Last week, The Herald reported that the Office of College Admission will pay undergraduate tour guides $11 an hour starting in 2019. We wholeheartedly commend this decision on the part of the University to compensate tour guides. (Previously, the University was one of just three Ivy League schools that did not pay their tour guides.) At a selective university like Brown, it is hard to overstate how much tour guides contribute to the University’s admission efforts. They field hundreds of questions, actively advocate for the University and often are the first real students that prospective applicants meet. An excellent group of undergraduate guides is fundamental evidence of an engaged student body, and paying these students for their service has been a long time coming.
The work of giving campus tours to large groups of visitors is highly demanding. It requires flexibility and the kind of relentless positive energy needed to assuage anxious applicants and answer the inquiries of overbearing parents. Just as important, tour guides are entrusted with introducing people unfamiliar with Brown to the culture and intellectual life of campus. As a University pamphlet from the early 2000s reads, “A stroll around the Green affords a tour in microcosm of Brown’s history and a glimpse of the vitality and diversity of the campus today.” Student guides are the principal stewards of that narrative.
The most important benefit of paying tour guides will be the inclusion of more students of low-income backgrounds in the tour guide staff. Being a tour guide is by no means an easy commitment, as students must lead tours around their class schedules and many extracurriculars. Compensation now provides the opportunity to become a tour guide to students who might have otherwise not been able to be one. Having tour guides on staff who represent the full range of the socioeconomic spectrum in the United States is absolutely essential for the recruitment of talented students. We hope Brown continues to actively construct a cohort of tour guides that effectively represents the University, its commitment to diversity and its intellectual mission. Supporting these students by treating their work as paid employment is a wonderful first step.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Anuj Krishnamurthy ’19, Rhaime Kim ’20, Grace Layer ’20, Mark Liang ’19 and Krista Stapleford ’21. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and op-eds to email@example.com.