‘Good Neighbor Policy’ affects students’ off-campus partying

By Katie Conklin

As students arrived at the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity house, off-campus on Patterson Avenue, on the evening of Oct. 15, they were greeted by Mac, a member of the fraternity and one of the residents of the house.

On this particular evening, it was Mac’s job to monitor the front door while his three housemates kept an eye on the number of people congregating in the backyard and made sure the music was not too loud. Everything was going well until a City of Richmond police officer arrived around midnight.

“What seems to be the problem, officer?” Mac asked.

Within minutes, campus police had arrived, Mac was in handcuffs and two students were being cited for underage drinking.

All four residents of the house were charged with maintaining a common nuisance and were required to meet with Patrick Benner,  associate dean for resident life, which resulted in each of them being sentenced to year-long conduct probation, in addition to 15 hours of community service.

After hearing stories like Mac’s, University of Richmond students have found themselves fearful that, because of this year’s stricter enforcement of the school’s “Good Neighbor Policy,” they too could end up facing legal and administrative consequences as a result of their weekend festivities.

Even though the Good Neighbor Policy was implemented in 2007, many students had no knowledge of it until this year. Mimi Mudd, a member of the Westhampton College Government Association Security Committee, said that the policy was actually an agreement between university officials and residents of nearby neighborhoods that had been signed before the football stadium was built on campus.

“The university had to implement this policy because the presence of an on-campus football stadium was bound to lead to more tailgating, partying, drinking and, therefore, noise,” Mudd said.

The different components of the Good Neighbor Policy are listed within a special-use permit that was issued by the city council and granted the university permission to construct and operate Robins Stadium. The policy focuses on parking and drinking regulations.

In the hopes of preventing disturbances on game days, spectators have been encouraged to avoid neighborhoods and park their vehicles in the designated, on-campus lots. Furthermore, it has been made clear that the consumption of alcohol in public is illegal, and drinking laws will be enforced.

So how did this three-sentence clause about game-day conduct become a governing guide for parties held in off-campus houses?

David McCoy, the University of Richmond Police Department’s assistant vice president of public safety and chief of police, said that the existence of the Good Neighbor Policy has led to the creation of a Good Neighbor Hotline, which operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This really opened the gates for interaction between neighborhood residents and the university,” McCoy said.

This hotline was established to allow neighbors to report any game-day disturbances or policy violations, in the hopes of keeping residents engaged in and satisfied with their relationship with the university. But as time passed, the hotline began to receive complaints about student conduct and activity that was unrelated to sporting events held in the stadium.

“Some of it had merit, and some of it did not,” McCoy said. “I mean, a little bit of noise is one thing, but we were getting reports of 2 a.m. parties with loud music and hundreds of students.”

Therefore, coming into this semester, McCoy met with his staff and had a discussion about what to do to address and resolve these complaints. At this meeting, it was decided that campus po;ice would partner with Henrico County and  Richmond police inn order to create a “Party Patrol” program.

McCoy used the primary concerns of each police department to explain the reasoning behind the creation of this program. He discussed how the police in Henrico and Richmond have the interests of their neighborhoods in mind and, while University of Richmond students who live off campus are technically part of these neighborhoods, they are generally perceived as an issue and liability to the community. Meanwhile, campus police focus on student interests, and view neighborhood support as a secondary concern. Based on these distinctions, it was decided that it would be beneficial to combine priorities in an attempt to reconcile differences and handle these issues.

This initiative, which went into effect at the beginning of this school year, showed immediate results. Within the first two weeks of the semester, the Party Patrol broke up four parties at off-campus sites: three in Henrico County and one in Richmond.

This rapid succession of terminated parties caused quite a stir on campus. Austin Butler, a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, felt that students were primarily confused by what had happened.

“I think this degree of strict enforcement really took students by surprise,” Butler said. “At the time, it seemed like both the police and the community were pointedly attacking off-campus partying, a facet of campus life that had previously existed without any major issues.”

After those first two weeks of pandemonium, though, things quieted down substantially. McCoy said that since he early incidents there had been  only one other, which was a return visit to a previously reprimanded group.

“I think there was a lot of discussion about those first four incidents because they occurred within a two-week timeframe,” McCoy said. “Since then, we haven’t received calls from the neighbors. Really, except for that one repeat location, our off-campus issues have gone away.”

Howard Norton, campus police’s operations commander, attributes this improvement to the police department’s ability to work with the students and talk through issues until they are resolved.

