UCSD myths do a disservice to students

    “”Ever hear the one about Geisel?”

    Apparently, the concrete support arms that surround the main section were an afterthought, necessary to sustain the building’s structural integrity after the architect “forgot” to include the weight of the books in the original design. It’s sinking, too.

    Or so goes the myth, first mentioned long ago by some intrepid UCSD student and since spread by word of mouth.

    There’s also the one about the Sun God statue: Make a wish as you walk beneath its arch, and it will come true. This myth is a bit less well known. I’ve been here four years and have yet to see someone make a wish. Nor have I heard this myth spread by anyone not employed by the university.

    There are myths about UCSD, and then there is misinformation — a blatant disregard for the truth.

    This columnist’s audit of three specific campus tours on Jan. 25, Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 revealed misinformation being spread by some of UCSD’s College Ambassadors — a euphemism for “campus tour guides.”

    Other than the library, UCSD’s most recognizable symbols are arguably the Koala, the Sun God and the Triton. Only the Triton escaped the clutches of inventive tour guides.

    When Koala members along the tour route respectfully offered their newspaper to passersby, a few tour members grabbed copies. The tour guide that day immediately called out, “That paper has nothing to do with UCSD. It receives no funding from the school, the people who run it have nothing to do with us.” He then showed the official student newspaper: the UCSD Guardian. The difference between the two, he said, was that the student government funds the Guardian (it actually does not), and it does not fund the Koala (it really does).

    The guide mangled the Sun God festival, too. The “$2 million festival” (actually less than $200,000) was funded entirely by the university (actually funded by the A.S. Council), according to Andrew.

    According to another tour guide, the university named Price Center after Sol Price, the woman who founded Costco. It is the central gathering place for UCSD’s 15,000 undergraduates, many of whom have classes in Peterson Hall, named after Jack in the Box founder Jack Peterson. UCSD’s own on-campus fire station protects these buildings. New buildings under construction in the Student Center expansion will include an “international market and grill.”

    Speaking of international, UCSD evidently has an “international school” and multiple “international centers” spread throughout the campus.

    Not quite.

    Sol Price was a man, and he founded Price Club, not Costco. There are 20,210 undergraduates as of winter 2005, the founder of Jack in the Box is named Robert and there is no on-campus fire station.

    Student Center will not have an “international market and grill,” whatever that means. Neither does UCSD have an international school (the closest thing is the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies). Although UCSD sends hundreds of its students abroad, there is only one International Center on campus — and that’s more than many other schools.

    Some guides treated the parents and students on the tour not only to a deluge of false information about the campus, but granted an interesting take on the college system as well.

    This columnist’s home is Earl Warren College, which one ambassador described as having “no well-roundedness” and “straightforward objectives.” It’s a “career-oriented” college, he said, with minimal general education requirements — all of which must be in the same relative field as the student’s major.

    Another tour guide had apparently never even been to Warren. When asked to point it out, she stood at the edge of Warren Mall and actually gestured toward a path that, if followed, would lead the wayward student through an ecological preserve, then to Interstate 5.

    She also claimed that Warren required an academic internship as part of its general education, and that its philosophy was “bridging the gap between industry and education.”

    All of that is wrong.

    Cataloguing these tour guides’ transgressions may seem nitpicky, but giving incorrect information about academic requirements is probably the worst offense a representative of the university can commit. What separates each college is a different theme and separate GE requirements, both of which these tour guides mangled. They each cited wildly varying GE requirements for each college, showing a lack of uniformity even in their incompetence. This misinformation does a disservice to the new admits and their parents, some of whom were actually taking notes during the tour.

    Assuming guides undergo the same training, or at least read the same campus welcome brochure, there is no real excuse for such varied descriptions of the campus. Of course, there are competent tour guides as well. Among them are seniors who have been involved in campus life for their entire academic careers and know the campus inside and out. It’s a shame that all of them aren’t like that.

    Oh, and the Geisel Library myths? Debunked at http://libraries.ucsd.edu/services/legends.htm.

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