Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 12, 2024

Letter: I am a student (and a tour guide), not a prop or an animal

By admin | November 6, 2014

Dear Editors,

In her Oct. 23 column titled “Becoming the animals behind the cage,” senior Amanda Hobson complains about tour guides taking groups through the Brody Learning Commons. She feels that by doing so, students are being “used as living props on a prep school safari.” Hobson further grieves that tour guides are supposedly omitting important details about life at Hopkins by not spending more time elaborating on how stressful college academics can be. While I appreciate Hobson’s colorful narrative and her frustration with the way our tour guides conduct themselves, I would like to provide some much needed clarity in response to some of her baseless complaints.

The Brody Learning Commons was completed in the summer of 2012 in order to provide students with more space to study and collaborate. Upon its opening, an executive decision was made to send tour groups through the BLC to show prospective families that the University supports – in fact, strongly encourages – its students to work together. The ground level is filled with large tables, comfortable chairs and large, mobile whiteboards. Walking through the atrium, one will hear many conversations ranging in topic from art history to thermodynamics, with the occasional friendly gossip or chatter dispersed throughout. Hobson claims “tour guides tromp through the BLC, through the Gilman atrium, through a series of student study spots on the hour every hour, and nearly every day.” The tour route enters through the ground level of the BLC, travels directly up the stairs, and exits through the café, minimizing the disturbance of students, and does not enter a single “strictly studying” spot throughout the remainder of the tour. Yes, students study in the Mudd and Gilman atriums, but those areas are also places where friends meet for lunch and talk all day long. I would also like to note that admissions tours are only offered twice a day, Monday-Friday, with limited exception.

Hobson also airs her frustration that tour guides focus too much on positive aspects of Hopkins and neglect to give prospective students an honest account of what it’s like to take classes here. As an executive board member responsible for the training and recruitment of Blue Key Society (our student tour guiding group), I would like to stress that we never tell members to omit that Hopkins academics are rigorous. Any prospective student who hopes to someday attend Hopkins should know that difficult classes exist and that students are expected to put time and effort into their education. The fact that undergraduates here spend some nights studying harder than others and have stressful moments is nothing unique to our university – it is widely observed at schools across the nation. Should tour guides be required to tell prospective students that some individuals like Hobson have bags under their eyes, go days without showering and consume unhealthy amounts of caffeine and sugar? Absolutely not. These may be side effects of Hobson’s work ethic, but they are not universal characteristics of academic life at Hopkins.

We encourage our tour guides to include personal anecdotes about their own Hopkins experiences and allow them to discuss how they best manage their busy schedules and coursework. Procrastination and time management issues are personal, and while I sympathize with Hobson’s struggles, I believe it is necessary to assess what is personal versus what is institutional. There are a number of useful resources for both academic and emotional support that are available for all students. Particularly, our Office of Academic Support offers tutoring and study consulting services (free of charge), to help students best manage their busy schedules and maximize productivity.

We were all prospective students applying to college at some point. We all saw something valuable and special about Johns Hopkins University, and upon admittance, we decided to enroll. Current prospective students have the same right we had to discover something they love about our school. Our tour guides serve as friendly, welcoming and honest student representatives to help with that process.

Sincerely,

Senior Benjamin Ackerman


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