“We have some great students and 99.9 percent of the time things are going to be worked out equitably,” Norton said.

Some students, however, may beg to differ.

The off-campus location that received two police visits this year was the KA house on Patterson Avenue that Mac and his three other fraternity brothers live in. After the first police visit, which was prompted by a noise complaint, the residents of the house felt confident that they had learned from their mistakes and that, if all the necessary precautions were taken, their next party would be more successful. They informed their neighbors that they would be having a party on Oct. 15 that would begin at 10:30 p.m. and last until around 1:30 a.m.

“Our neighbors had no problem with our plans to have a party that night and actually seemed surprised that we were even telling them about it,” said Mac (who requested that his full name not appear in the story).

Despite attempts to monitor noise levels and make sure party guests remained inside the house, a city police officer arrived around midnight. Mac said the officer implied that there had been a noise complaint, but did not provide any details or explicitly state why he was there. The officer then asked Mac to let him into the house and Mac refused.

“He asked me if I wanted him to go get a warrant and then come back and arrest everyone at the party,” Mac said. “I told him I would be more than happy to let him into the house if he returned with a warrant, at which point he put me in handcuffs and began escorting me to his car.”

On the way to the car, the officer said he was going to report Mac to campus police for refusing to help put an end to the party. Mac said he had clarified that, although he wanted the officer to have a warrant before he entered the house, he was more than willing to shut down the party if it meant people would not get in trouble. They walked back, entered the house and the officer immediately gave out two citations for underage drinking. Campus police arrived shortly thereafter.

As a result of this incident, Mac is on conduct probation for the rest of the year, must complete 15 hours of community service and will appear in court in Richmond on Dec. 14.  His housemates received similar sentences. From their perspective, these consequences seem to fall somewhat short of the “equitable” standard that Norton described as the norm in situations like these.

What can be done to improve the relationship between the students and the police?

Katrina Goulden, WCGA’s police liaison, said she believed the key was communication.

“As far as I know, until recently, members of the student body were not aware that the Good Neighbor Policy even existed,” Goulden said. “I think students deserve to be told what the policy is, what it entails and what is expected of them, considering it affects them in such a big way and they were given no say in its implementation.”

Mudd expressed a similar belief.

“I think it is really important to advertise the policy because if people had a better understanding, there would be less blame putting, which would alleviate some of the tension that currently exists between the students and the police,” she said.

The campus police could not agree more. McCoy said that he would be the first to admit that he should have engaged the student population in discussion about the policy before he took action.

“In my background there is a kind of expectation that you should already know the rules of the road,” McCoy said. “However, in this situation, the students are right on the money.  Instead of doing things and then explaining them, I should have explained them before they had an opportunity to occur. I definitely think that engaging beforehand is the key to controlling the issue.”

McCoy repeatedly mentioned his desire to work on building a relationship between the campus police and the students, especially those who live off campus. He said he was hopeful that they would someday reach a level of comfort that  would allow for open communication and mutual respect. Although the development of this relationship is one of McCoy’s top priorities, he is not under the impression that simply talking about these issues will eliminate them.

“Obviously, when it comes to solving problems and fixing issues, there are many factors to consider,” McCoy said. “I think the academic calendar, for example, plays an important role in this situation.”

He believes that, regardless of how clearly the rules and expectations are communicated, certain times of the year are going to remain perpetually problematic. He cited the beginning of the school year and the first week of warm weather in the spring as particularly troublesome times, while pointing out that the party scene is likely to calm down during midterms, finals and when the weather is cold.

How have students responded to the Good Neighbor Policy and its repercussions?

Jack Sandler, a member of the Theta Chi fraternity, adamantly opposes the policy.

“The way the police are interpreting and enforcing this policy is completely counterproductive,” he said.

Sandler said that the strict regulations not only fail to promote safety, but actually create a more dangerous environment. He said the Good Neighbor Policy would ultimately push off-campus locations farther and farther away from the university, which would consequently increase the distance students must travel to attend these parties. He said it was his belief that this situation would create a greater potential for mistakes and accidents.

When asked if he could see the validity behind the complaints of neighborhood residents, Sandler did not hesitate.

“If you lived next to an airport, would you complain about the noise?” he asked. “No. You wouldn’t, because you chose to live there. This situation is very similar. The University of Richmond has been here since 1830 and, therefore, anyone who lives in a neighborhood near this campus should be prepared to deal with the repercussions of that decision.”

