The 2011 fall semester will mark the start of a new, more lucrative era for Bowdoin tour guides. For the first time in recent memory, students giving tours during the school year on behalf of the College will be paid for their efforts.
The change was effected by Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Scott Meiklejohn, who said that the main factor in his decision was "to address the inequity between tour guides. We have an incredible, loyal, punctual, enthusiastic volunteer group of tour guides during the semester, and then during breaks and the summer, we pay people."
"I think we've been looking at that for a while and thinking, 'Ah, that's just not right.' So we decided to pay everybody," he said.
The current group of student tour guides was not consulted in the decision making.
Head tour guide Brett Gorman '11 said that it "shows a lot about Bowdoin...how competitive the process is despite the fact that no one is paid. People just really wanted to give back to the school."
Gorman also expressed support for the new policy.
"It's not...necessary, but that doesn't [mean] you shouldn't be doing it... I do honestly think it's a nice benefit to being a tour guide because, you know, you have tours at 9:30 in the morning...it's a job, just like working at the information desk."
An expanded applicant pool is sure to be an ancillary effect of this new opportunity for paid compensation.
"We're anticipating the most...applications we've ever gotten because you're now getting both the volunteers and the random kids who just want to try to get paid" said Gorman. He expressed confidence in the selection process and the ability to weed out any applicants who are incapable or "just doing it for the money."
"And even if you're someone who's just doing it for the money, I believe that you'll get into it and really start to love it," he added.
Meiklejohn emphasized that the policy change was not enacted as an attempt to attract a larger applicant pool.
"We're not doing it because we've been unhappy with the applicant pool or anything like that...[but] my guess is that there might be some people who will join the pool now that it is paid," he said.
Meiklejohn explained that the Office of Admissions is "finalizing" its decision on how much the tour guides will be paid and would not disclose a specific amount.
"Tour guides have an incredibly important impact on how people see Bowdoin...[they] should be paid at a rate that acknowledges that impact," Meiklejohn said.
According to Gorman, the guides will be paid "per tour" as opposed to receiving a semesterly stipend. Each tour is "about an hour," and tour guides give, on average, one tour a week.
"It'll be like a normal job where you put your hours into TimePro," said Gorman.
Meiklejohn noted that everybody in the Office of Admissions is "on board" with his decision to make the policy immediately permanent.
"We're not thinking about it as an experiment," he said.
The change is perhaps a sign that Bowdoin is beginning to loosen some of the spending cuts put into place during the difficult economic climate of the last few years.
"It'll mean an adjustment in our budget...but we've already worked that out," said Meiklejohn.
Meiklejohn made the decision "sometime in the fall" after looking at Bowdoin's policies on the issue and "testing around to see what everybody else does." Meiklejohn said that "most of our competitors pay their tour guides all the time."
Colby, for instance, began paying its tour guides this year. Middlebury, however, does not pay its guides during the school year.
Meiklejohn said that peer schools' policies served more as "interesting information" than as an impetus for the change.
Meiklejohn and his staff decided to hold off enforcement of the policy change until next fall, "just to be fair to everyone and to be able to communicate the change."
After doing some quick math in his head, Gorman—who will graduate in May—calculated the dozens of hours he has spent giving tours over the past three years without compensation.
"I mean, I'm not bitter," he said with a laugh.