“The Worst Tour of the 14 Colleges We Have Been on This Year”

A UVa college tour, circa 2019. Photo credit: UVA TODAY

by James A. Bacon

This past April a University of Virginia alumna took her son for a tour of the university conducted by a student-run organization, the University Guide Service. The woman had been a University Guide herself 25 years previously, an activity that accounted for some of her best memories and most enduring friendships at UVa. “We prided ourselves on the Guide Service being all volunteer, student led, and unaffiliated with the Admissions Office,” she wrote in an evaluation form obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The alumna and her son, a high school junior, made the rounds of some 14 universities this spring. As a former Guide, she wrote, “naturally I expected the Virginia admissions tour to be head and shoulders above the tours at other schools. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong and so disappointed.”

It’s important for university guides to be candid and honest, she wrote, but one also expects them to represent their institution in a positive light. “A prospective student should come away with the impression that the guide loves the school and is proud of it.” Sadly, her guide was negative and apologetic about the school. She complained about the large class sizes, the terrible advising system, the lousy food, and inadequacies of the mental health services.

The alumna continued:

Lastly, I was disappointed with the content of the tour. As I mentioned before, it was so formulaic. She said nothing on the tour that set UVA apart or seemed unique to Virginia. She never mentioned student self-governance or the honor system. In contrast, I heard about the honor system at several other schools. She never even mentioned the secret societies “if for nothing else than to explain the graffiti around Grounds.” I even asked her about the secret societies and she said she didn’t really know much about them. How can you be a guide (or even a student) at UVA and know nothing about secret societies?

Finally, at the end of the tour on the Lawn stop, she mentioned Thomas Jefferson and apologized that UVA was built by enslaved labor and on land taken from the Monacan people. Honestly, it felt out of place on an admissions tour. Maybe point out or encourage folks to visit the new memorial to enslaved laborers? Or maybe this is better suited for a historical tour.

In sum, wrote the alumna, “It was the worst tour of the 14 colleges we have been on this year.”

That review, which was less brutal than some other evaluations, should alarm the UVa admissions office and anyone else who wants to see UVa recruit the best and brightest students. It was not atypical. Among the 23 evaluations received in 2022, 13 said the tour improved the evaluator’s impressions of UVa and two were neutral, but eight rated the experience negatively. The thumbs-down evaluations weren’t just downbeat. They were longer, more detailed and written with greater intensity than the positive reviews. Several respondents said they or their child ruled out ever attending UVa as a result. The 2023 evaluation forms dropped the rating, but the tenor of the 3,034 evaluations suggests that the ratio was roughly the same.

The Jefferson Council has heard many criticisms of the Student Guides, and we documented how many guests had been turned off by the far-left political content of the tours. (See “Want a Woke Version of UVa History? Go on a Student-Guided Tour.”) While we collected numerous anecdotes, we could not demonstrate whether negative impressions were rare or commonplace. The evaluations unearthed through the FOIA proved that a substantial fraction — about 35% — were bitterly negative.

We have commented before on the many ways in which viewpoint diversity is undermined at UVa. We have noted how “diversity statements” call for job applicants and employees undergoing annual reviews to express in writing their commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Similarly, the Student Guide evaluation forms reveal how university practices filter out conservative students in favor of left-leaning students. While several of the positive evaluations explicitly praised the Guides for highlighting racial injustice, the negative reviews noted how Guides trashed or neglected positive aspects of the University, highlighted historical racism and sexism, and gave the university little credit for the dramatic changes that have taken place in the past 60 years. Bottom line: most left-leaning guests love the tours — although one self-described lefty thought the politicized content of her tour was inappropriate — and right-leaning guests hate them.

Nearly every other university in America puts its campus guides on their payroll and expects them to be positive ambassadors for the institution. The guides’ mission is to “sell” the university in the hope that more students will apply and/or choose to enroll if admitted. UVa is an extreme outlier in its hands-off policy toward its guides, and the Student Guides are outliers in their negativity toward the institution they are presenting. In the past the Student Guides generally gave a positive presentation of UVa, but scripts took an ominous turn after the infamous Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville and the 2020 death of George Floyd. Novice guides must undergo an internship in which they are instructed in great detail about UVa’s history of slavery, segregation, sexism and other evils but learn almost nothing about the positive accomplishments of the students and faculty who went there. 

Rector Whitt Clement and Board of Visitors member Bert Ellis, among others, began raising the issue of the Student Guides more than a year ago. The administration’s response has been sluggish, due in part to the awkwardness of telling a self-governed student body how to present the university’s history. But it appears that action is being taken. We will describe the administration’s response in a follow-up post.

Comments from the Evaluation Forms

Here follow comments on UVa Student Guide tours in which reviewers made substantive comments. Positive comments often focused on the knowledge or enthusiasm of the student guides. Negative comments focused primarily on the guides’ overtly ideological commentary.

May 5, 2023
Davis was exceptional. His knowledge of UVA history was deep. We appreciated how he handled the sensitive topics regarding enslaved people.

April 25, 2023
We had a fabulous experience. Our guides were outstanding. We appreciated the tour. It was incredible to be with these two lovely, intelligent and funny people. Made a wonderful impression on us. Thank you so much!