Butler presented a different outlook on the policy, saying that he definitely supported the university’s collaboration with Henrico County and the City of Richmond, but would have appreciated a more straightforward explanation of how the policy would influence student conduct.

“I think the collaboration is great, but, at the same time, it is very difficult to rise to the occasion, and fulfill an expectation, when you have not been informed of the standards,” he said. “I think open communication between students and police is a pivotal and proactive way to make this policy function properly.”

Junior Julia Dearchs questioned the policy’s delayed enforcement.

“Since the Good Neighbor Policy was implemented in 2007, why is it just now being used to direct student conduct?” Dearchs asked.

Goulden attributed the change to McCoy’s appointment to the position of campus police chief, which occurred in March. She said the new police chief had a much stricter interpretation of campus police policies and regulations.

When asked for his opinion on why the policy is just now surfacing, McCoy said that he could only speak for what had happened since he had arrive on campus.

“When I get a complaint, I like to act on it quickly,” McCoy said. “I wanted to take a really active role in being personally involved with the issues on campus. We’re always going to have some bump-and-rub because we are a university located in the middle of a beautiful area, but I really think that if we work through this, the interactions do not have to be completely negative.”



Females are more affected by campus stress than males

                                         By Maggie Burch

Nora Tocheny, a first-year Westhampton College student, said she felt the need to keep up appearances during her first semester of college.

“As a freshman,” she said, “you want to come in always happy, always willing to meet people.”

Tocheny felt as though she should always try to keep a positive attitude, even though she knew coming in to college that there would be times “when things are gonna be hard.”

She has not even taken her first college exams, though. “It’s the anticipation of the stress that’s really getting to me now,” she said.

Even though there is a general consensus about the stressful aspects of college for everyone – from moving in and making friends to final exams – why did Tocheny  think she should not show any anxiety she might be feeling?

This aspect of college life has created a stigma of perfectionism present on the University of Richmond campus that has resulted in more negative effects for women than men, such as higher self-reported levels of stress.

The unbalanced results of striving for perfection have led to a gender gap concerning the emotional health and well-being of students on campus.

The people Tocheny was trying to impress included some of her new friends at Richmond. Tocheny admitted that it was difficult at first to confide in new friends.

She said that moving in and meeting new people was stressful, so she found herself often turning to her best friend from home. “She was going through the same thing. It was definitely easier talking to her,” Tocheny said.

In accordance with Tocheny’s desire to appear happy, the perception students have of one another might be more important than the reality of other students’ lives.

When asked how her female friends’ and her own levels of stress compared to those of their male friends, Tocheny did not think they compared.

“They’re a little more worried about the partying,” she said.

To Tocheny, it did not seem as though the male students she knows were as stressed academically.

Opposite of that opinion is Dan Kelly, a Richmond College sophomore.

When asked whether he perceived his female peers to be more stressed than he and his male friends, Kelly sincerely asked, “Why would they be more stressed?”

Kelly  said he believed his academic demands to be equal to those of any female or male student taking a normal course load at Richmond.

Allie Miller, a senior and president of Westhampton College Government Association, is another woman who believes the men she knows are much less stressed than she and the women she is around.

“Maybe they have worries and some anxieties about the future,” Miller said of her male friends, “but it doesn’t seem to me that they would describe it as stress.”

One reason women may believe the men on Richmond’s campus are less stressed than they are is that the men are less vocal about the stress they experience.

Peter LeViness, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Richmond, said that men tend to not vocalize their feelings of anxiety or distress.

LeViness said, “Many men are socialized not to ask for help, not to be vulnerable, to always be in control, and always tough it out.”

Kelly described the reality of LeViness’ belief. “If you go sit down at the lunch table and start complaining about how much work you have,” he said, “then everyone is just going to call you a girl and tell you that they have the same pressure.”

In addition to agreeing with Kelly’s comments on men keeping feelings to themselves, Eric D’Agostino, another Richmond College sophomore, also said he  believed that women were more likely to vocalize their stress.

“You’re more likely to see a girl running around, being like, ‘I’m so stressed! I have all this work to do,’ than you would see a guy doing that,” D’Agostino said.

This idea of men suppressing their feelings correlates with the number of men seeking help at CAPS compared to the number of women, according to LeViness. 65 percent of students coming to CAPS are women.

“There is greater incidence of some issues in women than in men,” LeViness said, “but also, women are more likely to seek help than men.”

