Colleges across the country have been taking a step forward in their recruitment processes — by not walking backwards. The New York Times reported last week that a growing number of American universities have been urging their beleaguered tour guides to walk forward, instead of the usual backward saunter practiced by the more seasoned vets.
This trend comes as a welcome respite for all those tired of watching out for the poor shmuck whose job it is to blindly navigate the precarious landscape of fallen bicycles, wayward pedestrians and grassy hills (or, in USC’s case, hill — singular). It also looks to curtail the tired walking-backward patter delivered by each tour guide, as if he or she was the first one to joke, “Let me know if I’m about to run into anything.”
On a larger scale, however, colleges like the University of Texas at Austin, American University in Washington, DC and Hendrix College in Arkansas are in the process of completely overhauling the campus tour, focusing less on hitting rising high school seniors and their parents with a barrage of statistics and more on creating a fluid question-and-answer interaction.
USC would do well to follow this paradigm. Known as a university with an increasingly aggressive recruitment program to match its rising rankings, campus tours here seem to fall under a strictly regimented pattern. Guides unfailingly mention that the VKC globe makes it the tallest building on campus, that CTCS 466 (the film symposium where students watch not-yet-released movies) is the most popular class in the university and that Tommy Trojan boasts the distinct ability of defying the bounds of physiology by flexing every single muscle in his body simultaneously.
USC’s ranking, its proportion of international students and its Lexus Gauntlet record are recited with the sing-song quality of a nursery rhyme, giving the tour a holier-than-thou clinical feeling to the preceding. But perhaps, instead of talking to the potential students, guides should initiate a conversation with them.
Because, in the end, spitballing statistics is just ass-backwards.
Lucy Mueller is a junior majoring in cinema-television production.