Toward the end of the summer, several students came together to create a “Wesleyan University Disorientation Guide” to shape an alternative narrative of the University’s institutional history.
Eight editors are credited with assembling this year’s edition: Seamus Edson ’18, Abby Cunniff ’17, Maya McDonnell ’16, Amy Mattox ’17, Kate Pappas ’18, R. Nelson ’16, Deren Ertas ’16, and Xinyu Zhu ’16. Several other students have also contributed to the sections of the document, referred to as “discontents.”
The guide includes information about homelessness in Middletown and issues related to classism, ableism, mental health, race and racism, queerness, trans issues, sexual violence, labor, divestment, climate justice, justice in Palestine, and general activism at the University.
“This guide does not address all of Wesleyan’s history nor all of the current organizing on campus,” the document reads. “This document is a tool, created by a collective of students committed to learning and organizing, to combat short-term institutional memory, and bridge the gap between our ideals and our behavior. While in many ways we stand against the institution in which we all find ourselves, we also recognize our own complicity within this system—none of us are free from reproducing oppression, either interpersonally or structurally.”
This year, The Hermes, a student-run progressive political publication, took over production of the guide. Cunniff played a large role in organizing the contributors and getting content.
“[Edson] did almost all of the production work and [McDonnell] did a lot of heavy lifting with editing and copy editing,” Cunniff said. “[McDonnell and Horowitz] did a lot of [event] coordination.”
McDonnell discussed her undertaking of coordinating the events.
“It’s a pretty fluid process,” she said. “I got in touch with students planning events just to coordinate and get information together to advertise together. Each event is planned by different student groups.”
According to the document, the goal of the guide is to inform students of perceived issues and that change in the community begins with a rejection of the status quo.
Cunniff discussed how the 2015 guide differed from the Disorientation guides published in previous years. Specifically, the organizers aimed to encourage students who organized events to write and edit content.
“The Ankh editors chose and edited all the content for the race section and Eero [Talo ’16] wrote the intros for the trans and queer sections,” Cunniff said. “Chloe Murtagh ’15 wrote a more narrativized version for the sexual violence page, [and] Sophie Sokolov [’18] wrote an amazing climate justice article.”
McDonnell also spoke to the evolving nature of the guide.
“The process for writing was a little different this year because we were able to work off of last year’s document and pay careful attention to feedback we had received to make it better,” McDonnell said. “It still has a ways to go as a document, but it’s exciting that it can continue on, adapt, and evolve each year in this process.”
Aidan Martinez ’17 contributed to the document’s classicism section.
“I think the guide is a good stab at trying to get people to educate themselves on social justice,” Martinez said. “The editors were fantastic at reaching out to every affected segment on campus, but there were still some stories that couldn’t be included.”
For students who want to become involved, several Disorientation events will be held in the coming week. There are several events being held on Thursday, September 10.
At 4 p.m., students will be able to visit the University Organizing Center (UOC) on 190 High Street to meet with the staff of The Ankh, the University’s student of color newspaper. Following that, there will be a UOC Open House for students to tour the Anti-Oppression Library (a space that collects literature pertaining to persecuted groups), the Queer Resource Center, The Hermes, Redfeather Studios (a student-run recording studio), and the Sound Co-op, and to learn about The Ankh and the community’s political action groups.
In addition, the Wesleyan Doula Project will host an information session for those interested in joining the country’s only college campus-based doula project at 5:30 p.m. Following that, there will be a Society for Students Underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). A mixer at 41 Wyllys Room 115 will provide students with the opportunity to ask upperclassmen about their experiences with STEM at the University.
Later that evening, at 7:30 p.m., members of the Coalition for Divestment and Transparency will hold a teach-in on divestment in Albritton Room 311. The teach-in will focus on their interpretations on the use of divestment and the interrelation of the prison industry, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the fossil fuel industry.
On the following day at 3:00 p.m., there will be a Student of Color Coalition meeting in 41 Wyllys Room 114 for students to discuss resources and plan ways to strengthen this community. Next, at 4:30 p.m., a Radical Judaism discussion in The Bayit (157 Church Street) will be held for students to learn about Jewish ideology and practice.
That evening, students can attend a QTPOC Mixer at the Asian/Asian American House (107 High Street) for queer and trans people of color to meet one another.
Cunniff explained that this guide is intended not only for first-year students.
“I think the guide is geared toward anyone interested learning in another side of Wesleyan’s history and the issues on campus,” Cunniff said. “But yeah, we target freshmen specifically because we want to make this accessible to them early in their time at Wes.”
As for later this fall, the group plans to host events including a “Right Now! After Charleston” panel on Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Allbritton Room 311.
Martinez added that the group plans to continue to improve Disorientation in the future.
“I think Disorientation is a snapshot of what happens at Wes and it’s important that we let new students know that they have a story worth sharing too,” Martinez said. “Silence isn’t the answer.”