April 14, 2023
Jiawen and Sydney were the best tour guides I have ever had of any instances. Wow! Their words flowed with depth of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. … Outstanding job.

April 8, 2023
It was 99.9% negative, focused on mistreatment of people and it was extremely upsetting and depressing. … There were no positives and gives the impression there is nothing good at or about the university. … I would have really appreciated an enslaved laborer tour if I had signed up for one, but I brought my young children for a general historical tour and it was 99.9% about how mistreated everyone is there, even to the present day. It shamed alumni, the current administration, and everyone affiliated with UVA. 🙁

April 8, 2023
All the questions my guests had about the history were not answered at the tour. How about seeing the inside of the Rotunda, what is the history of the building, why the shape, why the Homer statue, etc. Why the lawn?

A terrible tour! How can a historical tour of the academical village and university only be a list of terrible things, racism, eugenics, and discrimination? Was there no research done into anything positive historically with architecture, alumni, achievements, anything? I’m not sure why self-governing college students would want to portray the university as exclusively an evil place. As an alumni, I am ashamed that the current university students also do not recognize the hard work and goodness in so much of the university’s history. The 2nd year tour guide seemed so self-righteous denigrating the entire history of the university (even through the present time). It was spoken as more of an agenda rather than as a thoughtful, intelligent conversation. It sounded more like a bratty child than someone seeking change and goodness in university life.

April 5, 2023
Have less people per tour but otherwise it was amazing.

April 04, 2023
Our guide did an exceptional job in bringing to life the often neglected stories of those who were enslaved. She also did a wonderful job in providing a nuanced and complex picture of racism, oppression and activism at this university. There’s much in history that we need to reckon with, and public education such as this tour is critical. It not only provides another aspect of history that is too often overlooked, but also asks us what we could do ourselves. Well done!

April 4, 2023
I was touring UVA with my newly admitted student. I was thrilled to hear a tour starting and we joined in. The tour guide immediately started with information about enslaved people, and I thought that was quite appropriate given the history of the university and its founder. However, every stop after that focused solely on enslaved people, the violence and racism of Jefferson and his students and teachers, and the continued racism of UVA administration up to the present day. Perhaps this was a specialty tour about slavery? I don’t know, but if it was supposed to be a historic tour it fell well short of providing any well-rounded or robust history.

The tour guide seemed to revile UVA and accused the current UVA administration of continued racism. (They are the “only” reason why black students don’t want to come to UVA – they create a hostile environment) She also accused current medical students of believing in Eugenics. It was sad. Sad to see a student at one of the greatest schools in the country, with not a single good thing to say about it. I was also sad that my student – who is deciding whether she wants to attend UVA or a different university – had to hear this very one-sided view.

I give the university props for allowing students to create their own tour. But maybe the school should consider the harm that is done with a tour like this. Certainly acknowledging, addressing, discussing slavery is an important and
necessary part of the tour. But painting UVA as a racist institution, one that is completely irredeemable, is wrong and not a tour that brings new students to the university. And it does not help this tour guide either. Will her future employers tolerate this? The university should be preparing its students to think critically, speak truthfully, and work cooperatively. This tour was student activism run amok.

March 15, 2023
It was the worst tour of the [14 colleges] we have been on this year. … Let me begin by saying that I loved being a guide during my four years at UVA! My closest friends were fellow guides. I was in a sorority, but guide service social events were always my priority. Twenty-five years later, the Virginia alums who I keep in touch with the most are former guides. So please know that I provide this feedback because I value the Guide Service and I love UVA.

My oldest child is a high school junior, so we have been making the rounds visiting lots of schools. I have been on 14 college tours so far this school year including 7 back to back over Spring Break. Given my guide background, I
enjoy going on tours at other schools and comparing them to one another. The guides at other schools are always paid and part of the admissions office. We prided ourselves on the Guide Service being all volunteer, student led, and unaffiliated with the admissions office. So, naturally I expected the Virginia admissions tour to be head and shoulders above the tours at other schools. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong and so disappointed.

A tour guide’s job on an admissions tour is to describe what it’s like to be a student at the University and represent it in a positive light. A prospective student should come away from a tour with the impression that the guide loves the school and is proud of it. Yes, the guide should be honest, but the guide’s job is still to sell the University to some degree. That is why UVA’s Guide Service has been so successful good historically because it is comprised of students who love the school so much that they volunteer to spend their time talking about it!

Sadly, our tour guide seemed to be going through the motions, was quite negative about the school on multiple topics, and was unnecessarily apologetic. My son has loved UVA since he was a little boy. It is his first choice. Even he was surprised at just how bad the tour was. Our guide talked about how terrible the advising system is until you get into your major. She emphasized how large the classes are and that she was intimidated by the size and the professors. She said the food in the dining halls was poor. She spent 5 minutes talking about mental health – leaving the impression that a larger than average normal number of UVA students have mental health issues and that UVA can’t accommodate them all so has to outsource appointments via

Besides the negative tone of the tour, I was disappointed with the structure of the tour as well. First, it was too formulaic. At each stop, the guide would say, for example. “At this stop, I am going to talk about study abroad, dorms and transportation. OK that’s all for this stop, let’s go to the next stop. Oddly, she started the tour talking about dorms and housing in front of Newcomb but ended the tour on the Lawn with a tiny bit of history. The reverse would have been much better better both in terms of beginning with the history and starting on the Lawn. Also, the path of the tour was way too small. We barely saw anything on Grounds. Never laid eyes on a dorm, never saw a dining hall, never got near a rec center, etc. Compared to the other 13 tours I have been on, this tour covered the least amount of ground and pointed out very few places. It stood out negatively in this way.

