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UR Admissions Removes Library from Tour, Some Faculty Upset

By: Erika Echternach, Staff Writer

When prospective University of Richmond students embark on the ever-important campus tour, they are hoping to catch a glimpse into the everyday life of a Spider; so it may come as somewhat of a shock that the UR admissions office opted to remove the Boatwright Memorial Library from its route.

The decision to cut out the library stop was part of a series of changes made to revamp the campus tours, including no longer discussing the coordinate college system. Austen Kelso, the assistant director of admissions, said the admissions team spent six months considering feedback from both visitors and external consultants, then formulating an updated route for the ultimate UR campus tour.

The greatest success was shortening the tour from 90 minutes to about 60 minutes, because the length of the tour was the most frequent complaint from visitors, Kelso said. Two of the more controversial changes included skipping the library as a stop and no longer explicitly discussing the coordinate college system.

Members of the Jepson faculty are displeased with the decision to forego the library during the tour, including Peter Kaufman, a Jepson professor, who stressed that colleges are still first and foremost academic institutions.

“Libraries should represent the spirit of disinterested inquiry, critical thinking, and conversations with the imaginations that have gone before us – as well as collaborative spaces for conversations with peers – as we prepare for the issues that will come after,” Kaufman said.

Along with other members of the Jepson faculty, Kaufman has declined to allow prospective students to sit in on his classes and instead, recommends that admissions send them somewhere else that features places for study and collaboration.

Junior Henna Ragoowansi, a tour guide, agreed that excluding the library did not portray an accurate representation of student life on UR’s campus.

“I do not like that they removed the library from the campus tour because I think it is a really important part of college life,” Ragoowansi said. “Academics should be more important than social aspects of college life, and yet it is being cut out to accommodate things that should be less of a priority to students.”

There is good news for those who bemoan the exclusion of the library: Admissions is planning the release of a “Deeper Dive” self-guided tour of the library to enable guests to explore the library further on their own.

Other self-guided tours to be released soon include “Libraries and Labs,” “Activities and Athletics” and “Arts and Museums,” Kelso said. He said that the admissions team is in the early stages of planning a behind-the-scenes tour concentrated on the visual and performing arts to highlight UR’s theaters, studios and rehearsal spaces in the Modlin Center and Booker Hall.

Kelso said the library was still highlighted on tours via the tour guides’ personal stories, which they are prompted to share with visitors when they walk along the lake and by Maryland Hall.

Tour guides are also no longer prompted to talk about the coordinate college system on tours, and the system is instead explained during the 30-minute information session directly before the tours. Nevertheless, some of the tour guides have decided to address the coordinate college system in their tours anyway to avoid potential confusion.

Sophomore tour guide Elizabeth Lopez-Lopez said she introduced the concept as a two-dean system on her tours because she would receive numerous questions about the system whenever she did not mention it.

“I usually express that the two-dean system is there as an opportunity for students to get more involved in student government because it opens up more positions, and that, at the end of the day, both deans are there for each and every student,” Lopez-Lopez said.

Ragoowansi said she also discussed the coordinate college system in different terms during her tours so as not to overwhelm families. “I like to explain to students what it is and show them how it doesn't really affect daily life, past the few events like Proclamation and Ring Dance,” Ragoowansi said. “I think it’s better to be upfront about it so people don't make assumptions about it and think of it as a negative when it’s really not.”

Overall, the changes made to the tour route have received good responses. Since the changes were implemented in September 2017, visitors’ feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, Kelso said, with 90 percent of visitors giving the campus tour the highest marks of “excellent” and “very good.”

“I think the current route covers some of our most unique aspects,” Lopez-Lopez said. “It is a nice route because parents love being able to see how beautiful this campus is.” And Kelso said the admissions office keeps striving to improve the route.