U. to pay tour guides $11 per hour in 2019

Starting January 2019, campus tour guides will receive compensation from the Office of College Admission for tours during the school year, said Dean of Admission Logan Powell.

Tour guides, as well as information session leaders, will be paid $11 per hour, which is “consistent with campus-wide work-study hourly pay,” Powell noted.

Currently, tour guides are only paid for their work over summer, winter and spring breaks, according to David Paasche ’19, a tour guide, a co-coordinator of the tour program and a member of the Bruin Club executive board.

Powell emphasized his desire to make the position more accessible to students on work-study. Under the current compensation arrangement, “students in work-study … may be forced to forgo work-study time and work-study money to talk about their love of Brown,” Powell said.

As a result, low-income students may be precluded from applying to be an admission tour guide, Powell said. “We don’t want this to continue to be a barrier for any student.”

Student reactions

University tour guide Alli Gordon ’19 expressed excitement over the news, which was shared with all tour guides Tuesday night. “It’s nice to be valued,” Gordon said, adding that the position requires “a lot of work, especially if you’re a tour guide who gives extra tours or family weekend tours.”

Paasche similarly appreciated the admission office’s recognition in light of the recent news. “In terms of the work that the guides have been doing on a volunteer basis, it’s really cool to have the admissions saying ‘we’re gonna value that, we’re gonna pay you,’” Paasche said.

Tour guides are expected to give around one tour a week, but may volunteer to pick more shifts now that they will be paid, Powell said.

Gordon hopes the added incentive of pay will not create competition among guides for tour slots or create division within the tour community, she said.

Though pay is certainly an added benefit to the job, Paasche stressed that tour guides’ shared love for the school was the ultimate motive to apply. “We all love Brown.That’s what unites us; that’s why we came out to be tour guides. We didn’t decide to be tour guides because we thought we were going to get paid.”

Tour guide Jack O’Donnell ’20 said that he had anticipated that the office of admission would eventually begin to pay tour guides, but “wasn’t aware that they were going to do it as soon as next semester.”

Conception of the proposal

Powell hopes that increasing the socioeconomic diversity of tour guides will better inform prospective students visiting the University for the first time. Prospective students should be able to see themselves and their experiences represented by tours, especially because tours and information sessions can be applicants’ first and only exposure to Brown, Powell said.“If we’re (not) sharing the voices of first-generation students or the voices of students who receive financial aid, I think it’s a missed opportunity,” Powell said. “There is a need to represent Brown from all perspectives.”

The decision to pay tour guides is one of many admission office initiatives to limit barriers facing low-income students. In his three years as dean of admission, Powell has revamped testing policy, implemented fee waivers for all low-income students, expanded QuestBridge and A Day on College Hill and increased travel grants for students to visit the University.

The admission office collaborated with other departments to realize the proposal, Powell said. “I had to have this conversation with the provost, with various members of the Corporation, with the president and ultimately had to make the proposal to the University Resource(s) Committee,” Powell said.

Throughout the process, Powell also frequently consulted the student-run Bruin Club, which oversees admission programming such as tours and ADOCH. “We met with them to make sure that this resonated with them, that this policy change had their support and that it made sense from a student perspective as well as an admission policy perspective,” Powell said.

The University currently compensates its summer tour guides, and the office of admission used that program as a model for how to pay its year-long tour guides.

The funding for tour guide compensation will come from University resources and will be “a permanent fixture to our budget,” Powell said.

Comparison with peer schools

Though O’Donnell applied to be a tour guide out of passion for the University, he added that he was met with “varying reactions” when he told students at other schools that he was not paid as a tour guide.

Six out of the eight Ivy League schools — including Brown — now pay their tour guides during the school year, with Penn and Columbia as exceptions.

Allison Zhang, a junior and tour guide at Harvard, said that she and all Harvard tour guides are paid $14.50 per hour, though payment did not incentivize her to apply for the position.

Cornell first-year and tour guide Nico Modesti said that Cornell tour guides are initially paid $10.40 per hour — the minimum wage in New York — but added that Cornell’s pay raise system gives more experienced tour guides the opportunity to make more through promotions and seniority. Modesti said that though being a tour guide has been a fulfilling experience, “the pay is definitely an added bonus.”

As of 2017, the starting salary for a tour guide at Dartmouth was $7.75 per hour, according to a report by the Dartmouth. Yale tour guides were paid $13 per hour as of 2015, according to the Yale Daily News. Princeton Alumni Weekly reported that the school began to pay its tour guides in 2011, though the exact salary was not mentioned.

“I can’t speak for why it wasn’t a change that was made earlier. I can only speak for the time I’ve been here,” Powell said.

Going forward, Powell will now focus on enhancing tour guide training, he said. Powell would like to ensure that guides are “fully informed, that they understand the University’s messaging strategy, have the same key talking points. … We want them to be able to share from their own personal perspectives.”

Powell anticipates the office of admission will hire 15 additional tour guides in the spring.

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Copyright 2018