Admissions still working to make campus tours more historically accurate, inclusive

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After increased efforts from UT admissions, the goal to expand inclusivity on campus tours is still in progress, according to the latest progress report on the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.  

The Office of Admissions has taken steps to educate campus tour guides on the campus’ racial history and better highlight spots and resources relevant to a diverse pool of potential students, said James Tolleson, director of visitor services, in an email.

In 2017, the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement added the initiative to make tours more inclusive to their plan, because they were concerned with the inconsistency of the historical information presented on tours, said Leslie Blair, executive director of communications for the DDCE.

Tolleson said the admissions office includes presentations on the campus’ racial history as a part of the incoming tour guide training process. They also require tour guide trainers to receive the racial geography campus tour given by Edmund Gordon, professor of African and African diaspora studies.

Tolleson said tour guides are encouraged, though not required, to talk about campus landmarks such as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Barbara Jordan statues.

Gordon said any tour guides who speak about the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue should contextualize it by noting the statue was partially a response to the Confederate statues, formerly located on the South Mall.

 

“(Tour guides) need to be thinking about how they’re going to represent the University, not only in a way that promotes the wonderful things that the University is, but that promotes the wonderful ways the University is trying to deal with its past,” Gordon said.

Guides are also required to mention the Multicultural Engagement Center and Gender and Sexuality Center to prospective students on tours.

Liz Elsen, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, said it was important for tour guides to know how to point prospective students to gender-neutral bathrooms, which is information tour guides are not currently required to know.

Tolleson said admissions has discussed including gender-neutral bathroom information in future tour guide training, and he thinks it is a great idea.

Miguel Wasielewski, executive director of admissions, said admissions will continue to work to improve inclusivity for prospective students.

“The inclusivity of the campus tour, while very much improved, will continue to be fine-tuned to ensure that it provides the most accurate and complete representation of diversity and inclusivity at UT-Austin,” Wasielewski said.