How much truth is there to a Blue and Gray tour?
Ed Note: This post originally contained language that, after talking to one of the tour guides, we realized was unnecessarily inflammatory and unmerited. We regret the error and have updated the post (new material is italicized). We’d also like to remind you that this was one writer’s impression of one tour and, per the disclosure at the top of the page, “Opinions expressed in posts are those of their author alone unless otherwise stated.”
Even as your laptop battery dies a slow death on the outlet-scarce 2nd floor of Lauinger this finals week, even as your appetite withers at the thought of another slice of Leo’s pizza, there is a group of dedicated Georgetown students working to show prospies the foible-free face of Georgetown and convince them to join your ranks: the Blue and Gray tour guides.
Smooth-talking and backwards-walking, their enthusiasm and (confirmed a B & G, University-scripted) spiel are often the clincher in a prospective student’s decision to send their tuition check to Georgetown. Inspired by Vice President of the College Democrats Fitz Lufkin’s (COL `11) April 24th Twitter post—”Bobby and I just hopped on a campus tour. Lies. All lies.”—I took a tour this morning, wondering just how much of the truth B & G thinks prospective students can handle.
Not much. That depends. While the tours have got some substance to them, B & G (whose talking points, a B & G tour guide confirmed, are pretty uniform and supplied by the University) spends a lot of its time treating Georgetown less like a school and more like a museum. Yes, every school fibs in its own special way as it attempts to woo prospies, but Georgetown may take the cake for number of white lies and oversights in any given tour and Georgetown’s tour is no big fat liar. They don’t claim that their dorms are palaces or that their housing lottery is perfect, but it’s my estimation that the average prospective student comes away knowing about as much about Georgetown as a historical institution as she knows about its amenities and student life combined. As you might expect, I left the tour with my ears ringing from half-truths The tour left future freshmen with some overly-rosy expectations and a lot of admittedly delightful Georgetown trivia (six Bill Clinton (SFS `68—did you know?) references, but only two Excorsist references and one Albright shoutout).
The tour follows a well-crafted route that takes prospective students and their parents through the prettiest parts of Georgetown before wending its way past Leo’s and the concrete backside of Village C. After starting at Whitegravenor, where we learned that the building was named after two Jesuits, we strolled across Copley Lawn, which the two B & G tour guides mercifully avoided referring to as ‘Copley Beach’ (to my knowledge, no one but the B & G has ever called any section of the front lawn ‘The Beach’ since their first semester except ironically). By the time we arrived at the front gates, we all knew what a Hoya was and had learned that walking Jack the Bulldog is, at $14 an hour, the highest paid job on campus. Oh, and he’s a total chick magnet.
From the front gates we checked out Poulton Hall, where Mask & Bauble performs. Referencing the oldest drama society in the country afforded the B & G tour guides their first opportunity for a name-drop: John Wilkes Booth was once loosely affiliated with them. The two guides discussed study abroad options before boasting about the University’s townhouses (fair) and revealed that the statue of John Carroll didn’t include a pile of books under his chair. Apparently, students used to enjoy putting bedpans under our founder’s bronze likeness.
Next, we took it to Healy Hall, where B & G takes its time encouraging non-Catholics that Georgetown offers diverse religious services and boasts a strong campus ministry. Unfortunately, tour guides quickly recoup this substantive use of tour time by pimping emphasizing the attraction Gaston Hall holds for famous speakers (Obama, Condoleeza Rice, and Mayor Bloomberg all got the nod, and it made for the first Bill Clinton reference of the tour) warning us all not to step on the Seal, and explaining that the cannons outside Healy are the only non-governmental artillery in D.C. pointed at the Capital.
Then we arrived at Lauinger. Lie time. Apparently, Georgetown’s library system is everything a student could want. And while Georgetown’s librarians and special collections are great, we all know that “access to Riggs, the most beautiful library on campus” during study days is not so much a good thing as it is a sad, sad commentary on the state of Georgetown’s student space. The tour guides went on to say that you can get Internet access anywhere on campus (that’s wireless or plug-in, and the tour guides were honest about the less-than-perfect wireless coverage). But adapters being the hassle that they are, and wireless being spotty as a dalmation, many Georgetown students would probably take issue with that statement.
We learned that Georgetown’s special collections owns the stub of one of Ulysses S. Grant’s cigar as we climbed the stairs to one of Village A’s rooftop apartments. Thankfully, substantive information-giving—about campus life, internships, and freshman housing—ensued as we walked past New South. Until we hit Leo’s.
Yes, said one of the B & G guides, Leo’s has great food. The tour guides are getting hungry just thinking about it. At most universities, students will tell you that the food is “okay,” but you won’t find a student saying that here, because they love it. Admitting that not all students are enamored of what Leo’s has to offer, the tour guides emphasized that Aramark is always adding new things to the menu because they’re all about variety and “Leo’s is very, very good at listening to student suggestions.” In other words, Leo’s must really test the mettle of a Blue and Gray tour guide. Today’s guides seemed sincere in their evaluation of Georgetown’s only cafeteria, but this part of the tour surely forces some to lie through their teeth.
From then on, the tour began to focus more on student life. Blue and Gray pimped what you’d expect about the remaining sites on the tour: the behemoth marvel that is the all student-run Corp, the solar-panelled ICC, the bustle of Red Square, and the safety of Georgetown’s campus, which generally only sees “crimes of convenience.” But the tour still took typical digressions to allow for name-dropping, including five more Bill Clinton references. If you ever forget how many presidents have spoken from the steps of Old North, B & G can remind you.
Let it be known that I skipped the info session, and that B & G does provide a lot of information about the University. Nonetheless, should a campus tour really be about telling students that Bill Clinton totally went here and lived in Harbin? But given that Georgetown exists primarily as an educational institution—not a historical society—perhaps we could cut a couple of the fun presidential facts and focus more on the reality of student life.
Photo from Flickr user wallyg used under a Creative Commons license.