The End of the Paid Tour Guide

By Disgruntled Div III Intern & Disgruntled Division II Intern

On Wednesday the 23rd of February, the Admissions Intern Meeting was catered with a variety of burrito options, from steak to chicken to simply bean burritos (and personally I didn’t enjoy the tortilla, but who am I to complain about [ostensibly] free food?). The fun and games of the meeting did not last long, however, as the closing item of the agenda took the majority of the discussion that evening. Intern supervisors Doreen Kamansky and Louisa Lebwohl announced that the Admissions Office will be restructuring its student employment options beginning Fall 2016.

Admissions interns currently wear multiple hats in the Admissions Office. They are most notably tour guides and assist in the information sessions. But interns also do a lot of paperwork, from stuffing envelopes with information pamphlets or acceptance letters to writing postcards to students at different stages of the application process. Interns call accepted students to implore them to visit campus. They work large events including Accepted Students Day and open houses. We host students in our living spaces overnight. We even work Saturdays sometimes. Despite our biases, how terrible our days have been, and how absolutely frustrated and furious we are the school and its intricacies, interns have to put on an impenetrable mask of professionalism and absolute love for the school. And right now, we get paid the same wage as all work-study students for all the work we do; while some campuses don’t pay their tour guides, many campuses value this work enough to provide higher salaries than minimum wage.

What was explained to us was that, coming Fall 2016, the role of the student intern will be replaced with three different positions: office workers, Division III students, and tour guides. Office workers will be paid stuff of any year. Their responsibilities will be to do anything inside of the office involving paper (information envelopes, postcards, calling, anything but interviews and tours). Hired Division III students, also paid, would act as student representatives in the information sessions and conduct student interviews. Those two jobs, and possibly mentoring new workers, would be their sole responsibilities. The third role is the role of the tour guide. This job will be filled by ‘hired’ volunteers. Hired, like all other positions, but unpaid, these tour guides could have their work be recognized by CEL credit. We want this to be clear: the role of a tour guide is becoming a volunteer position.

So why change the current system into this new one? The Admissions Office ostensibly doesn’t need quite so many interns sitting around waiting for more paperwork to come up when they aren’t giving tours. Plus, the Office wants more tour guides in general so they can have smaller tours that will be more geared towards specific prospective student interests. Additionally, the school saves, supposedly, tons of money.

But do these cold benefits balance the fact that the Admissions Office would be making tour guides effectively donate their time to the school? This practice would, after all and unarguably, limit the diversity of representatives of our school to whiter, wealthier, and, yes, more masculine students. After all, which students are going to be available to donate free time to the school? Students of systematically oppressed identities will absolutely not be able to donate the time that systematically advantaged students will: wealthier white men are going to have the primary advantage, yet again. That demographic can afford to spend time volunteering, whereas systematically oppressed peoples are, more often, unable to afford working without pay. While this campus is slowly ‘diversifying’ (although the process and entire concept are questionable), our representatives should actually represent that. Plus, what image would a visiting, systematically oppressed body have our school when a(nother) white man explains to them why this Liberals Arts School is the right choice?

The tour guide is the most public and well-known aspect of the Admissions intern. Indeed, you are, above all, the face of the institution. Every single word, giggle, grunt and reaction is scrutinized by visiting students and their intensely judgmental parents. How can the Office even hold these rushedly trained volunteers accountable when they say the wrong thing, criticize Hampshire too much, or, quite simply, break the rules of the position?

Finally, and never to be forgotten: many student interns currently depend on having their jobs. This rearrangement, in the attempt to increase efficiency, will reduce the number of paid jobs offered in the office. The Admissions Office Intern position is one of two non-financial aid student positions on campus, and is vital to many of the interns. Students should not be ballasted on institutional budgets. These changes are painfully significant, detrimental to students and, yes, to the school itself.

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