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Tour guides deserve payment for work

Published: September 6, 2013
Section: Editorials


This week, Andrew Flagel, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment, met with campus tour guides for the Office of Admissions to propose that the tour guide position will no longer be paid. Instead, the office will be creating a volunteer-only program in the hopes of decreasing the budget and simultaneously increasing the number of guides to accommodate the increased number of applicants to Brandeis.

While the university may think that students will still continue to give tours without payment simply due to their love for the school, they deserve to be paid for their work.

Currently, it is very difficult to become a tour guide. Students must first become volunteer “chatters” in Admissions, then go through extensive training and interviews to finally be hired as tour guides. To dismiss this training and effort completely is unfair to those who have gone through the process and been paid for their work.

The new program in place, as outlined by Flagel, will include first-year students as tour guides, or “ambassadors.” These students were contacted during the summer before coming to Brandeis and asked to meet because they are considered outstanding leaders—based solely on their high school activities and transcripts. An application to college does not tell everything about a person. Many of these students may be excellent tour guides, but without a more rigorous process in place, some of these students may also be much less qualified than upperclassmen.

First-year students may be great “leaders,” but that is not the sole qualification for a great tour guide. In addition to knowing how to navigate the campus, effective tour guides have personal stories they can tell about the places they visit and have the capability of answering difficult questions from parents and students. Experience at Brandeis is the only way to truly know our school, and older students will be better able to communicate that experience with applicants.

Although students are only paid a little over eleven dollars for each tour, they accepted the job, at least in part, because it provided them a source of income. Regardless of how much you love your job, you still expect to be paid.

The issue is not whether tour guides were being paid a significant amount. That they were being paid at all is a reason to continue payment.

The decision to change the program was made last May, but tour guides were only notified of the change this week, after they had submitted their schedules for the year. To change the program significantly without input from the tour guides is disrespectful and unreasonable. If the meeting allowed for discussion, that discussion should include the opportunity to revise the current decision to one that more of the staff agree with.

Students especially deserve payment because they are professionally representing the university with every conversation they have with parents and prospective students. They are responsible for encouraging students to apply, which is a direct source of revenue and talent for the university. Without tour guides, we might have a different group of students coming to Brandeis each year. Making it a volunteer position does not instill the same amount of gravity to the job, and the quality of tour guides may suffer.

For more information, see our full news coverage in next week’s paper.