Overbearing parents, eager alums and clueless teenagers have led campus visits awry.
By Frances Saux and Grant Miner
There is nothing worse for a campus tour guide than a disengaged audience. Head tour guide Toloue Kabiri ’18 remembers leading a pack of disinterested students around Kenyon. They were not excited about the College, she said, and did not ask her any questions — at least, not until she started talking about Greek life. When she mentioned sorority and fraternity division housing on South Quad, the students grew excited and started speaking up. They kept asking questions about Greek life, even after Kabiri moved onto the next portion of the tour.
Finally, when Kabiri began talking about international students on campus, one student asked, “Why are there so many people here from Greece?”
For tour guides, who lead campus visits every week, funny stories abound. Kabiri was shocked the students had misunderstood her. They not only thought Kenyon was a major center for students from Greece, but also that Kenyon housed them all together in certain buildings on campus.
There was a father on one of Herbie Dittersdorf’s ’19 tours who would not stop talking about his son’s page on SoundCloud, an online platform for distributing original music. The comments started when the group was walking past the Horn Gallery, and Dittersdorf mentioned that a young Macklemore had performed there just a few years before he would make it big.
“For some reason, he was super into his son’s rap career,” Dittersdorf said. “Not the son that was with him on the tour.”
At first Dittersdorf did not make anything of it, but then the father kept bringing the subject up. Anytime he could work information about his son’s SoundCloud into a conversation, he did.
“We were just on Middle Path, and he mentioned this college experience his son had — it had nothing to do with music — and then said, ‘Oh, but by the way, be sure to check out his SoundCloud.’”
On tours, parents are often the source of uncomfortable moments. Kabiri once led a tour during which a mother asked, “What is the number of sexually active students on campus?”
When Kabiri told her the College did not collect that data, the woman grew quiet. Then, 20 minutes later, she piped up once more.
“Follow-up: what are the number of students who are ‘homosexually active?’”
“It was one of my first tours, too,” Kabiri said.
There are some recurring annoyances, like when fathers stand near the back and grunt, or when parents who graduated from Kenyon try to direct the tours and point out everything that has changed on campus.
Dittersdorf is a big fan of introducing tours to Kenyon traditions. Gates of Hell horror stories, the First Year Sing and the seal in Peirce Hall all feature prominently in his tours. One day, as he was explaining to parents that students who step on the seal supposedly do not graduate, he tripped on his own shoelace and stepped right on it.
“The most important tour guide talent is to take any bad experiences and make it seem normal and charming,” Dittersdorf said. “Now I make the joke that you might not see me if you come to Kenyon.”
Illustration by Henry Uhrik
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