College to allow campus tours inside buildings
Tour guides reflect on two years of virtual and outdoor visitor programming, as COVID-19 guidance changes will allow tours inside campus buildings again.
Campus tours through the admissions office will be allowed to enter campus buildings again starting April 1, according to an emailed statement from senior associate director of admissions Anna Dechert.
The decision was made in accordance with the College’s visitor guidance policy, which is informed by the College’s COVID-19 policies, according to Dechert. The Admissions Office hosted on-campus tours again starting in summer 2021, but visitors were not allowed to enter buildings, Dechert wrote. Virtual programming such as informational sessions remained in place. She added in an interview that as of mid-March, the College’s visitor guidance no longer requires proof of vaccination from visitors.
According to Dechert, the admissions office plans to retain some of the virtual tours of campus that were put in place during the pandemic. She added that the Office will continue to offer virtual live tours given by students holding a device and recording the tour for students who may not be able to visit campus, such as international students.
“We’ve had a really great response to [the virtual tours],” she said. “While we are really excited to have folks touring on campus, there are some students who just don’t have that as an option.”
For some student tour guides, the relaxation of visitor policies will allow them to lead tours inside buildings for the first time. Carter Welch ’23 said that while he began training as a tour guide during summer 2020, he only had experience leading virtual panels on Zoom until summer 2021, when he led in-person tours — without entering buildings. He added that the virtual panels felt “odd sometimes.”
“It almost didn’t feel real, it almost felt like it was a rehearsal, [but there] were people listening in which was a weird feeling,” Welch said. “When I began giving tours in person, it was very different to have that personal feedback [from visitors] to the tour.”
Welch added that he enjoyed giving tours his sophomore summer because he was able to “reconnect with campus.” He added that the biggest challenge giving tours during the pandemic was talking about life at the College after being off-campus during the pandemic, as it sometimes felt “like talking about a place that didn’t exist anymore.”
“By sophomore winter, I was almost a year detached from the last time I was at Dartmouth,” he said.
Other student tour guides expressed excitement with the return to leading tours inside buildings. Angie Janumala ’22, who began leading tours her freshman winter, said the transition to the virtual format in spring 2020 was stressful, especially since one of the admissions office’s main supervisors left during the transition to the online format.
“A lot of [the training of new guides] relied mostly on ’22s [and] ’21s [during the pandemic], who had been accustomed to the rhythm of the old tours,” she said. “And obviously as the years go by, a lot of people don’t remember what the old tours’ system was.”
Given the new guidelines, Janumala said she is looking forward to bringing students inside academic buildings. She added that during her freshman year, she would lead guests into the Orozco Mural Room, having written an assignment about it for WRIT 5.
“I felt like I was kind of inviting tour guests into this kind of academic experience by showing them through a study space that is also a national historic landmark,” she said.
Brandon Zhou ’22, who also helped to train new tour guides, said that he is excited about bringing back indoor tours to visitors.
“I think that it is a really important part of the College visit experience to have visitors and prospective students visit buildings and see what it is like to be a student,” Zhou said.
Dechert expressed excitement for visitors being able to enter buildings on campus.
“We’re just really excited that we can have [admitted] students continuing to tour campus and start to show them some more spaces on campus,” she said. “We are definitely committed to doing that in a safe way, and we’ve gotten really good at being flexible as rules change, as we will continue to do that.”