Jones College, the only residential college that chooses Orientation Week coordinators through a student election, is reforming its selection process for the coming year, according to Jones College coordinator Michelle Bennack.
For at least nine years, students have formed teams of three and ran for election by the college in the spring semester. Starting this year, the adult team will first create the list of candidates who can then form teams of three and run for election prior to Thanksgiving break, according to Bennack. To create the list, the adult team will review candidates’ applications and may choose to meet with some applicants to discuss time commitment and scheduling.
Jessica Ha, one of Jones’ 2016 O-Week coordinators, said the old system for selecting coordinators had the potential to produce unqualified coordinators.
"In my opinion, the current O-Week coord[inator] selection process is not the best avenue for choosing O-Week coordinators,” Ha said. “The process for choosing Jones O-Week coordinators [had] significant holes through which someone who is not qualified for the position can be considered and even be elected. Past Jones O-Week coordinators who may have had to deal with an incompetent partner have suffered as a result of these holes.”
Former Jones O-Week coordinators created the new process. Jones then implemented the process after the 2017 Jones O-Week coordinators led a cabinet discussion about the new selection process and received positive feedback from the college, Bennack said. The 2017 Jones O-Week coordinators declined to comment on their reasons for change.
Jones has faced pressure from First Year Programs to change its process in the past, according to Bennack.
“FYP would like us to have the same process as everyone else, but Jones has been committed to elections,” Bennack said. “If the students want to change it, then that's what we'll do.”
FYP Associate Director Araceli Lopez, who began in the position this year, said she did not express any concerns to Jones about their process.
“I understand and appreciate how each [college] has their own respective leadership, constitution and traditions,” Lopez said, “If change should happen, the students should lead that charge and when solicited I can advise. With that said, FYP today does not have an issue with Jones’ election process or that applicants get to choose their own teams of three.”
Improving the Jones process has been a recurring conversation topic over the last five years that hasn’t led to change, but this year students took the proposal for improvement into serious consideration, according to Bennack. Ha said this year’s changes had to account for the fact that Jones students want to keep the existing election system.
“People feel very strongly about those processes and so a paper application which ensures that prospective coordinators are vetted and facilitates the team creation process was introduced because it would not interfere with those traditions Jonesians hold dear,” Ha said.
Wiess College is also considering changing their coordinator selection process, according to 2017 O-Week coordinator Abbey Perez.
In the current system, candidates apply and are interviewed by last year's coordinators, any graduating senior who has advised in the past, and the adult team, all deliberating and deciding who will be the next coordinators. Perez said she and her fellow coordinators would like to have only the coordinators and adult team conduct interviews through a constitutional amendment.
Most colleges, including Brown, Martel and Hanszen, have a system where three candidates are chosen to be coordinators by their adult teams and past coordinators, after applying and interviewing individually, according to several O-week coordinators.
Hanszen O-Week coordinator Ethan Lau said a benefit of a non-election system is that it allows colleges to evaluate how individuals may fit into a wide variety of teams instead of just one.
“This selection process prevents a popularity contest where people are selected solely based on how liked they are by the college rather than their actual coordinating ability,” Lau, a junior, said.
However, an election allows students to have a say in their college’s legacy, according to Jones senior Justin Bernard.
“To let a group of five or six people decide the future of the college without asking the current college is not necessarily the best,” Bernard said. “We are inextricably tied to the future of the college, and I think students voting on the teams is ideal.”
The input of adult teams is also important in ensuring a successful team, according to Brown junior Erin Rawls, also a former O-Week coordinator.
“I believe it is beneficial to have everyone's input in the decision,” Rawls said. “The coordinators sometimes need to work with the A-Team closely throughout their tenure, and the coord[inator]s and A-Team should agree on their vision for O-Week.”
In addition, the adult team might know more sensitive information about applicants and have a more mature perspective about potential downfalls for the team, according to Martel junior and former O-Week coordinator Thresa Skeslien-Jenkins.
“You're able to get a diverse group of people together that spans friend groups, classes and academic interests because [students] are unable to pick who they work with but rather it's more meritocratic,” Skeslien-Jenkins said.
Ha said the coordinator selection process should be adapted year after year to ensure the smoothest possible transition for new students into Rice during O-Week.
|“This process is quite new,” Ha said, “We’ll need to refine it in the future. For example, how many questions should be on the paper application? What should those questions be? Should an interview process been added? These are all current weaknesses of the new process. But progress cannot be made if we continue to do the same thing over and over again.”|