Beyond walking backward and spitting facts: The real responsibility of a Charleston 40 tour guide

Charleston Forty President Amy Clark

Charleston 40 President Amy Clark. (Photo courtesy of Amy Clark)

Do you remember the first person you came into contact with at the College of Charleston? Possibly the person to whom you owe credit for making you fall in love with the school? For many students, the first person they meet at CofC is their Charleston 40 tour guide – the probably loud, charismatic, shockingly informative guy or girl who shows groups of prospective students around campus, attempting to put College of Charleston’s most flattering characteristics on display. Given this position, Charleston 40 tour guides have a responsibility to all prospective students. And that responsibility is to objectively and honestly show them the school, with the ultimate goal of helping them realize whether or not they belong here.

Freshman Max Rosenberg joined Charleston 40 because he loves the College and he loves this city. In regard to his responsibility toward prospective students, Rosenberg said, “If I give prospective students a bad tour, I give them a bad first impression of the school. Our goal and responsibility is to try and give them an objective opinion, but at the same time be a little biased by telling them all the reasons that they should come here. We want to show them a good perspective of what Charleston is all about, through both facts and personal experiences.”

When asked if he honestly sees any negative aspects to the College, Rosenberg admitted to definitely seeing a few negatives, such as the lack of diversity, but he knows the purpose of a college tour is not to talk about points like this. Alternatively, he talks about all the perks of being a student here – small class sizes, passionate professors, decent dorms – and recounts to tour groups his own good experiences.

So how exactly do tour guides handle prospective student inquiry that they may be unable to answer with full honesty? Questions about dorm procedures, for example, or about the food in the dining halls? They might get sick of eating City Bistro every day, or tired of the strict dorm policies, but they are not obligated to reveal this information. Another freshman and new tour guide, Max Rose, says he handles tricky questions by simply telling the truth and consistently turning the situation around by opening the door to talk about what he does like.

Charleston Forty tour guides gather for a group photo.  These students have an important, professional responsibility to prospective students touring The College. They are the first people with which prospective students  come into contact, and therefore held to a high standard in properly and accurately representing CofC. (Photo courtesy of Amy Clark)

Charleston 40 tour guides gather for a group photo. These students have an important, professional responsibility to prospective students touring The College. They are the first people with which prospective students come into contact, and therefore held to a high standard in properly and accurately representing CofC. (Photo courtesy of Amy Clark)

“If a student asks me about the dorm procedures, I tell them how it serves to keep all students safe, and how you can have guests over as often as you’d like,” Rose said. “I handle any inappropriate questions by deflecting, or offering alternative answers. If a student asked me about drinking, I would tell them about all the other things to do in Charleston. If they asked about the food in Liberty, I would tell them about the awesome ice cream machine.”

Charleston 40 tour guides represent the College of Charleston and therefore have to be honest and dedicate lots of thought and practice to the art of presenting the school. Junior Heidi Menke has been a tour guide for almost a year, and she thoroughly enjoys her responsibilities. She takes special care to share all of her reasons for loving CofC with the prospective students. Menke says there are not any circumstances in which she feels the need to make any aspect of the school seem better than reality.

“I don’t attend a lot of sporting events because I’ve always preferred the arts so I don’t talk about them much,” Menke said. “If people ask me about it, I just tell them the truth. I don’t really attend any sporting events, instead I go to the plays and musicals or the art gallery openings at Halsey. I’m going to talk about what I’m interested in. I know a lot of facts about our athletics that I can answer – I just don’t have any personal stories to share like I do with the others. I don’t think I really make them seem better than they are though, I just give the facts.”

Menke says she knows that although the College is not perfect, no school is. She would not have joined Charleston 40 if not for her love of the school – something she takes pride in.

“CofC is great because even if you’re unhappy with something, our small class sizes allow you to voice your concern,” Menke said. “Even when students were upset about the College Reads thing last year or about the next president, the school never stopped us from voicing our opinion. Instead, they encouraged us and supported us to speak up along the way. I think that’s pretty great.”

Charleston 40 President Amy Clark, a senior at the College, has been a tour guide since her freshman year. She  makes sure to be completely transparent and interactive with prospective students. She instills these values in each of the tour guides and makes sure to represent College of Charleston to the best of her abilities – mainly through her own positive experiences.

“My ultimate goal throughout every tour is to provide the students with any information that is necessary for them to find their best fit in a university,” Clark said. “As a Charleston 40 tour guide and representative of the College of Charleston Admissions Office, I feel it is my responsibility to share not only factual information about the College of Charleston, but also my personal experiences while being a student and member of the Charleston community. These experiences are shared with professionalism and the most relevant information is provided in the best interest of each prospective student.”

 

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