A group of UC Berkeley students have created an alternative guide to the campus and are releasing copies this week. The packet, termed “Disorientation Guide,” features over 20 articles highlighting rarely-discussed aspects of Berkeley. It is meant to show student perspectives from the campus’s activist core.
The introduction to the Guide explains its purpose and philosophy. It reads, “This is the 2010 Cal Disorientation Guide. It was created as an anti-orientation guide. As the guide you will never get from CalSO, your dorm, or the Daily Cal. We seek to guide you to a real college experience, not the tame, watered-down, mass-produced, and ultimately forgettable college experience some have decided to settle for.” CalSO is the student orientation session for new freshmen and transfers, and the Daily Cal is the campus’s student-run newspaper.
A previous Disorientation Guide was published in 2008, but none was organized last year. Ricardo Gomez, External Affairs Vice President for the Associated Students of the University of California, saw a need for a student-created alternative publication. He contacted members of different campus communities over summer, including undergraduates, graduates, workers, alumni, and faculty. The group visioned the publication, wrote articles and updated old ones, formatted pages, and created the entire Guide independently. They received 3200 print copies last week.
“We want to share the untold student perspective through the Guide,” said Alex Ghenis, author of “Disability Rights at Cal” and “Living at a Co-Op,” two Guide articles. “University officials tell students basic campus information, but we have a voice and insights that are arguably much more important.”
Content in the Guide varies from informative to radical and is broken into three sections: Features, History, and Resources. Articles include “A People's History of People's Park,” “The Berkeley-British Petroleum Research Deal,” and "On Being A Student Of Color @ Cal." There are also several lists, including “Uncle Ivan's Words That Will Get You An A+ On Your Paper,” "Know Your Rights," and "Progressive Education at Cal.”
Articles largely present critiques of the University or discuss non-mainstream movements. Disability Rights at Cal, for example, outlines the history of the Rolling Quads—the first group of students with physical disabilities to attend Cal, including Berkeley legend Ed Roberts—in their struggle for education and independent living in the 1960s. Most disability rights scholars credit Roberts and the Rolling Quads with beginning the modern disability rights movement.
Matt Senate, an author and co-editor for the guide, said, “This guide seeks to make public many socially or politically discouraged discussions and information the powers that be do not want freely and widely available to students—in the name of justice and equality.” Senate wrote on the Open Education Movement, which advocates more available education through free digital academic media such as PDF textbooks and journals.
“The Open Education Movement is concerned with changes that simply make sense,” and would increase the affordability and flow of knowledge, said Senate. “But it is up to us to organize to implement these changes in a way that reflects the needs of students.” Many other articles argue similar student necessities, demands, and methods of empowerment.
Gomez has already received positive feedback on the publication. “From students, to workers, to faculty, to folks from other universities, the response to the Cal Disorientation Guide has been great and people are thirsty for counter-narratives,” he said. On Sunday and Monday, Gomez passed out copies of the guide at the University’s “Caltopia,” where incoming students perused tables of free goods and campus information. “People were really interested,” said Gomez, “the Guides were snatched up and students were talking. That’s exactly what we wanted.”
Ghenis served as President of the Disabled Students’ Union last year and is currently Vice President of External Affairs of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, the focuses of both his articles. However, the Guide was not formed in any official capacity, he said. “This is its own beast,” said Ghenis, “we all took areas of expertise and wrote what students need to know, but we did it as an independent group. Articles don’t even have author’s names—well, minus UCMeP [the UC Movement for efficient Privatization] pretending to be Mark Yudof. They used an asterisk to avoid too much trouble.” Yudof is the President of the University of California system, and some students argue he is rapidly privatizing campus services.
In the end, students claim an ultimate goal is to get others involved in important student activism. Daniel Kronovet, a Guide reader and friend of the collaborative group, feels that it will give some students direction. “Many students come to Cal looking to get involved with something meaningful,” he said. “This Guide shows them an entire dimension of opportunities that they might have never seen otherwise.”
The Guide is available online at http://caldisorientation.org/ and copies will be distributed around campus in the coming weeks. 3200 copies have already been ordered and are available at Eshleman Hall in Lower Sproul Plaza. For more information, email caldisorientation2010@gmail.