Along with being more willing to ask for help from a professional, women are also more likely to confide in other women, according to LeViness.

Confiding in others is not always a successful stress-reliever, however. LeViness said that mutual complaining, or co-rumination, can detract from the well-being of all of those involved.

“If it leads them to say, ‘What can we do about it?’ that could be positive,” he said.

Miller said she and her friends had learned to try to balance talking about the stress they were experiencing with discussions of how to move beyond the stress, or to handle it better.

“Last year, my roommate and I would talk about our stress all the time,” Miller said, “and it almost became negative, so this year we’ve been so much better about, like, designated time.”

Many of the studies conducted by CAPS provide statistics to support the gender gap in many psychological aspects of life for men and women at Richmond.

In a 2006 survey assessing the mental health needs of first- and second- year students, women reported a higher frequency of concern by 10 percent or more in the following areas: difficulty coping with high anxiety during tests; feeling anxious, tense, or worried; feeling overwhelmed by all the academic work I have; concerns about my physical appearance; and difficulty coping with perfectionistic tendencies.

In the same study, men reported a significantly higher frequency of concern than women in two areas: getting drunk and having low motivation for academic work.

Both of these areas were relevant to Kelly. “I think the way that I relieve stress is the weekend, and drinking alcohol, to be quite honest,” he said.

Kelly also said that any motivation he did have to do schoolwork could be easily dissuaded by an opportunity to socialize with friends. Compared to high school, he said, the social pressure in college is much greater.

“There are so many people trying to distract you actively,” Kelly said. “It’s hard to keep focused with people around you who are trying to bring you down.”

It is difficult to turn down opportunities to spend time with your friends at college, especially during your first year, when finding close friends is so important. Juliette Landphair, dean of Westhampton College, said, “It’s stressful for any student – the pressure to make new friends. They’re feeling like they’re the only ones here.”

Tocheny noted this pressure during the first few days of orientation.

“It was definitely weird being so far from home and making friends,” she said, “at the same time, everyone is in the same boat.”

Landphair also noted that women have a harder time going far away from home than men do. “The family tends to be a little more protective of the female students than male students,” she said.

In the long term, however, Landphair says the experience away from home has proven to be beneficial for women. “The further female students go away from home,” she said, “the more – over the span of their college experience – the more self-confident they are.”

Richmond students are agreeably go-getters, over achievers. Academics were important in high school to students, and a selective university such as this is typically only a good match for those willing to take on a challenging workload.

When recalling her own college experience at Tulane University in New Orleans, Landphair said the stresses she did experienced there could not compare to what she understood to be typical now.

“I napped almost every day,” she said. “College was just this big, kind of relaxation thing for me.”

Landphair is particularly interested in the lifestyle of Westhampton women, and she has done research and has had an article published about the stigma of perfectionism among college-aged women.

In her 2007 article “Never Perfect Enough: The Private Struggles of College Women,” Landphair discusses the idea of “‘effortless perfection’: the expectation that one would be smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful and popular, and that all this would happen without visible effort.”

LeViness also noted the relevance of the pressure on college-aged women to be perfect. “It’s like trying to be super, super excellent at everything that they’re doing,” he said. “Sometimes when they’re listing all the things they’re involved in, I start feeling stressed. Human beings have limits, and most of us can’t juggle that many things.”

In the 2006 CAPS study mentioned above, 38.5 percent of women reported frequently having concerns about the difficulty of coping with perfectionistic tendencies, compared with 20 perent of men.

Kerry Boland, a Westhampton College sophomore, said that most of the pressure she fel to succeed was self-imposed, but also that part of Richmond’s atmosphere encouraged hard work.

“I feel like there’s also kind of – especially at Richmond – a kind of pressure, because everyone is doing so many different things,” Boland said.

Miller agreed, saying, “I think Richmond attracts students who want to do well, so students strive to do well regardless.”

Landphair also referred to Richmond as a selective university whose students have been over-achievers in their lives up to this point, and expect to do just as well in college.

For females, Landphair said, “There’s the pressure that they feel – self-imposed or outside-imposed – to do well. There’s the academic stress and pressure.

“There’s the physical pressure to look – weight-wise and face-wise and dress-wise – a certain way. There’s the stress of ‘what is my life going to be after I graduate?’ The seniors are starting to feel that anxiety.”

