Point: Tour guides are undervalued
Typically, the most important impression that a prospective student gets of Washington University is their campus tour experience. Regardless of what they have already heard about Wash. U. in the past, or read about on the internet, this is the first moment that they are going to be able to decide whether or not they like the school.
Washington University tour guides are the people that can help them to fall in love with the school, give them an idea about what life is like at the University and share with them all the wonderful things that Wash. U. has to offer. Given the major impact that these tour guides can have on potential Wash. U. students, it is only right that they receive monetary compensation for the work they are doing.
Wash. U. spends a lot of money recruiting students to come to our University. During the college application process, I received mail from Wash. U. multiple times each month. Presumably the pamphlets and brochures that I received, filled with pictures of smiling students and testimonies about the student experience at Wash. U. are designed to attract prospective freshmen. Tour guides do this same work in person. They bring those pictures of smiling students to life, and give those prospective freshmen a first hand idea of why life at Wash. U. is so exciting. A good tour guide helps give prospective students a look into the experience of being at Wash. U. more than a pamphlet ever could.
There are many jobs at Wash. U. that students can get paid to do. Students are compensated to work as a receptionist at the Athletic Complex or a referee for intramural sports games. We can be paid to work in Olin Library organizing books or work behind a cafe counter. Each student who works part time at Wash. U. is making a valuable contribution to the community. Just because working as a tour guide is not traditional work, doesn’t mean that it is not equally valuable to the University.
So why are they not treated as though they are contributing to this valuable first impression?
What message is the University sending to tour guides if they do not pay them? If the University chooses to merely give tour guides occasional Target gift cards for special tours, then they are not making a great enough effort to show how much they care about and value their tour guides.
If that argument is not enough, there is another hidden issue to consider. It is no secret that attending this University comes with a hefty price tag. This means that many students have to work to help pay for their expenses, in addition to doing all of their aforementioned activities. Students may not have the financial flexibility to allocate multiple hours within their week to tour prospective students. Wash. U. may be missing out on excellent tour guides because the position isn’t paid.
Wash. U. is mistreating its tour guides by failing to provide them with compensation for the hard work they put in. Gift cards are not a sufficient form of payment for a student who gives long tours around the entirety of a college campus. This ‘payment’ is merely a way for the University to skirt the real issue: finding a feasible, equitable manner to reward tour guides for the important work they are doing.
Editor’s Note: Check back next issue for the counterpoint argument.