Lastly, I was disappointed with the content of the tour. As I mentioned
before, it was so formulaic. She said nothing on the tour that set UVA apart
or seemed unique to Virginia. She never mentioned student self-governance or the honor system. In contrast, I heard about the honor system at several other schools. She never even mentioned the secret societies if for nothing else than to explain the graffiti around Grounds. I even asked her about the secret societies and she said she didn’t really know much about them. How can you be a guide (or even a student) at UVA and know nothing about secret societies? Finally, at the end of the tour on the Lawn stop, she mentioned Thomas Jefferson and apologized that UVA was built by enslaved labor and on land taken from the Monacan people. Honestly, it felt out of place on an admissions tour. Maybe point out or encourage folks to visit the new memorial to enslaved laborers? Or maybe this is better suited for a historical tour. Or again if you want to talk about the University’s history, do so at the beginning of the tour. It was just a strange thing to basically end the tour with for a bunch of prospective students’ families.

April 4, 2023
Our tour guide’s enthusiasm and presence was really fantastic. I can’t believe she’s a 2nd year, her knowledge of UVA and her commanding presentation skills are really just A+. … We’ve seen a lot of schools, and UVA’s tour leaves us with the least amount of info about the grounds. It’s beautiful, of course. But we didn’t get to see any classrooms, or even exterior of freshman dorms. Are there unique facilities at UVA? If so, we didn’t hear about them. I’m not sure where the students exercise, most tours take you into their athletic facilities. I’d recommend more content at the info session and more “stops” or sites for the physical walking tour.

March 17, 2023
The entire tour consistently surpassed my expectations and both tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and personable.

March 13, 2023
Student guide totally missed the point, I took the tour before with different student – it was much , much better. … So disappointed, I took my 12 year old grandson, a potential UVA student, the outcome was almost like Thomas
Jefferson was a Nazi who terrorized slaves. Please take this girl out of the guides rotation, I think she has some agenda, other tour participants shared this opinion.

March 3, 2023
Karen was incredible! The tour was EXACTLY what I had hoped it would be. Her knowledge was specific and thorough, and she included my students in the conversation. … I knew about the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers and looked online for help scheduling a tour.

March 2, 2023
The tour was nothing more than a lecture on social justice. There was absolutely no attempt to say one decent word about anyone or anything having to do with the university. You should really relabel this tour so people will know what they are getting into and can decide if that is what they want to hear or not. I wanted to know more about Jefferson’s thoughts and plans, architecture and maybe something about famous alumni, etc.

February 23, 2023
UVA remains one of my favorite places on the planet. The tour guide couldn’t ruin the beauty and energy of Grounds. … My impression from this tour was that there are too many applicants and you want to discourage applications. My husband and I are both alums; I brought my daughter and a friend. Here are a few quotes from the tour: “I don’t get paid for this, so tips are greatly appreciated.” I thought she was joking, until the end of the tour, when she said, “Again, a reminder – tips are welcome.” Of the three people in our group, one thought she was serious, one thought she was joking, and I’m not sure. If she was joking, this was the only joke she made the entire tour. Next quote: “Charlottesville is not the safest.” This was said with such an ominous tone I clarified – you feel pretty safe most of the time, no? She said she feels safe ONLY because of the safety measures (blue emergency poles and a watchguard type walkie-talkie system). She made it sound like you need to be very careful if you leave your room. Next is a paraphrased statement: There are over 700 clubs, but I do want to warn you a lot of them are selective, so you have to apply. I got rejected from a bunch of them my freshman year. The only one I could get in to was tour guide service. Next quote: “Your RA is someone who is basically paid to be your friend. They can be really helpful when you’re really drunk or whatever.”

I know that you have, many times over more applicants than you can accept. I
know you don’t need to “sell” UVA. But this tour, which consisted of three stops: the Lawn, the amphitheater, and outside an academic building, was truly awful. To convince my daughter to apply I’m going to bring her back. This tour was so downbeat and miserable, it was sad. I’m sure the guide is a lovely person who is an asset to UVA, but this role does NOT suit her. Or she needs retraining and support to learn how to show off all UVA has to offer.

February 19, 2023
I am forty-seven years old, from Salt Lake City, and work intermittently for
American Shakespeare Center in Staunton. This tour was a marvelous surprise. The work Davis did today is an important, generous, bold, brave contribution to society. Everyone should take Davis’s tour for decades.

February 18, 2023
Our tour guide Tina is amazing. She was very knowledgeable about UVA and patiently answered all of our questions. Her positivity, authenticity, and sense of humor were infectious to everyone.