Statements such as these by Landphair, and statistics such as those gathered by CAPS make it appear as if Richmond women actually are harboring more stress and anxiety than their male counterparts.

But, as Kelly said, women are essentially facing the same academic pressures as men, so why should they be any more stressed?

For women, it might be more than simply academics causing the stress in their lives.

Kelly said she believed there was more of an expectation for girls to be perfect than guys. “I think girls are expected to be more perfect in every single area of their lives,” he said. “I don’t know any girl on this campus who would admit to having bad grades to anyone. Externally, it seems like girls are always on top of their stuff.”

LeViness said that the “stuff” women do is typically more demanding and more responsibility-driven than the things in which men are involved.

“It’s courses and double majors,” LeViness said, “student organizations and volunteering.”

Linda Sax, in her book “The Gender Gap in College,” concurs with this idea. She says being overwhelmed by responsibilities can affect both men and women, but it is a more significant source of stress for female students.

“This is likely due to the range of responsibilities that women undertake,” Sax says, “volunteering, participating in student clubs, fulfilling household commitments, studying – more frequently than do men.”

Miller said that her senior year had been exponentially more stressful than her past years at Richmond.

“I wouldn’t say that the activities themselves are stressful,” Miller said.  “It’s just the lack of time that makes it stressful.” Miller is also in charge of all of the finances for her sorority.

The way men comparatively spend their non-academic, leisure time might be the key to their lower, self-reported levels of stress.

“Men are more likely to build (into their days) things like video games or athletics,” LeViness said. “You could think of those as time wasters, but I also think of them as stress relievers.”

Landphair concurred and has her experience as dean to back up  those ideas.  “Women students don’t deal with stress very well,” she said. “Male college students, they veg out more, they go throw the Frisbee.”

Kelly credits playing video games as an effective, short-lived distraction from schoolwork.

“I think it’s better if I play one game of FIFA and then get to my work,” he said, “than if I procrastinate on Facebook for three hours and then get to my work. It’s better to just completely forget about it for a little while, and then come back to it.”

Aside from video games, LeViness strongly advocates participating in some kind of physical activity. It is an important element contributing to students’ physical and emotional health.

He described from a psychological point of view why physical activity is important in times of stress. “It’s the flight or fight reaction,” he said of your body when experiencing stress and anxiety.

“Your body is being mobilized to take physical action,” he said, “but for most of our modern stresses, physical action isn’t an appropriate response.”

Unfortunately, even though students tend to know physical activity is beneficial for them, it is one of the first things students will sacrifice when they begin to feel swamped with responsibilities.

D’Agostino said that for most of this semester he had been able to go to the gym frequently, and that he recognized that exercising helped relieve stress; however, “in the past few weeks,” he said, “as the workload has increased, the first thing to cut is the gym.”

The other aspect of a healthy lifestyle that is not respected by college students is proper sleeping habits,  LeViness said.

“I think college is the single-hardest time to regularize your sleep in any way, shape or form,” LeViness said, “ but the more you can get closer to that, the better you will feel.”

Something students might not expect is LeViness’ comparison of trying to do work on multiple nights of minimal sleep to trying to do work after drinking a six-pack of beer.

“Most people know that wouldn’t be a good idea, but they do that to themselves with sleep, yet that’s just as impairing,” LeViness said.

Landphair said that women didn’t deal with stress very well, except perhaps in the way it drove them to further push themselves.

“That’s why women are thriving academically compared to men,” she said; however, more concern for academics may lead to academic success, but it will not necessarily lead to a stress-free life.

In her book, Sax says, “One thing is clear: the more time students spend trying to meet academic demands does not reduce the pressure they feel to meet those commitments.”

Campus tour guides play important role in showing UR to visitors

                                                 By Chrissy Wengloski

When Addy Asante, a junior tour guide, asked the five prospective students in her tour group about their academic interests, four of them mentioned pre-med studies.

Asante therefore shared some of her personal experience as a pre-med student with the students while they stood in the Gottwald Center for the Sciences. She talked about the helpfulness of the pre-med advising and the advantages of the program. She also listed other science programs housed in the building.

In contrast, Asante’s description of the social science departments within Weinstein Hall was limited to: “pretty much all the different social sciences you can think of.” She immediately moved on to discussing the environmental sustainability of the building.

The content of campus tours at the University of Richmond has sparked intense conversations among School of Arts and Sciences faculty members and admissions officials this fall.

