Students clamor for tour guide jobs

by Zachary Goldstein | 11/14/02 6:00am

What has two legs, walks backwards and relies on others to keep from ramming into poles? It's a campus tour guide, and the job is more difficult than it seems.

"I didn't realize that flip-flops don't stay on naturally when walking backwards. It took some adjusting to get the flip-flops not to fall off," said Joseph Ackley '03, who has been leading tours since his freshman spring. "And yes, those chains in front of Mass Row are awful for tripping over."

However, the art of walking in reverse is not the only preparation needed to become a successful guide.

Guides"to"be go through an interview and application process, followed by a term-long training session that includes practice tours with senior guides before they can shepherd their first tour around.

But for all of the on"the"job danger and the intensive preparation, the job of a campus tour guide is an unpaid volunteer position, except during the summer and interim periods.

"During interim and the summer, it's harder to find enough students, so during those periods we offer pay," said John Dolan, assistant director of admissions, who is in charge of running on"campus tours. "It can also be pretty difficult during finals and even midterms."

But the admissions office has no shortage of students eager to try the job, even without the $6-per-hour wage.

"We hire on Winter and Spring terms and always have plenty of applicants," Doran said. "This year we already have a lot of '06s who are interested."

In a typical tour's single hour, guides make a loop that begins outside of McNutt Hall, goes through Collis Center, past Thayer Hall and Massachusetts Row, through the Rockefeller Center, into and out the other side of Baker-Berry Library, down Dartmouth Row, to the Hood Museum of Art and through the Hopkins Center and finally back to McNutt.

The route is delineated in guide training and guides tend not to diverge far from the track because "there just isn't enough time in one hour," according to Assistant Director of Admissions Beth Onofry, who works with Doran.

Common topics of discussion while traveling the campus include "Collis, Tucker, dorms, affinity programs, the Hop, Baker-Berry, off-campus programs, athletic facilities, Greek life and campus safety," according to Justin Johnson '03, who has been guiding for four years.

"I describe Safety and Security and what they do, and I mention the blue lights all over campus," said Lavinia Weizel '04, who has been a guide since her freshman year, although she is taking Fall term off. "I like to talk about how safe I feel on campus."

And when less favorable topics arise, such as alcohol consumption, guides are encouraged to answer honestly.

"Frats, alcohol abuse, crime, sexual assault, diversity and other controversial topics are what visitors want to know about when they visit. I know that people, particularly parents, are wondering about these things, so if they don't ask me, I'll bring it up myself," Johnson said.

"I tell the tours that yeah, there is alcohol use here, just like any college campus. It's a personal choice for each student once they come here."

Ackley agreed, adding that the process is really a means of helping students decide on a college in addition to coaxing them to apply and eventually matriculate if accepted.

"Whenever asked about something that does not exactly describe Dartmouth favorably, we still answer honestly," Ackley said.

"The admissions office encourages us to be mature about the process and view it objectively -- above all we are there to help these students determine if Dartmouth is the school for them."

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