February 14, 2023
Our tour guide was awesome! Sydney was the highlight of our time at UVA. She was so knowledgeable and definitely passionate about her school. We were so impressed about how the tour of UVA complimented our trip the next day to Monticello, that we encouraged all the people in our Monticello tour to go check out the campus.

January 6, 2023
As a UVA alum, I was SOO excited to bring my child and show off my school. Boy was I disappointed. Our tour guide used the tour to give her personal opinions on political hot topics (“Jefferson was brilliant, but not a good person. He shouldn’t get all of the credit for the University as it would be nothing without the salves – who Jefferson treated very poorly”) and her own mental health treatment. … We came to the school to see the school, hear about college life here and all it has to offer, and to get a “feel” for the school. Not hear political opinions or debate history.

This pains me to write, but Virginia Tech’s tour was 1000 x better. From their session with someone on their admissions team to the student tour guides, it was a far better experience, presentation and positive vibe for their school. … I was embarrassed for my school with the tour guide that gave our tour. A tour guide should be passionate about the school. A tour guide should be able to demonstrate their passion for UVa in what they say about the school. A tour guide should not be giving opinions of historical events. And a tour guide should not be discussing their mental health. A tour guide should be just that – a guide for visitors to tour them around the University.

November 17, 2022
Evie did a pretty good job, but she is a Freshman and has only been at UVA for
10 weeks. There is simply no way she can provide an insightful evaluation of what it is like to be a student at UVA. I don’t believe any tours should be done
by Freshmen. I believe you need at least a year of experience to be able to speak with any kind of authority on the student experience at a school.

November 11, 2022
My name is [redacted] and I am a high school junior that attended a tour with Rachel on 11/11. I had never been to UVA before and I was simply blown away by the beauty and history of the campus. First let me say how appalling the events of last week were. I hate to think of the sadness that the UVA community has had to endure because of the actions of one individual. In reading about the aftermath, I was extremely impressed (though not surprised) with the university and students’ response. There was clearly a plan in place both while the pursuit was still ongoing and for the support and comfort of all those affected following. While it was a terrible event – seeing the response has only strengthened my interest in becoming part of the Cavalier community. As for the tour, Rachel was extremely knowledgeable across all of the major topics, including the history of the university, the various locations across the grounds, student social life and clubs, academics, and application process. I found her discussion of the various clubs to be particularly enlightening. She explained how even in the unlikely event that a club does not exist for my interests, that I could be empowered to create my own – which seems very much in line with the spirit of students controlling their own education and college experience. Once everything calms down and returns to a state of normalcy, please pass my thanks on to Rachel for the tour – and I look forward to joining her on grounds in 2026!

November 11, 2022
The tour for engineering was very accommodating. Driving from Williamsburg and having the flexibility to come any day without reservation was a blessing. The tour guides were very knowledgeable and engaging. I would have liked to see the inside of a dorm, cafeteria, library, and common area within the engineering department. Overall, it was a very nice tour.

October 29, 2022
It was just a downer. Coming to spend 1.5 hours w an activist isn’t what we were looking for. I am very left. If I came and the right’s agenda was presented on a tour, I would be very offended. I understand that UVA has significant history steeped in racism etc. It just seems the solution is to take politicism out, not to just over correct left.

October 28, 2022
I loved that the tour was centered on enslaved and other marginalized communities over time and that the guide made that clear from the beginning. I appreciated the care and work that went into the design of the tour by the guide. I appreciated that the tour was given by a student and that the tour reflected their authentic experience and perspective rather than having been scripted for them. I appreciated that the guide went beyond recitation of rote information to craft a presentation that was informative, challenging, and thought provoking. It speaks very well of the University to have its spokespeople be so poised, creative, and well informed.

October 15, 2022
The topic for the first 30 minutes was ONLY about the way UVA abused enslaved people – we had hoped to learn about the architecture, the early student body and the life they lived, what sorts of things they studied, and possibly a lot more about Thomas Jefferson. The third stop on the tour was, according to the guide, some concrete that marked the (since removed) building where eugenics was taught – enthusiastically endorsed by Thomas Jefferson through the 1950s. The concrete (that was encased in plexiglass) was actually a piece of the Berlin Wall which our guide did not know. Nor did she know WHAT the Berlin Wall was. The information she gave was about how UVA abused all enslaved people and then hid that information until forced to divulge it recently. My husband and I had been to UVA before and were taking friends from the UK there as they learned more about 18th and 19th century US history. We left the tour at this point – in disgust. I realize that the tours are designed by students – but UVA needs to do better than this. There were at least 50 people on the tour who undoubtedly left with the same bad feelings that we did.

October 12, 2022
The tour was not overly long or strenuous and gave us a good idea of what campus life would look like. There were also so many details and fun stories that really helped us connect with your life as a student, and led me to imagine what mine may be like. You were also really funny and likable so it was easy to connect with you and you made asking questions so easy and gave us a comfortable place to inquire about the possible future.

Thank you so much for this tour. I had the time of my life and it really sold the school for me. So much that it went to college 5 on my list to college number 1. Go Wahoos! I even decided to apply early action. I hope I am accepted and get to be a part of this wonderful school. Good luck on all your endeavors.