A predominately email-based discussion stemmed from the art departments and elicited responses from other members of the Arts and Sciences faculty. The conversations were led by professors who have observed tours, such as Tanja Softic, an art professor.

“Several of us in the arts, the chairs of the art departments, we were disappointed to not see any tours in the Modlin Center,” Softic said. “I think that not including the Modlin Center, or sometimes just a mention of the Modlin Center and the strengths of our arts programs, I don’t think it’s in our interest as a university.”

Kathrin Bower, professor of German Studies, also discussed how her department is poorly described on tours when it is mentioned at all. Her program is housed in the Carol Weinstein International Center, which is frequently visited by tours because of its proximity to the admissions office.

According to Richmond’s website, the German Studies program not only provides students with language skills, but also introduces them to “German culture and history through courses on literature, film, theater, history and philosophy.” On the tour, the program is often simply referred to as a “language program,”  Bower said.

There are “many people in my department who would find that to be overly reductionist,” she said. Lacking descriptions “can affect the students that are interested in Arts and Sciences adversely,” she said.

Bower believes that overly simplified descriptions of programs, or neglecting to mention certain arts and sciences programs at all, can cause prospective students and families to assume the programs must not be strong or valuable. Arts and Sciences professors are concerned tour guides often group their programs together with phrases such as “the humanities,” “social sciences” or “science majors.”

“I don’t believe that any admissions tour can give a full picture, that would be unfair…but I think it’s the first face of the university; it’s the first smile, the first welcoming gesture,” Softic said. “And therefore I feel it should be representative of the school in its totality.”

Another major concern of arts and sciences professors is what some say is an unbalanced portrayal of the Robins School of Business and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies over the School of Arts and Sciences.

David Leary, a psychology professor and former dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, pointed out that “it’s not a surprise that people ask about the leadership school,” considering people are unfamiliar with the concept. He also said that the majority of top liberal arts colleges do not have business schools. Therefore, both the leadership school and the business school would be key points of interest on a tour, but they are not more important than arts and sciences, Leary said.

Leary was also quick to point out that E. Claiborne Robins, the namesake of the business school, was an English major during his undergraduate years at Richmond.

Members of the arts and sciences faculty who are aware of imbalance problems on tours are nonetheless supportive of student tour guides. Political science professor Stephen Long called tour guides bright, intelligent students. Softic described them as highly trained and committed.

The role of tour guide is valued among these faculty members. Leary said perceptions of campuses are ultimately “up to the attitude of the tour guides and what they know.”

On Richmond’s campus, the tour guide is the point at which content, effectiveness, and emotions concerning the tours revolve. The tour guide is often the first University of Richmond student with which a prospective student and family come into contact.

“I think they get to associate a face and an experience, kinda get to step into my shoes for that hour or so that I’m with them,” said Carolyn Dombrowski, a sophomore tour guide.  “They get to experience my passion, my love for the school. Facts, rankings, all that sort of information is very important when you’re giving a list of schools, but in terms of actually differentiating one school that you really love and really want to go to – I think it’s the tour that seals the deal there.”

The tour guide role is highly desirable on Richmond’s campus. Tour guides are a part of the Spider Key Society, Richmond’s society of tour guides. In the fall of 2011, 130 students applied for about 50 new tour guide positions, which were added to the existing 80 tour guides. The applicants went through a series of group and individual interviews. One particular interview required them to dress to represent how they felt about the university. T-shirts, sundresses, and Spiderman costumes were among their choices, according to students who went through the application process.

Amy Gray, the undergraduate admission counselor who oversees tour guides, said that they look for tour guides who are academically responsible, have a good way of explaining things on campus and have a strong ability to connect with other people. She called it a very qualitative process.

Richmond tour guides are given a manual that is about an inch thick. Gray said they spend the time from their hire date in November to spring break training in group and co-tours, before they give their first solo tour. The admissions office also brings in a group called TargetX to work with the tour guides on “story-telling.” Richmond’s Speech Center helps them with handling hard questions such as those about the diversity, party scene, or drug use on campus.

“They do give us stats,” Dombrowski said. “They give us a whole book on stats for us to pull out if anyone has a question like, ‘Okay, how many students go abroad’ you know, ‘What’s your percentage of minorities on campus?’ questions like that, we do have those resources.”

After finishing campus tour at Richmond, Christie Denicola, a mother of a high school junior from New Jersey, called tours the “most valuable information you can get.” She also said tours allowed for her to have “at least a face and a person…who can answer the questions later.” She indicated that she and her son only wanted general information on the tour, but planned to ask more detailed questions at a later time, if they found they were interested in the school.

