OU tour guides shouldn’t be expected to provide information on campus violence

By OU tour guides Kristin Woeste, Shannon Stucky, Jenn Martin, Sari Fine, Keith Howard, Emily Van Wey, Leslie Jo Shelton and Lee Freedman
February 8, 2002
The Post (Athens, Ohio)
February 11, 2002
Athens News

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[Editor’s note, 2/20/13 — In late January 2002 I co-authored a letter that criticized Ohio University’s response to sexual assaults and anti-gay hate crimes after three such attacks were reported on campus within an eight-day period in mid January. The letter, endorsed by 85 students and faculty within 36 hours of its completion, demanded specific changes in university policy aimed at reducing violence against female and LGBT students. Finally, the letter announced a student walkout and rally to be held on February 4 as a way to begin pressuring the university administration into making such changes.

One of the many specific subjects the letter addressed was information provided (and ommitted) during the tours of OU’s campus given to prospective students and their parents.

“Prospective students and their parents deserve to know what they are getting into. According to OU’s tour guide manual, tour guides ‘must know [their] facts about the university.’ Yet while the manual goes on to twice mention that there are ‘approximately two million bound volumes’ in Alden Library, it provides no information on sexual assault and hate crime statistics.

“…Tour guides should be required to provide prospective students and their parents with literature comparing Athens statistics those of other Ohio towns where college students comprise the majority of the population. Guides should provide information on prevention, survivor support and assault reporting systems.”

This argument promted the following response from a group of eight OU tourguides. The apsiring public relations specialists hope their letter “clears things up a bit.”]

As tour guides, we feel that our purpose at Ohio University has been misunderstood. It has been suggested that tour guides should give prospective students literature of crime statistics comparing OU to other towns, up-to-date campus statistics, and information on prevention, support and reporting systems for sexual assault. This, however, is not part of the purpose of an OU tour.

The intended purpose, instead, is to familiarize prospective students and families with the campus and give them an actual student’s face and voice to match with the university.

While giving a tour, we speak honestly from our personal experience in campus life. Although tour guides are asked to know some very basic statistics, such as number of students, colleges, majors, residence halls, building names, etc., most of the fact-and-figure questions are left for the admissions counselors in one-hour information sessions and individual appointments.

Whenever a student or parent poses a question we do not have the answer to, instead of attempting to guess or dismissing the issue, we defer to these counselors, who are happy to provide more detailed statistics and other types of information.

Tour guides who do know extra statistics are encouraged to share them with their group. No OU tour guide has ever been fired for giving out accurate sexual assault statistics.

We hope this clears things up a bit.

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