Student 'Disorientation Guide' seeks to 'decolonize your mind'

A group of 16 students at California Polytechnic State University produced an alternative guide for freshmen completing the university’s orientation program they call a “Disorientation Guide.” The students said they hope it will "decolonize your mind from the hold of the cissexist-imperialist-ableist-white-supremacist-capitalistic-patriarchal-society that has choked you so violently up until now.”

The guide also says, “there's a reason Ronald Reagan called Cal Poly his favorite University—it is a campus full of white apathetic robots who have never had to work for anything in their entire lives."

The guide has been in development since the end of the 2014-2015 academic year and appeared on the Disorientation Team website on September 11. The group created a GoFundMe in July to “print the guide and distribute it to every new Freshman” at the 20,000 student university. According to student newspaper Mustang News, the group only raised enough to print 100 copies, however the guide is available online.

A series of articles in the guide informs the reader of the issues he/she/ze should fight for. Among the featured causes are proper pronoun usage, higher salaries for faculty, lower tuition, combating the campus “fitness” culture, abolition of Greek life, and a list of “offensive” phrases to excise from one’s vocabulary. Handy lists of recommended reading, professors, and courses appear at the end of the guide.

The authors also provide a set of pressure tactics to navigate these agendas through perceived student and administrative apathy. The guide provides unflattering profiles of university officials and methods for dealing with them. President Jeffrey Armstrong is “[f]amous for finagling his way out of answering questions” but responds well to buzz words like “Learn by Doing” and “Campus Climate.” The authors claim not only will these phrases “rile him up” but also “sexually excite him.” Additionally, the guide claims President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey is a “professional blind-sider” but also “a very nice man, and is openly gay—use this to your advantage.”

In the chapter "The Revolution Will Be Funded," the author discusses methods for raising money to fund radical groups while lamenting that "it is incredibly annoying that we must feed into a capitalistic system to bring about this change."

Finally, a list of "Disorientation Questions to Ponder" includes a set of questions meant to challenge students, including the reasons for the student's choice of major and sources of injustice in society. Other questions include "Why are we socialized to view economic systems other than capitalism as evil?" and "Why has the United States never had a female president?"

The guide produced a mixed response on the group’s Facebook page. Sophomore Dan Canella labeled it “over the top and very preachy.” Senior Bailey Satterfield defended the authors, “These writers are taking a stand for what they believe in and trying to improve the world the best they know how to, which is more than a lot of people do.” Freshman Sam Chase called the guide “a truly amazing read” and that “[w]hile I, and likely the reader, won't necessarily agree with all points I think this will provide everyone with a greater understanding of Cal Poly.”

The Disorientation Team is not affiliated in any way with the Cal Poly administration or any official student group, although the guide does promote student groups including the Queer Student Union, Black Student Union, feminist community Triota, environmental organization Sierra Student Coalition, and protest group Cal Poly Activist Reserves. The team also informs readers that the articles were written independently and may not reflect the views of all of the writers.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JMietus