Although parents and prospective students may not have detailed and specific questions while on their tours, tour guides often ask for special interests of the prospective students.

“I make the special effort to make everyone go around in the group and introduce themselves, say where they’re from, what year they are, maybe what academic interests they have and then pay special attention to those when I go on the tour,” Dombrowski said.

On her tour with the group interested in pre-med studies, Asante demonstrated how the different academic departments within the University of Richmond may be highlighted.

The first stop of the Saturday morning tour was Queally Hall and the Robins School of Business.

“The business school does offer some of our top majors on campus,” Asante said. “The professors here are absolutely amazing.”

Moments later, she admitted to not understanding the stock tickers on the wall, when one parent asked about them.

In the main academic quad, Asante mentioned that the history and English departments are housed in Ryland Hall. According to the Richmond website, 70 percent of students choose to stay in the arts and sciences upon declaring their major, but Asante simply mentioned that a lot of students will have classes in Ryland because history and English are general education requirements. She then began to discuss the movies and television shows that have been filmed on Richmond’s campus.

The School of Arts and Sciences has 22 academic departments and 11 interdisciplinary programs, yet the majority of programs in Weinstein Hall and Richmond Hall were vaguely described. More time was spent discussing the Speech Center and the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) than the academic programs in each of these buildings.

Although the tour group walked up the hill toward the Greek Theater, past the Modlin Center for the Arts, no stop was made. Asante did, however, identify the building to her group.

Softic wants students to know they can receive great art education at Richmond, but Asante pointed out during the tour that there was not time to show all of campus. Skipped stops on this tour included the Carol Weinstein International Center and the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness.

Concerning which stops to make, Alex Eisenach, senior tour guide and director of marketing for the Spider Key Society, said tours should “market to each person as well as possible.”

Antoine Waul, vice president of the Spider Key Society, also emphasized the personal touch added to tours as something that makes Richmond tours unique.

“The Office of Admission really stresses that we’re supposed to tell our individual stories, things that do make the tour memorable,” Dombrowski said. “I do think that maybe if you do just repeat rote responses it doesn’t give the university much personality.”

Bower wondered if the personal preferences and experiences of tour guides might leave them unequipped to discuss certain programs or departments with their tours.

Dean of Admission Gil Villanueva said that “we try to make sure they’re armed with all that good information,” when referring to specific departmental facts. Villanueva also discussed how the admissions office has moved beyond personalization of recruiting and into customization.

Nancy Tessier, the vice president of Enrollment Management, said in an email interview, “Our goal is to provide…information that is increasingly customized to the specific interests of a prospective student as she or he becomes increasingly interested in the university.

“Tour guides are trained in all aspects of the University, since no student can have had direct experience with every aspect of the University.”

Both Villanueva and Tessier emphasized that neither the Office of Admission nor the Office of Enrollment Management highlight any one of the schools at Richmond more than another.

“We train our tour guides to be good representative of all the schools that we have,”  Villanueva said. “There is no one in my department who can say we value one school over another.”

The admissions office does not audit its tour guides. They instead rely on comment evaluation cards to be filled out by prospective students and families after tours. Gray said  they had faith in the tour guides which helped them grow.

Bower, Softic and Long all suggested greater faculty participation as a way to better highlight arts and sciences programs. They, and others like them, have offered their services to the admissions office.

“The faculty are the ones that are going to have these students in their classrooms,”  Bower said. “Arts and Sciences faculty should be given a chance to contribute.”

Softic and members of the art departments met with admission representatives about their concerns and had a “really good meeting,” Softic said.

Villanueva said the Office of Admission is striving to make sure they continued to embrace their programs with good information from faculty.

“I’m all game and green lights,” he said about improving the current system. “We are constantly thinking about how we can improve upon what our work is.”

Bower pointed out that the concerns of faculty members are not unique to Richmond. She did, however, say,  “it’s creating an unnecessary tension between the faculty and the admissions office.”

While the concerns about content, faculty roles, and balance between the three undergraduate schools remain, the tours carry on. Prospective students continue to see Richmond for the first time. They continue to interact with their tour guides. And they continue to make decisions based on what they encounter on campus that day.

“A lot of my students have said the tour made their mind up, that they were going to come here. And that’s the best thing I could hope for,” Dombrowski said.