to serve almost the entire student body, most of which will live in an entry at one point or another. Its leadership, though, consists of JAs elected by each JA class in the form of JAAB. Of course, the need for a small leadership body that is able to act quickly is important for a system like this one. JAAB, however, ought to seek structural opportunities for broader representation in its leadership. Just as the selection committee for JAs (SelCom) deliberately includes non-JAs of multiple class years, so too should these perspectives be included on JAAB, perhaps taking the shape of a larger advisory committee with a smaller day-to-day leadership group, the latter more closely resembling the current JAAB. These recent changes show just how critical the need is for JAAB, which often must make quick decisions with a fair degree of secrecy, to have broader campus representation and input. The upcoming “JA Week” is a commendable step in the right direction, but adding non-JA representation to JAAB itself is a necessity.
With appreciation for the thoughtful changes necessitated by this critical juncture, we call on JAAB to urgently consider and mitigate the potential hazards of this new system. With admiration for JAAB’s and SelCom’s work in selecting a wonderful group of JAs to the class of 2022, we express our grave concern at the message sent by nonetheless pridefully rejecting applicants in this challenging situation. And with deepest gratitude to all those JAs who, now and in the past, have given leadership to the system they so value, we seek an expansion of that system’s leadership.