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MSU tour guides discuss returning to work following mass shooting

April 30, 2023
<p>MSU junior and student tour guide Jenna Jacobs tours a group around campus on April 29, 2023.</p>

MSU junior and student tour guide Jenna Jacobs tours a group around campus on April 29, 2023.

Photo by Jonah Brown | The State News

After the events of Feb. 13, MSU’s campus went quiet. Students went home, classes were cancelled and dining halls reduced their hours. But along with these absences were groups of potential new students, touring campus for the first time to see if MSU would become their home for the next four years.

While most students returned to campus the following week, MSU tours took a bit longer to bring operations back. Initially, the tours program planned to resume on the Monday classes started back up. However, journalism sophomore Reese Carlson said after tour guides filled out a survey giving their opinions on returning, it was clear students needed more time.

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MSU junior and student tour guide Jenna Jacobs tours a group around campus on Apr. 29, 2023.

“I'm going to assume they got an overwhelmingly, 'No', (response) because, I mean, that's what I said,” Carlson said. “They had a meeting with all of us probably two weeks after we'd been back ... and they gave us an overview and everything about what their game plan was.”

Resuming tours took a lot of planning. New routes needed to be created since all tours previously began at the Union. Currently, they start at the Kellogg Center and only go as north as the library. Carlson said tour guides avoid areas around the MSU Union and Berkey Halls in an effort to deter questions.

She said another logistical change was that they didn’t go into residential halls because students had expressed that they felt unsafe with strangers coming in their hallway. While she said some parents were upset about this, Carlson said she understood why the decision was made.

But while these logistical changes were made, it was clear it would take much more than different routes for tour guides to feel comfortable coming back to work.

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MSU student tour guides gather before a great day of tours on April 29, 2023.

Psychology sophomore Hannah Greenspan said her biggest concern was being asked about where she was the night of the shooting and having to answer questions about safety.

“This was actually something I think I texted during the shooting to one of my tour guide friends,” Greenspan said. “I was like, ‘I don't know how I'm supposed to tell people MSU is a safe place when they know this huge unsafe thing happened.’”

Carlson said she would feel awkward “hyping up MSU” when she didn’t agree with how the university handled some things. She said the first few weeks back, she didn’t talk about safety at all because she didn’t want to invite questions about it.

“I feel like I'd probably be OK answering questions now, but in those first couple weeks, I literally think I would've started crying,” Carlson said. “Coming back to tours was like, ‘Am I going to get bombarded by these questions?’ because as soon as we're left with them, they literally gang up on you.”

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MSU junior and student tour guide Jenna Jacobs tours a group around campus on April 29, 2023.

Carlson said she remembered giving tours following the disappearance and death of Brendan Santo in the fall of 2021 and feeling “attacked” by questions about how MSU was handling the situation.

Greenspan said anyone who would be going on a tour following the shooting received strict instructions via email before their tour and once they arrived that they were not allowed to ask tour guides personal questions about the incident. She said the guests were told to contact a supervisor or the MSU tours email if they had any questions about Feb. 13.

Greenspan said participants on her tours have followed these instructions. However, she said one of her friends who was leading a tour for middle and high schoolers had to answer some insensitive questions.

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MSU Senior tour guide gives her last tour in a cap and gown on April 29, 2023.

Carlson, led the first tour once operations resumed, said that MSU told tour guides if they were asked uncomfortable questions, they were allowed to end the tour and guides could leave right then and there.

Biochemistry and molecular biology/biotechnology sophomore Madison Enviya, who was in training to become a tour guide, said she feels like this policy has been helpful, and she has felt supported by MSU

“They did a very good job, I think, about the whole situation,” Enviya said. “They gave us support, like links to stuff to help us out. I know my tour guide class instructor emailed us separately too, and was like, 'If you guys need anything from me or the other supervisors that are in your class, we're always here to help.' And then the class that we did coming back, we spent like a little bit just talking about it.”

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Greenspan also said she was appreciated MSU tours giving tour guides the time to heal, the flexibility to return and the option to end tours

But even when given the option to take an extended break, Greenspan said she was ready to go back to tours right away. She said while she was worried about what she might be asked, she likes knowing she’s making an impact on high schoolers’ college decisions, even if they decide not to come to MSU.

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A tour group enters Emmons Hall for a better look at dorm life on April 29, 2023.

For her, going back to work was an essential part of the healing process.

“One of my favorite things about giving tours is that it reconfirms how much I love MSU because I just sit there for an hour and a half and talk about how much I love MSU,” Greenspan said. “I think that was kind of what I needed afterwards.”

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