The issue of why hosts are only allowed to have prospective students, or “prospies,” in certain areas of the St. Olaf campus is a much-debated subject. As someone who has accepted the job of hosting many prospective students in the past year, I feel I am qualified to speak to this issue. There are both pros and cons that come with only allowing hosts to show prospies around a limited version of St. Olaf’s campus, that excludes the honor houses, natural lands and downtown Northfield.
I will start with the positives. I personally like the limitation of not being able to take prospies off the Hill because it does not create the expectation that the host will take the prospie into town. Often it is very hard to get into town unless one is willing to walk 30 minutes one way or has a car. I realize that downtown Northfield is integral to life at St. Olaf, but it is not feasible to be able to bring a prospie into town due to the limited time constraints.
The average prospie is with their host for a very short period of time. They often arrive around 3 p.m. and, after dropping their stuff off in the host’s room and taking a short tour around campus, it’s time to eat dinner. After dinner there is maybe time for one or two activities and then it’s time for bed because often the prospies have to be at the Admissions Office by 9 a.m. with breakfast consumed beforehand.
A trip to the Natural Lands, on the other hand, is a completely feasible activity for prospies and I think that the policy concerning the Natural Lands should be reviewed by St. Olaf. The Natural Lands are an integral part of the St. Olaf campus. Many people spend time in the Natural Lands, whether for academic reasons, for extracurricular activities or personal enjoyment. Prospies should get a feel for the Natural Lands if they are going to make an informed decision about choosing St. Olaf as their home for the next four years.
I also think that the policy around Honor Houses should be reviewed, but hosts should also keep in mind that the College has to consider the legal liability issues. Honor Houses, while they are a good part of St. Olaf’s social scene, present an issue for the administration. St. Olaf is a dry campus and it may be harder for Public Safety to monitor individual houses for code-breaking behavior. If a prospie gets drunk and/or injured, it becomes a legal liability that the College has to deal with. It is easier for the College to completely ban trips to the Honor Houses – thus avoiding all potential problems surrounding trips to them. However, the policy around the Honor Houses should be reviewed to allow for a system wherein the hosts could take prospies to Honor House events like the Library House’s reading parties or Muslim House’s game nights. These events are sponsored by each house and are no different than club-sponsored events on campus.
In addition, something to think about is that the parents want to ensure their child is in the hands of a responsible and considerate young adult. I often have to reassure parents that their child is going to be well taken care of. Ultimately, while the College could review some of the policies about where prospies can and cannot go, I think the safety and legal concerns around these policies have to be balanced with being able to give a prospective student a better feel of the campus that they might one day call home.
Jemma Serre ’21 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Cupertino, Calif. She majors in biology and psychology.