Students of the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society regularly spend their free time representing Georgetown University to prospective students. Despite their job’s similarity to other campus jobs, the tour guides are not paid by the university.
Georgetown should not ask students to work on its behalf without compensation; this editorial board calls on the university to pay Blue and Gray tour guides.
Blue and Gray is a club run entirely by students who work in close cooperation with the admissions office to schedule tours for visitors. Tour guides lead tours six days a week, showing prospective students and families around the university and speaking about their own experiences at Georgetown.
Tour guides currently operate on an entirely volunteer basis. Student guides are only paid for work over holidays like spring and summer breaks.
Despite students’ willingness to work for no pay, tour guides should nevertheless be compensated for their contribution to the university’s student recruitment process. The university must prioritize funding for tour guide payment to avoid engaging in the unfair practice of using unpaid labor.
Implementing a salary on par with other student jobs for tour guides could also increase the diversity of socioeconomic status among tour guides. With an hourly wage, students would not have to face the burden of working an unpaid job.
Unpaid internships reduce access to opportunity for less socioeconomically privileged people, according to Investopedia, a website focused on finance and investment reporting. Though Blue and Gray is not an internship, a similar principle could be reasonably applied to the job of tour guides. Georgetown should seek to eliminate such an economic barrier to ensure all students are represented in tour guides.
The move to pay tour guides and eliminate economic barriers to the job is not unprecedented. Brown University, a university with an undergraduate body similar to Georgetown’s, started paying its student tour guides $11 per hour in January 2019, citing socioeconomic diversity as a reason for implementing pay. The university began providing a salary to ensure the perspectives of all students, including first-generation students and students on financial aid, are shared with prospective students, according to The Brown Daily Herald.
The university should follow its peer institutions like Brown so prospective students can hear experiences from a diverse array of students, not just from students who can work an unpaid job.
While students should give tours out of their love for Georgetown, a salary would not diminish that spirit. Rather, a salary would merely ensure students are properly compensated for their work.
This editorial board believes Blue and Gray tour guides should be paid. But this conversation is complicated, particularly given the question of where such resources would come from and how the shift would change the group’s relationship with the administration.
This editorial board also understands that the volunteer nature of the society is built into the group’s DNA, as acknowledged by the Blue and Gray executive board.
“This year’s Blue & Gray Executive Board always strives to listen to and support our tour guides. We have been proud to host a number of appreciation events for our tour guides in conjunction with the Admissions Office and other external partners, which we hope to continue throughout the year. Blue & Gray has always been a volunteer organization dedicated to serving the university,” the board wrote in a statement to The Hoya. “We are excited to continue showing appreciation to our tour guides for the immensely valuable service they provide and are open to further discussion with our guides and the Admissions Office on this topic.”
While this editorial board appreciates the time tour guides volunteer to represent our university to visitors, we firmly believe their enthusiasm for the school should not be taken for granted.
The guides are often one of the first people prospective students interact with on campus and are able to create a lasting impression on any prospective student. Their work is important to the university and the entire Georgetown community. Just like any other student who works for the university, they deserve to be paid.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board. (Full disclosure: Faris Bseiso (SFS ’21), a member of this editorial board, is a member of the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society)