Disorientation Guides


A collection of disorientation guides from colleges across North America.

Universities are among the most widely celebrated institutions of white imperialism worldwide. The university is known both for the experiences it provides to those lucky enough to become its students—formally, a center of intellectual and professional stimulation and education; informally, a sanctuary for partying and fucking with minimal societal constraint—and the lifetime of social prestige and economic privilege it is expected to provide to its graduates in return for thousands of dollars of tuition. Indeed, the financial benefits are seen by those new to university campuses as the primary reason to work towards a degree. But though the economic framing is ubiquitous and compelling, university administrators also try to win new students’ loyalty with orientation programs, in which several days of social activities with other students and programming from the institution are supposed to foster a deep and emotional attachment to the school.

In response to the school handbooks distributed with these orientation programs on campuses every fall, student activists with a critical outlook on their campus and society at large have for years assembled disorientation guides, designed to communicate a threefold message: 1) everything is not alright, despite what they’re telling you; 2) if you think everything is not alright, you’re not alone; 3) this is where you can find those of us who refuse to accept the status quo and will work to change it. In the interests of making sure new students are fully prepared to continue their schooling, we’ve put together a short list of disorientation guides for and by (primarily undergraduate) students for the 2014-2015 academic year, based on our own research and a Twitter call for submissions.

Aside from the length of list below, its constitution of elite private and public schools in the United States and Canada will likely raise more than a few eyebrows. Since disorientation guides (and pamphlets assembled in a similar tradition) predate the widespread use of PDFs and websites for distribution, it’s wrong to read this as if the students assembling the guides below were the first to do so. Perhaps this compilation can be the beginning of a collective project to create, as one former campus activist suggests, “the only healing response to violence of the university: to redistribute its wealth and knowledge potential to the spaces where these things are needed the most”. While the creators and intended audiences of these disorientation guides work towards egalitarian visions on their own campuses, it’s our hope that a wider group—attendees of schools unnamed, community and vocational college students, online students, middle and high schoolers, and people who never will or no longer have ties to the school system—will find in these links inspiration to do their own work in forging tools to take education, a social process of collective learning and growth, out of the hands of capital and the state and into the context of movements for liberation.

A note: bracketed links are to PDF guides, while websites are given in indented bullet points. “Read” indicates single-page PDFs, while “print” indicates imposed PDFs laid out for easier printing, folding, and stapling into a zine or booklet.


NYU Antiracist Organizing (2014)

NYU Diversity Proposal:


“I Too Am NYU” Campaign:


“I Too Am Harvard” (started by Black students at Harvard; inspiration for NYU organizing):


“I Too Am Oxford”



Self-Care Resources


  • Interactive self-care flowchart for days when you are not sure what you need: http://philome.la/jace_harr/you-feel-like-shit-an-interactive-self-care-guide/play
  • Sara Ahmed’s blog
  • Functionally Ill zine
  • Icarus Project
    • https://www.facebook.com/theicarusproject/
    • The Icarus Project is a support network and education project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness. We advance social justice by fostering mutual aid practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation. We transform ourselves through transforming the world around us.
  • Nalgona Positivity Pride
    • http://nalgonapride.tumblr.com
    • A Xicana/Brown*/Indigenous site that focuses on the intersection of eating disorders awareness, body positivity, and decolonizing body love.
  • Chani Nicholas horoscopes
  • Try making a list of the following:
    • who/what/where makes you feel nourished
    • Things that distract/engage me:
    • Things that relax me:
    • Things that give me more energy:
    • Things that make me happy:
  • Not everything is urgent: Prioritize what is urgent. Divide it from what is non-urgent, or what needs to be done today versus what can feasibly be done tomorrow.
  • Ideas for affirmations and emotional resets:
    • Practice observing when anxiety arises. Yours and others’. Practice witnessing fear when it shows up. Yours and others’. Practice naming the different emotions and thought patterns experienced throughout the day. It will help you to understand which to follow and which to just watch.
    • Before turning on your computer, say three things that you’re grateful for. Or keep naming things that you’re thankful for while your computer warms up and turns on. See how many you can come up with!
    • Put on a song and get up and dance for a couple minutes.
    • At the end of the day, take a minute to clean up your work space. Maybe splurge on some fresh flowers to put in a vase to brighten your day.
    • After you shut your computer down for the day, sit in your chair, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths.
    • Say no if you’re not in the mood to get a drink with friends, have people over for dinner, or go out.
    • Make your bed. Get some decorative throw pillows if they’ll make you smile.
    • Take time to do something artsy, like drawing or putting on music and dancing around.
    • While you’re washing dishes or brushing your teeth, tell yourself three things you like about yourself. Try to come up with different ideas every day.
    • Before going to sleep, close your eyes and think of a happy memory.
    • Before you get out of bed in the morning, close your eyes and think about what kind of day you want to have, maybe choosing some positive words to keep in mind for the day. Listen to your emotions and what they are telling you.


  • Gaslighting:
    • http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/things-wish-known-gaslighting/
    • The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. It happens when the person holding that belief feels threatened.
    • Manipulation usually centers around a direct or indirect threat that is made in order to influence another person’s behavior. Gaslighting uses threats as well
    • Gaslighting, when effective, will actually damage your trust in yourself and your experience of reality.
    • It’s normal to lose your memory when you’re being gaslighted.
    • No one should use shame or fear to try to get you to change. When they do this, they’re not asking for change – they’re asking for control.
    • I would like to propose that one solution to feeling less susceptible to gaslighting is to learn how to identify the objective of a conversation. A conversation with the purpose of mutuality should not make you feel afraid, ashamed, disoriented, or confused.
    • You don’t have to figure out what it is they’re doing, you only have to figure out what you are feeling. You only have to know when mutuality is no longer the objective, and learn how to stop engaging when that happens.
  • Abuse:
  • Gender-based:
    • Women: https://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/ a continually updated blog consisting of female graduate students and faculty submitting reports and letters about their experiences, especially sexual harassment, abuse, gendered discrimination, isolation, etc. Philosophy specific, but may be resonant issues/experiences