My colleagues and I have spent the majority of the past three weeks sitting in two windowless conference rooms building the Class of 2013. Our committee process is lengthy and tiring but vital to making William & Mary the dynamic place that it is. The two most fundamental components of any college are the faculty and the students; we are responsible for bringing in one of those two components.
As we build a class there are three different sets of players that must be considered; the individual applicant, the class, and the institution. Satisfying all three all of the time is not entirely possible and the pecking order of the three shifts based on the individual file we are considering. Of course, to the individual applicant, he or she is the most important entity. They are putting their hopes and dreams on the line and we are left to either make those dreams come true or to bring those dreams crashing down. We do our due diligence to the individual applicant by reviewing every application at least twice, by completing a holistic review, and by spending three long weeks locked in windowless rooms undergoing the committee process.
Our commitment to the class is to bring in a group of students who are incredibly diverse, talented, eccentric, intellectual, exciting, and intriguing. We want to bring a variety of perspectives and backgrounds to campus. In order to do that we have to consider many factors. Are we admitting the proper ratio of Virginians and out-of-state students? Are we bringing in urban, suburban, and rural students? Are we bringing in conservatives and liberals, devout believers and atheists, athletes and musicians, leaders and followers? Are we bringing in Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus? Are we bringing in majority and minority students? We cannot bring in a class of individuals all of whom share a common background; that would be boring. The committee process helps us to provide due diligence to the class. It helps us to watch the class evolve and become colorful, diverse, and beautiful.
And of course, we all work for and are a part of a special institution. The institution needs to maintain its prestige in part through what we do. Prospective students will be less attracted to William & Mary should our academic profile decline or should our national rankings slip. Our institution has a commitment to its alumni (and their legacy children), our athletic department, and its constituents of all varieties. In building a class, we must receive feedback from many departments on campus in order to make sure our faculty, alumni, and administration are happy.
Doing what we do is never easy but it is vital. We know we will never make everyone happy and sometimes to make one entity happy we have to make another unhappy. These decisions are much discussed and contemplated. What is wonderful about our team is the diversity of people who sit in committee. Each of us has individual passions and beliefs about how to serve each of the monster’s heads and through our deliberations we are able to bring our own diverse perspectives into play at the appropriate times. Many of my colleagues who have spent their last three weeks’ worth of evenings and weekends at home pity me and the free time I have lost to the committee process. As shocking as it sounds, I actually pity them because I cannot imagine a process more thoughtful and more successful than ours.
– Wendy Livingston