Campus, News

Tour guides meet with admissions to discuss pay

Students participate in a walkout in support of tour guides on Friday afternoon. PHOTO BY MAGGIE LEONE/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Representatives from Tour Guides of Boston University met with admissions representatives Friday as part of an ongoing campaign to secure pay for student admissions ambassadors.

Approximately 50 members of the BU community  joined them in solidarity on a walk to the admissions office at 881 Commonwealth Ave., where the meeting was held.

Many supporters held posters designed by Tour Guides of BU and their main supporter, Young Democratic Socialists of BU, as they walked down Commonwealth Avenue chanting slogans such as “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Unpaid labor’s got to go!” and “What do we want? Fair pay! When do we want it? Now!”

Nathan Phillips, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he attended the rally to support the students.

“[Tour guides are] doing some of the most important work on campus,” Phillips said in an interview. “They’re critical ambassadors of the university and they need to be compensated for the huge value that they bring to BU.”

The walk was held to show that the campaign had support beyond just petition signatures, said CAS senior Isaiah Tharan, a spokesperson for Tour Guides of BU, before the rally.

“You can get anyone to sign basically anything in the [George Sherman Union] if you have free candy, and so we just wanted people to know that people aren’t just supporting this so they can get some Smarties or a lollipop or two,” Tharan said in an interview.

The main goal of the meeting was to get admissions directors, who are in charge of hiring tour guides — officially known as admissions ambassadors — to listen to them and their demands, Tharan said. The demands go beyond fair pay and include creating more transparent and merit-based hiring policies.

He said that one primary attractant for students to become tour guides is the belief that being one during the school year would give them an advantage for other BU student employment opportunities. However, he said, that understanding, propagated by admissions, is false.

“[Students are] told they have a leg up on [other BU positions], but that’s not actually true,” Tharan said.

CAS sophomore Hannah Kinney-Kobre, the president of Young Democratic Socialists of BU, said in an interview that while fair pay has long been a socialist issue, it has a broader support beyond socialists.

“At the end of the day, [tour guides are] still not getting paid, and I think people want someone who’s willing to stand up and say, ‘Hey, maybe that’s not right,’” she said.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences student Zach Coto said he attended the rally both because he believes that people employed by BU should be paid and that groups should support each other in their similar fights.

“We have rights to organize, whether we’re undergraduates or graduate students or whatever we’re doing — even if we’re just workers for the university without being students,” Coto said, adding that organizing is the first step to getting results from BU.

The meeting itself lasted for slightly less than an hour. It was not open to the public, but Sam Theobald, an admissions ambassador and one of the tour guide representatives who participated in the meeting, said it was attended by Dean of Admissions Kelly Walter and Director of Admissions John McEachern, as well as a representative from labor relations.

Tour Guides of BU representatives were told that the meeting would be a chance for admissions to hear their demands without any decisions being made, Theobald said. While the meeting was very civil, he said it seemed as though Walter was trying to mold the conversation around students’ volunteer activities, comparing it to their work as admissions ambassadors.

“We combatted [that] with the fact that a lot of volunteer work we believed to be helping other communities or helping other people, not necessarily helping a large institution like Boston University,” the College of Fine Arts freshman said.

Walter declined to comment, and McEachern did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said there was “no way” he could say if any changes would be made to the program.

It has worked extremely well for decades,” Riley said. “We’re really appreciative of those volunteers and the difference they make at Boston University.” 

2 Comments

  1. David Franco

    Tour guides deserve to be paid. Other universities pay theirs and it seems ridiculous that we do not. Tours will go poorly if guides are not excited and interactive with the potential students. There will be no incentives for tour guides to work if they are being taken away for no pay.

  2. Kelley Ready

    Congratulations for your courage in standing up to
    BU Administration. Requiring the Ambassadors to be volunteers limits who can do it, probably eliminating students who are low income. If BU wants a diverse student body, they should make sure that students from a wide range of backgrounds are introducing students and their parents to BU.

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