Several members of MU’s outbound Tiger Hostess program say its merger this fall with the campus’ Visitor Relations Tour Team might make athletic recruitment too impersonal.
“You make friends with the recruit, you spend a lot of time with them and make them feel comfortable with Mizzou,” said sophomore Alicia Hammond, who would have been a Tiger Hostess this fall. “The change is not necessarily a bad thing, but it won’t have the same effect this year.”
When it was under the athletic department’s oversight, the Tiger Hostess program matched female students with athletic recruits in order to acquaint them with the campus and the community during their visits. Officials have not announced specific details for the combined programs yet, although they said the change will take effect this fall semester.
Earlier this month, MU decided to place the hostess program under the direction of the more general welcome service. The change comes after an anonymous source claiming to be a former Tiger Hostess accused recruits of sexual harassment in the September issue of Seventeen magazine. In a press release, MU officials said the merger and the Seventeen article are not related.
Several of the 2004-05 hostesses said they had never experienced incidents similar to those described in the Seventeen article, nor had they heard similar claims from fellow members. About 50 women were listed as Tiger Hostesses for 2004-05.
“I’ve never had any experience like that,” said Whitney Eaton, in her second year as a hostess. “We were always shown respect and we gave recruits respect.”
Now, men and women will welcome prospective student-athletes as well as parents, visiting professors and future students to campus, said Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs.
Scroggs said the Tour Team might have to increase its size — usually 40 tour guides — to accommodate the large number of recruits in the fall, but the athletic department and the office of visitor relations have yet to discuss any other aspects of the integration. She said she didn’t know when the departments would meet.
“I am sure in the coming days I will be having more discussions with the visitor relations office and the athletic program to determine how we can best meet the needs of the university and the football program,” said Marc Long, university affairs director. He said he wasn’t sure what type of people the Tour Team would seek to welcome recruits now that the programs are combined.
Senior Christi Brown, who has been a Tiger Hostess for one year, said she expected the change would be gradual and mild. A campus tour would help educate the players, she said, but in the end they’d probably feel more comfortable getting to know the hostesses and the coaches.
“It is just going to be a generic tour and team,” Brown said.
Brown also said she received a letter from MU athletic director Mike Alden informing her of the program’s merge, but it didn’t outline the specifics of the new program. At a meeting to be held at the beginning of fall semester, the hostesses will have a chance to ask questions and discuss the change, she said.
Junior Jamie Vanison, who would have been a Tiger Hostess for the first time in the fall, said having the hostesses work as part of the tour team will show the rest of the campus that they have a larger role than just “taking athletes out to eat.” She said she is still looking forward to the program despite its transformation and despite the recent accusations of illicit behavior.
“I know I am a Christian, and I know what I’d do with the recruits and know what we are supposed to be doing,” Vanison said. “By integrity and honesty — that’s what is keeping me going. I am not going to back out of the program just because of someone else’s experiences.”