No Date
UVA recruitment office needs to learn how to PROMOTE the university. … UVA was our daughter’s first choice. She removed it from her list after the tour because she didn’t want to attend a university that was so bad that even its own tour guides couldn’t say anything good about it. … Knowing our history is important and UVA’s willingness to look at its own imperfections [is] commendable. However, embracing our history should be comprehensive and honest.

My daughter looked up UVA’s history after the tour. While Rachel and her co-guide seemed well-meaning, the stories they relayed about UVA’s history were incomplete to the point of dishonest. For example, we were informed by both the admission officer and the guides that UVA was built by 4,000 slaves. One of the guides went so far as to say Jefferson didn’t do anything except sit back and watch these slaves. It leaves out all discussion about Jefferson’s bill in the Virginia legislature for funding, the architectural plans prepared by Jefferson, three former US presidents were present when the cornerstone was laid, and other interesting facts about UVA’s founding. One person on our tour sarcastically remarked that if the 4,000 enslaved individuals were enough to build UVA, then why is there no UVA in Africa. While uncomfortable with the comment, I can agree that the guide’s downplaying of Jefferson’s role is very disturbing.

The tour also omitted any mention of authors, athletes, business leaders, and other famous individuals within UVA’s alumni base. Likewise, there was no discussion about the many well-regarded professors who teach courses. About the only “perks” mentioned by the tour guides was a campus security van, free bus shuttles, a good array of sports events, and health services. Respectfully, these are services provided by most universities. In short, the tour left us feeling that UVA is a terrible place. Rather than taking pride in graduating from UVA, any student who decides to attend must learn to apologize for a history for which the student has no culpability. To quote Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

September 10, 2022
The guides lectured the students and parents on how awful Thomas Jefferson and the history of UVA was. I have never experienced a sales demonstration where the spokeperson so degraded their product especially when their assertions were inaccurate or misleading. …  No actual dorms, dining halls or classrooms were shown. Visitors were given an inaccurate, political diatribe about how awful UVA and its founder were. We accompanied our daughter, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in FCPS, on a tour of UVA. She would be a typical candidate for admission. It appears the admissions department and tour guides were mostly focused on social justice revisionist history about Jefferson and the founding of UVA. For example, a huge deal was made of how UVA’s land was “taken” from Native American tribes yet there was no discussion of how those tribes had taken the lands from those who came before them nor how Native Americans literally had no schools whatsoever. Attempts to frame all Western civilization achievements as “crimes” is not only inaccurate (and highly controversial at best), but such efforts repulse the students who are simply looking for a university to educate them. Even if they have social justice aims, prospective students would never want to learn on a campus where its administrators tell them it was stolen land.

Further, the grossly inaccurate stories of white students “beating” a child of enslaved laborers was gratuitous and makes any parent seriously question the critical thinking skills of UVA students, not to mention UVA’s ability to
accurately teach history. The fact that whites and free blacks also built UVA structures was never mentioned. It also leads parents to question whether free speech is valued on this campus. The “F22 Historical Fact Sheet” used to train
tour guides appears to dedicate the majority of its content not to the achievements of UVA but to anecdotes of its detractors. Very little of the actual history (fire at the Rotunda) or prominent graduates of UVA (none were
cited) was discussed. My takeaway from this tour was UVA itself was a crime against Native Americans, blacks, and that if your child attends UVA, he/she can have fun hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains but higher career aspirations are an afterthought.

Maybe your intent is to conduct an ideological purity test for incoming students. If so, mission accomplished. But I not only will discourage my child from attending UVA, I will advocate to defund UVA’s public funding as much as possible since it appears your whole mission is to indoctrinate students in left-wing ideology.

September 3, 2022
Daniel was exemplary. I felt as if he were speaking directly to my daughter. He was very informative and he displayed a good sense of humor to keep the tour entertaining. The fact that he was honest about his experience — the good and the not-as-good — was much more helpful than a UVA cheerleading speech would have been.

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52 responses to ““The Worst Tour of the 14 Colleges We Have Been on This Year””

  1. Lefty665 Avatar

    Perhaps y’all should be asking students to help describe the discrimination practiced at UVa. Sounds like they’ve got opinions on the subject.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Why? Bacon went to UVa. How could a student, who went to the place after he, possibly do a better job?

  2. M. Purdy Avatar
    M. Purdy

    What is the Jefferson Council recommending to rectify the situation, as they see it? Mind you, if I were an organization ostensibly committed to the first amendment, I would tread lightly. But that only be if I actually took the first amendment seriously.

    1. walter smith Avatar
      walter smith

      Well I don’t believe you do take the First Amendment or the Constitution seriously, so you tell us in all your brilliance how to handle it.
      Do you have a job?
      Does the employer expect you have any loyalty to it? Or does the employer pay you to decrease market share?
      The Students are entitled to have opinions. However, when representing UVA, in this really official capacity, they should say what UVA wants them to say because they are speaking FOR UVA. It’s not that hard to understand.

      1. M. Purdy Avatar
        M. Purdy

        Nope, no job. Jobless, just hang out here for your insights.

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Then UVA should hire guides and give them a script.

        1. walter smith Avatar
          walter smith

          Correct. If you wished to promote W&M (I think your Alma mater), wouldn’T you want a consistent, fair but positive script?

