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‘I’d never put any of my Staff at Risk’

Written by on September 3, 2020

Photo courtesy to ISU

NORMAL, Ill.- Illinois State University continues to provide in-person tours to prospective students while cases continue to rise.

Illinois State University remains one of two state schools that are holding in-person tours. The Office of Admissions has two virtual options along with two in-person tours

As of recently, the University has removed a presentation before in-person tours that serve as a Q&A. This, in turn, has limited exposure of guests within buildings and they remain with tour guides for the entire tour.

However, some tour guides remain worried for their safety as well as the safety of guests. Office of Admission tour guide, Justin Mabrey explains tour guides take safety precautions but still worries about the safety of guests.

“We definitely have measures put in place to ensure our safety as well as the safety of our guest. However, at this point, my concern is more so for the safety of the guest,” said Maybrey. “Because no matter how safe we can be on our tour, the reason that they’re coming to Bloomington – Normal, which is quickly becoming a hot spot for COVID-19, the reason they are coming down here in the first place is because we are offering in-person tours.”

Mabrey’s concern rises from the increasing cases at ISU, despite explaining his passion for his job he understands the risk that is posed. He emphasizes while safety measures are in place there is no way to completely eliminate the risk they face when visiting the campus.

Photo courtesy to ISU

As of now, guests are not screened when arriving for on-campus tours. Tour guides currently rely on guests to take the necessary precautions and not put them at risk. However, as the more professional staff moves to work remotely, Mabrey explains tours should follow suit for the safety of students and guests.

 “I don’t think we should be encouraging any outside visitation. For the safety of us but also, and I would say more importantly, for the safety of our guests. Because they are coming to an at-risk location to visit a college campus,” said Mabrey.”I don’t understand how any office on this campus, or any campus or anywhere,  could continue the way that they are functioning knowing that members of their faculty feel unsafe. “

A fellow tour guide, Alana Guggenheim who is working completely remotely also believes tours should be completely remote to ensure safety. She emphasizes that student-tour guides need to be heard and can make the best out of virtual tours.

 “As tour guides, we need to have our voices heard more. I think moving all tours online and eliminating in-person tours, we would still be able to be very successful if we were able to correctly advertise and market those,” said Guggenheim. “We could do different individualized major options and keeping things as engaging as possible. Meeting one on one with someone who has the same major as you and just getting creative with it.”

However the Director of Admissions, Jeff Mavros believes students and staff are not being treated any differently. Despite the move for remote work and in-person tours.

“We’re really not treating staff and students any differently. My philosophy is that we are all one big team, and we try to treat our student employees just like our professional employees as much as we can. In that, we are all working together for the same goal and that is to enroll qualified students to the university,” said Mavros. “I’m really not asking anything of our students or our professional staff that I’m also not doing.”

Mavros says he goes into the office a few times a week and has also given tours when the demand has been there.

“I’ve been able to provide, what I think is, a necessary service to our guests and I’ve really enjoyed doing that and would do it again,” said Mavros.

Photo courtesy to ISU

The Office of Admissions has two locations, one being Hovey Hall and the other in the Atrium. The office has 30 professional staff members, and according to Mavros, to continue their daily work they do not need all 27 of them sitting in the same location.

In order to abide by social distancing guidelines and to mitigate risks, the office has asked for about seven professional staff members to stay on campus any day of the week. The office is not closed, they are on a “rotating basis.”

“Not everybody is remote. I, like my colleagues, are coming into the office a couple of times a week. So, we are on a rotating basis. As far as the Atrium, that’s our home for campus tours and welcoming guests to campus that is also not staffed at more than a handful of individuals every day,” said Mavros. “That’s so they can continue to be operational while maintaining the social distancing, I see what we are doing as being consistent across our professional staff and our student staff.”

To ensure the safety of tour guides, they require guests to wear face coverings, tours have less than 10 guests and guides are given amplification devices to ensure guests can hear them.

“From the very beginning there have been lots of safety precautions put in place and I’m proud to say we abide by all of them,” said Mavros.

If the university were to close, Mavros says it is quite likely the office will make the switch to virtual tours, creating a remote workspace for student employees.

“Right now the university is open and we do have students on campus, and we all understand the expectations of one another in terms of our personal behavior and the steps we should be taking to mitigate risks,” said Mavros.

If the university does deem it “unsafe” for groups of people to be physically on campus, then Mavros is sure the Office of Admissions will follow suit. “But we are not there yet,” said Mavros.

Photo courtesy to ISU

Mavros, to his knowledge, says that the Office of Admissions has not had anyone from staff, student or prospective family member contract the virus.

“I think it speaks to the ability to control our environment and the fact that we are taking this very seriously. If we are all honest with one another and we remain vigilant in the work that we are doing to stay true to those safety precautions, then I think it can be managed,” said Mavros. “I would never want to put anyone from staff, student, professional staff member or anyone visiting the university at risk.”

Mavros believes what the office is doing is responsible and in line with the mission of the university.