Luckily, this is not a question I get often as I lead campus tours for prospies (prospective students) and their parents. More typical questions deal with the conceptions and misconceptions that non-Reedies generally have about the college. For two years in a row as an admission office employee, I led between five and ten tours a week throughout the summer. During that time, I heard it all.
"Do professors really hand out psychedelic mushrooms at the freshman lectures?"
"Is sex offered for PE?"
"Do you have a good football team?"
"I want to come here because you don't have grades so I won't have to work hard."
There were also blissful tours where I led parents and prospies who had actually done their homework and were truly excited about Reed. For them, entering the thesis tower was not a number of annoying stairs at the end of an hour-long trek around campus. No, for these people, the tower represented something else entirely: ambition, pride, beauty? I don't really know for sure. But there were those who, in the presence of so much senior-year effort, got a bit misty-eyed, parents and prospies alike.
These were the ones who asked careful questions about the honor principle and conference classes, and who gasped, not in horror, but in excitement (and horror) over the existence of the junior qual and thesis orals. They were the ones I privileged (or tortured, perhaps) with stories of the Doyle Owl, the MG under the library, and the possibility of the reincarnation of Reed alumni as Reed dogs. They were the ones who coveted the "Atheism, Communism, Free Love" t-shirts. In short, they were fledgling Reedies, wide-eyed parents in tow.
In the teenage prospies, I could frequently see my younger, more obnoxious self, but I had no frame of reference for their parents. Sometimes they seemed doting, sometimes over-protective. Regardless, parents' questions of student safety and quality of life were all met with much scorn and drawn-out whines of "M-o-o-o-m" and "D-a-a-a-a-d" from their beloved offspring. I recognized that response. In fact, I spent a great deal of those two summers calling and apologizing to my parents.
And it was often the parents who were the best or worst aspects of the tour. They were, for the most part, more vocal than their children. At times this could be incredibly frustrating, especially if they went on and on about their own college experiences to the extent that their children couldn't ask about Reed. It could also be fairly insulting. After answering a question about typical Reed career paths, a father said, "And you give tours."
"Yes, I give tours."