          The dirty little secret is I think the Ryan regime agrees with the denigration and hides behind “student run.”

          1. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            Yes, I’m sure the alumnus who voluntarily came to UVa from being a dean at Harvard secretly wants to destroy the place. Makes perfect sense….

          2. walter smith Avatar
            walter smith

            He does. Because when the TJ statue goes down, while he claims to the duped alumni he will always defend it, his wannabe Ivy credentials go up for Pres of Yale. That’s what he wants. Why he agreed with Hira Azher and just wanted her to tone it down (but she recorded him!).
            Why he can’t say Emma Weyant was the NCAA Champ, not the cheating dude, Will “Lia” Thomas.
            Why his admin only followed the CDC/VDH Covid guidance and ignored all people raising their hands with questions. He is a Dem party tool.

          3. walter smith Avatar
            walter smith

            Come on…admit it. Are you the Pierre Delicto for Jim Ryan?
            See, it doesn’t work on me. It’s why you divert, rather than respond.
            All the people under Ryan seem to hate Jefferson. UVA promotes Woodson podcasts that discuss Jefferson as a rapist. UVA promotes a musical event which claims the fiddlers are related by marriage to the Hemings family with whom Jefferson had 3 children. Meanwhile, Ryan won’t promote an event for Robert Turner, head of the Scholars’ Commission, which studied the Jefferson Hemings relationship and concluded the allegations of Jefferson’s paternity were almost certainly not true. Does that sound like Ryan cares about “following truth wherever it may lead?”
            Sorry. I see who these people are. So, “Riiiight” right backatcha.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Seriously for me, but not for thee.

  3. Employees don’t trash their employers — 1st Amendment notwithstanding. These guides who preach their own agendas ruin the experience for those whose valuable time comparison-shopping with the kid on a multi-college tour is confiscated by such off-topic ranting. Pay them; keep track of their tour evaluations by name, and then fire them as necessary.

    Beyond that, it sounds like the Admissions Office needs to insist on more exposure to student life facilities on the tour. Even several of the praised tours here seem to have omitted most everything off the central Grounds. When my son did the rounds (quite a few years ago), our walk included the Old Gym, Newcomb Hall, a suite in the Alderman Road dorms, the Chemistry building, and a quick glance at Alderman Library, Madison Hall and the Bowl — these were all visited and discussed.

    1. M. Purdy Avatar
      M. Purdy

      “Official University tours are conducted by the University Guide Service. The University of Virginia is not affiliated with and does not endorse any campus tours offered by third parties.”

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        Uh huh. But Admissions schedules tours with…University Guide Services. So that seems like, even though “student run,” it is also UVA endorsed.
        So if you are admissions, do you want to attract people to UVA?
        If you wish to “sell” UVA, do you say all the reasons it sucks, or do you perhaps the things that (used to)make it distinctive?
        Also, there is a faculty advisor, so the feigning ignorance bit by Ryan et al rings hollow to me. I think Ryan et al want to attract activists who hate Jefferson and America (and give them scholarship money, all in Messiah Jim’s quest to be Great and Good).

  4. Lynne Westermeyer Avatar
    Lynne Westermeyer

    You can’t handle the truth.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “It was the worst tour of the 14 colleges we have been on this year.”

    Probably because it was the worst college of the 14 colleges they had been to this year.

    This year? This year? Whoa! Do we do this as a hobby? And 14 tours? Jeez Lady, can’t you just read the Wiki or something?

    BTW, are these BR slams on UVa’s student tours going to become an annual thing? Couldn’t help but notice the recycle from 2022. Reminds me of the WaPo’s digs at VMI in a way.

  6. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “While we collected numerous anecdotes, we could not demonstrate whether negative impressions were rare or commonplace. The evaluations unearthed through the FOIA proved that a substantial fraction — about 35% — were bitterly negative.”

    23 samples (with likely bias) out of how many individuals who took that tour? Your evaluation doesn’t “prove” anything… not even sure it even remotely suggests anything. If only 23 participants throughout a full year even cared to comment, it seems like there is little controversy to be had here.

  7. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Fascinating. Bacon and Sherlock and their generation emerged from UVA as the “golden era” of white, male exclusivity was ending, but the myth of the Masters of the Universe lingered. Fast forward to today, when the “F*&^ UVA” or “UVA Sucks” theme is more than just a sign on a door but a dominant mentality among at least a large segment of the students (and perhaps faculty). Those committed to this cause use the student guide service to find and recruit more with the same attitude.

    A full 180 in 50 years or so, with both attitudes in no way grounded in reality. The Myth of Superiority followed by the Myth of Original Sin. There is a PhD dissertation and a book in this…. Now to a serious question. The data seems to indicate the black enrollment has actually been declining, and could the guides’ messaging itself actually be discouraging talented black students from coming to what is being portrayed as still a racist hell hole?

    We never took the tour. Our son caught the Wahoo Disease while attending a summer enrichment program on “the grounds” during middle school.

    1. Sorry to correct you Steve, but I did not “emerge from UVA as the ‘golden era’ of white, male exclusivity was ending.” Women had been admitted the year before, and minorities considerably before that. Coats and ties were no longer mandatory, indeed rarely worn at all. The ancien regime had ended, and neither I nor any of my friends and acquaintances mourned its passing.

