Disorientation Spring 2017: A Guide to Campus Activism


Students arriving back from spring break on Saturday were treated to a special release party for a long-awaited staple of Wesleyan activism: Disorientation, the annual guide compiled by campus activists to, in their own words, “serve as a resource for students looking to get involved with political organizing on campus.”

Disorientation is a tradition that has, in some form or another, existed since the 1970s. In addition to serving as a guide for student activists, it’s meant to 1) act as a counterbalance to the admin-approved information that new students and prefrosh receive during campus tours, WesFest, and the official Orientation sessions, and 2) keep a historical record of campus activism, protests, and organizing, as well as administrative failures from the perspective of students. The latter is especially important because, like most four-year universities, Wesleyan’s institutional memory is short, and keeping activist movements alive on campus is difficult when there’s a constant turnover of students. Disorientation acts, in part, as a reference for those wondering what issues have been central to campus discourse in the past, and what methods can be reutilized for future organizational efforts.

The guide’s most recent iteration formed in Fall of 2014, spearheaded by Abby Cunniff ’17 and Claire Marshall ’17. It’s primarily been presented as an online PDF, posted to WesAdmits around the beginning of fall semester, but also has been distributed as a paper zine. You can view the Spring 2017 issue (edited by Abby and Paige Hutton ’18), as well as our breakdown of what’s in it, after the jump:

This issue of Disorientation includes:

  • A recap of last semester, focusing mainly on the Scott Backer revelations and the events that transpired as a result.
  • The recent Wes Needs CAPS campaign, highlighting the many ways in which Wesleyan does a poor job of treating mental health when compared to other universities. The article also explains the steps that have so far been taken to making improvements, such as finally hiring a full-time APRN and an additional full-time psychotherapist.
  • The demonstrations towards making Wesleyan a sanctuary campus. (As the disclaimer notes, this is only one small portion of the anti-racist and anti-xenophobic activism that Wesleyan students have participated in since the election.)
  • A very useful explanation of how the University’s Board of Trustees operates, what their demographics are like, and the past interactions that students have had with the Board.
  • A section on “Dark Money,” basically examining the dubious ways in which Wesleyan has acquired wealth in the past. Primarily it looks at how the men whom various campus buildings are named after (Exley, Davison, etc.) had the means to donate such large sums of money to the school. It also looks at donors’ roles in infrastructure decisions, and how a recent boycott and list of demands made by the school’s track team brought these issues to light.
  • A section on Veg Out, a new campus group that “aims to spread awareness of how the animal agriculture industry causes environmental destruction, human health issues, social inequality, and animal cruelty.”
  • A timeline of incidents pertaining to race and racism that have occurred on campus since Wesleyan’s founding.
  • A breakdown of common misunderstandings and misconceptions related to anti-racism and colorblindness.
  • A history of fossil fuel divestment at Wesleyan.
  • “The USLAC Guide to Organizing,” focusing on rights for Bon Appetit food service workers.
  • A brief description of the Student Union, along with their mission statement and the full transcript of their press release. (The Student Union were the main organizers of the Open House tour interruptions and protests.)
  • A history/timeline of how the University has interacted with indigenous lands/peoples, particularly in relation to Indian Hill, which was once a Wangunk community site and burial ground.
  • Statements from Wesleyan Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.
  • A guide to using Transformative Justice (TJ) and accountability processes when confronting sexual violence on campus.
  • Contact info for The Workshop, an art workshop and organizational space in Hewitt 8 that was created by students last year.
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