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College senior Travis Mager leads a tour outside Houston Hall on Monday. Due to the SAC moratorium, campus tour guides are changing what they tell visitors.

Credit: Ellen Frierson

Campus tour guides can no longer say that it would be easy to start an Icelandic language course at Penn.

While much of the tour content stays the same from year to year, the Office of Admissions is now instructing tour guides, who are members of the Kite and Key Society, to say less about starting new clubs or language courses.

An Engineering sophomore and tour guide, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was given these instructions over the summer, when he was giving tours for summer visitors.

“I remember from high school visits that you could start [a club], from Penn and every other tour I went on,” the tour guide said. “At the time of training, [starting a club] was still kosher as matzah ball soup, so I was told that was an important thing and to specifically mention that on all my tours.”

Penn currently has over 500 clubs, according to Assistant Manager of On-Campus Programs Marissa Meyers. “[Penn] doesn’t have the funding to be able to have 1000 clubs,” Meyers said. “It’s a little hard now that there are so many clubs that need funding.”

Related: What’s going on with the SAC moratorium?

However, the decision to remove this information from tours predated the Student Activities Council’s moratorium, Associate Vice Provost of Student Affairs Hikaru Kozuma said in an email. The moratorium prevents new student groups from receiving SAC funding.

“While it is true that any student can start a group, we want to make sure incoming students know that not all groups receive SAC recognition and funding,” Kozuma said. “We encourage students to pursue their passions at Penn, but want them to understand that they may not receive funding for their organizations.”

Formerly, tour guides also informed prospective students that the University would find an instructor for any language a student wanted to study.

This is something that campus tour guides no longer say. Academic Director of the Penn Language Center Christina Frei said that her main concern is being able to provide credit for the languages students want to take.

Related: Penn Admissions sees new high in ED applicants

The Penn Language Center wants students to take languages that fulfill the language requirement, which requires students to complete four semesters of a language or pass out of the requirement via a placement test or Advanced Placement score.

The challenge, Frei said, is to find an instructor that is a native speaker and is also pedagogically trained. Less emphasis was placed on formal pedagogical training under the old guidelines.

“We have to be a little more thoughtful of this bold statement that you can learn any language you want at the University of Pennsylvania, and we’ll find any instructor for you,” Frei said. “We sort of backed off.”

While it is still possible for students to start a credit-bearing language course, Frei said that starting a non-credit course is much simpler. Last year, Penn offered a non-credit Haitian Creole class to a group of six students who came together to learn the language for research in the Dominican Republic.

“We don’t necessarily have the capacity to teach every new language that a student would want to have,” Meyers said. “Instead of advertising that … it’s just something that they can find out when they get here.”

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