      I have no idea what you even mean by the “myth of the Masters of the Universe.”

      For me, the great formative influence was the atmosphere of open, free-wheeling discussions and debates and the academic emphasis on rigor of thought. That’s what UVa has lost and that loss is what I lament. Any implication that I might yearn for, or even be the product of, the days before women and minorities were admitted is pure and unadulterated B.S., and, frankly, insulting. I am accustomed to that kind of sneering insinuation from our comrades on the left but not from you.

      I’m glad to note, though, that you see the negative impression that the Guides’ messaging might have on Black students. So, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you were just feeling cranky and out of sorts when you posted this comment.

      1. M. Purdy Avatar
        M. Purdy

        “That’s what UVa has lost and that loss is what I lament.” And that’s why you want to impose some sort of speech code on university guides? I’m really perplexed when you say stuff like this, but your actions speak to something else entirely.

        1. Purdy, you’re a piece of work. I never suggested or hinted at imposing speech codes on University Guides. You are totally making stuff up. My articles have pointed out the extreme bias in the Guides’ presentations. How do you get from there to advocating restrictions on the Guides’ freedom of speech? Such reckless and unsubstantiated assertions make me question other assertions of fact that you make.

          1. “How do you get from there to advocating restrictions on the Guides’ freedom of speech?”

            It’s a real short trip. This was in response to quoting you, FYI, so your mods are basically censoring your own speech. Maybe you should look into that…


          2. I have no idea what your comment was, and I had absolutely nothing to do with blocking it. Even if I had been, the situation is not remotely comparable to the Student Guides.

          3. It remains your site, Mr. Bacon! If you “have no idea” what I said, it is well within your power to stop the person who keeps hiding what I said… since you’re so concerned about censorship and all…


          4. CJBova Avatar

            You are continuing the same pattern of ignoring the reasons your comments are deleted. You made false allegations based on outdated information and refused to stop after being advised of the facts. I made sure of the circumstances by reading a whole year’s comments to locate what happened. Moderation of false personal attacks is part of enforcing the posted rules as delegated by Jim Bacon.

          5. CJBova Avatar

            The temporary ban was 5 months ago for repeating false
            comments 4x that Jim Bacon was still taking sponsorship money from
            Dominion Energy after he explained a year ago that was no longer the case. When it was, he clearly posted the terms. You accused me of censorship to prevent exposure of financial misdeeds which never existed. The choice to ban you when you refused to stop was mine as moderator.

          6. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            You’ve never articulated what “action” you and Bert Ellis are taking to “rectify” the situation. But let’s be clear, any action you take would be state action, which implicates the First Amendment. Not that you really care, given your track record of wrapping yourself in the First Amendment simply to turn around to oppose the type of speech you don’t like (e.g., nasty signs on the Lawn, drag bans in TN, too much talk about slavery and structural racism). Coupled with what amounts to your lame campus political “fairness doctrine,” it’s not hard to see where you’re pointing.

          7. DJRippert Avatar

            Interesting question on the First Amendment. Could a postal worker be fired for advising potential customers who come into the Post Office to ship a package that they would be better advised to use UPS or FedEx since the USPS is both slow to deliver and likely to lose the package?

            Reading the comments in the blog post about the guides, it sounds like one guide in particular has an agenda. Burt Ellis could suggest that any guide receiving a disproportionate share of negative reviews be dropped from the guide program.

          8. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            Right, it’s a fair question. Depends a lot on the specific facts. But there are certainly FA implications here given that the “offensive” statements are clearly protected speech, and anything done by the BOV or admin. would be state action. I would also imagine the history of independence of the guide services would be a factor in any FA analysis. But the bottom line is that, if one is serious about free speech principles, I think it’s important for institutions to tread very lightly on issues like these, which isn’t exactly Bert Ellis’ style from what I can tell. Ellis and Bacon can frame this issue any way they want, but if it’s ultimately about the guides “trashing” the school and saying things they disagree with, there’s a FA issue. Mind you, there’s likely a less formal way to handle this that would avoid any FA issues, but raising it at the BOV to take action is not that.

          9. The UVa administration collaborates with the Student Guides to put on tours. Indeed, the Student Guides are the only ones to give tours. The administration has tolerated the Guides trashing the university’s history and heritage, even though it has turned off many, many prospective students and their families. Make no mistake, we have heard horrified comments from many parents who never turned in an evaluation. The negative perceptions are widespread.

            If I would advocate anything — and let me be clear that I am still open to discussion — it would be for the Admissions Department to sever its relationship with the guides and hire and schedule its own guides and tours. That would not abridge the Student Guides’ freedom of speech. They still would be free to give their own tours and say anything they wanted. Honoring the Guides’ right to free speech, however, does not obligate the administration to give them a monopoly over university tours to pursue their own agenda with no accountability.

          10. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            How many guides do you think are the ones trashing the university? I imagine it’s not many, but I have no idea. If it’s only a few, you would still advocate for ending the program’s affiliation with the school?

          11. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            No. In fact, they do that. USPS, that is.

            “With UPS Mail Innovations Returns, your customers can conveniently return their packages using their mailbox, postal carrier, local post office or any postal drop box nationwide.”

            It is a strange world, Master Jack.

          12. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            I have given up on Postman. It took him 7 days to deliver a postcard from Warrenton to Orlean Virginia. 8 miles separate the places. A one legged postman could do better. I just drive the card to the mailbox myself now.

          13. Sounds like you are incapable of drawing a distinction between disagreeing with someone and wanting to repress their right to say it.

          14. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            Do you mean like Bert Ellis attempted to do with the Lawn sign? Was that merely disagreeing with the contents or was it trying to suppress speech? Or how about the TN drag ban, which you oddly argued for? Or how about giving prominent space to individuals who oppose certain speakers at VMI? I would think about the criticism you just leveled at me, and apply it to the Jeff Council.

          15. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            It’s ALREADY been hashed. Bert merely wanted to discuss the sign. The paint scraper was only a last resort.

      2. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        You need cut me no slack, give me no benefit of your doubt. I can’t be the first and only one to notice UVA grads can take on airs. The UVA of those days remained as preppy as they came, lack of ties notwithstanding. As to the desire for robust academic dissent, debate and openness, I share that goal. The War on DEI is a big distraction, however, and gives the other side an easy way to just dismiss you.

        1. M. Purdy Avatar
          M. Purdy

          I graduated in the aughts and ties at football games were still common.

          1. DJRippert Avatar

            I graduated in 1981 and very few people wore coats and ties to football games. Some did, but not a majority by any means. Those wearing the coats and ties were typically preppies from Richmond and points south in Virginia – the children of the Plantation Elite.

            Unfortunately, Virginia is not the only state with children of the Plantation Elite overdressing for football games. Go to a Georgia, Alabama, or Auburn and you’ll see a small minority of students wearings blazers and ties to games.

            “There is a dress code in the student sections of the SEC. Ties, blazers, and dresses are seen throughout the loudest and craziest section of SEC stadiums.”


          2. M. Purdy Avatar
            M. Purdy

            Yeah, I wouldn’t say a majority were in suits and ties or anything like that. I would say that there was a significant and noticeable percentage of the fans. I actually went to a game last season and saw a few kids in shorts, dress shirts and ties, and a lot of women in sun dresses and pearls. Was likely a frat-sorority thing. And agree, it’s by no means only UVa. UGA is famously preppy.

        2. DJRippert Avatar

          It’s hard to argue that UVa students don’t put on airs when “The University” bumper stickers were prevalent during my time at UVa (and for at least 10 years after I graduated).

          Of course, wealthy White society in the southern half of the state of Virginia is famous for putting on airs. “The First Families of Virginia”, the shad plank, “The Virginia Way”, “The War Between the States” or “The War of Northern Aggression”, referring to Thomas Jefferson as “Mr Jefferson” in the General Assembly.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Ah so. It’s not just a Porsche, but any car with a “The University” bumpersticker that compares with a porcupine …

        3. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          “ The War on DEI is a big distraction, however, and gives the other side an easy way to just rightfully dismiss you.”

          Better. Hate to wordsmith you; you are the better writer, but it conveys a more honest interpretation of his disease.

      3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I am curious about this “atmosphere of open, free-wheeling discussions and debates and the academic emphasis on rigor of thought.” Was that the period before or after UVa was selected as the No. 1 party school in the country by Playboy magazine? Was this before or after “Easters”?

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          UVa might have been crazy but at least we kept it interesting.

          I hear that graduates of William & Mary are so boring people who steal their identity end up giving it back to them.

      4. Not Today Avatar
        Not Today

        “ Sorry to correct you Steve, but I did not “emerge from UVA as the ‘golden era’ of white, male exclusivity was ending.” Women had been admitted the year before, and minorities considerably before that. Coats and ties were no longer mandatory, indeed rarely worn at all.”😂 Did dinosaurs roam the earth too?

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      I’m gonna take a SWAG here, but I’ll bet a $1 to a dime that the guides’ “trashing of UVa” simply comes from giving an honest answer to a question something like, “Are UVa students a little bit snobby?”

      “Oh, no Sir. Not a little bit.”

    3. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      The difference between the guided tours at UVa and W&M is that when the W&M guide says, “The girls here are so smart. Ya just can’t beat ‘em with a stick,” they’re just being folksy.

  8. Teddy007 Avatar

    The first question that always come up with college visits is what in the experience of a high school student gives those students any capabilities to judge a campus.
    I have heard too many stories about teens not wanting to attend a certain university based upon the personality of the tour guide.

    And how many high school students are going to ask about fire walls, counselling services, the difficulties of registering for desired classes, dead days, and whether every affluent white girl is expected to join a sorority?

  9. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    There is this wonderful story about George Allen at UVa I’ve always heard and repeated, and I have avoided asking him if it was true. 🙂 Too good a story to lose…

    Like me, he was a product of Southern California in the 60s, when his Dad coached the Rams and my Dad was at a couple of bases there (Edwards, Norton). The story is George showed up at UVa dressed like a surfer dude (a look I remember well) but looked around and quickly converted to khakis, button down and blazer. I guess I’m so attached to the story because of what it says about UVa (and reinforces my impression of the place at that time.)

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