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Check it out: Carleton’s Disorientation Guide.

November 14, 2009

This summer(?) some incredible Carleton students began work on a “disorientation guide”- an alternative to the silly orientation guides you got as freshman – and its finally out! It contains the real shit you need to know at college – like learning to love your body, how to be a white ally, the definition of consent and setting boundaries for yourself. I mean it’s not perfect, but I think it’s pretty fucking cool. It such an important step in defining our community, in really looking at it and creating a set of expectations for how we’ll treat each other within it. In the editors words:

Despite it’s shortcomings, we hope this guide will serve as a jumping-off point in thinking of ways to support each other and yourself. Your participation in this community defines the community; and we’re excited for what you can change and experience in the next four years.

Disorient yourself!

**Update: When I posted this, I wasn’t aware of all the controversy swirling around this guide on campus. I had simply heard about the guide in the past (when I was requested to write for it) and found that I liked the results. I understand that people have been hurt by what has/has not been included in the guide, but I would like to remind that I see it as a project of people trying to define what the Carleton community is for them, and their own expectations, as they said – your participation in the community inherently shapes (and adds to) it. I’ll try to respond more to comments made about its content soon, because these reactions are also part of the process.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:06 PM

    I’m impressed. This is getting printed out for further perusal.

    This kind of thing makes me proud to be an alum.

  2. Marie permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:01 AM

    Actually, I was very disappointed by the disorientation guide. It showed the exact “false liberal” mind set that originally “disoriented” me at Carleton. The idea (which is common at other schools too) was nice, but in practice, the people who submitted only represent a small portion of the student body. For example, I find it offensive that people use swear words around me. I find that it indicates a general disrespect for me as a person. However, if I asked one of those people that compiled that list to not say swear words, they would probably get mad at me. Saying that calling somebody crazy is making fun of mentally ill people is actually belittling (I am mentally ill), because it’s implying that all mentally ill people are essentially crazy. Some of the articles were good, but they were definitely in the minority. Some of the articles were completely misinformed. Teaching people in other countries about sanitation and disease is not imposing Western culture on people. It’s teaching them to survive. Thousands of people around the world die every day due to problems relating to water sanitation and disease. How can you possibly say that preventing these deaths is NeoColonialism? Whatever happened to love for one’s fellow man (or woman, to be appropriately PC)? I’m sorry, but the superficial changes advocated by this booklet can actually be hurtful, not helpful.
    Note: I am a current student.

    • happybodies permalink
      November 21, 2009 3:06 PM

      Hey Marie, I’m not sure exactly what you mean by the”false liberal” mindset, but I do welcome your critiques of the Disorientation Guide, because it’s an important part of the dialogue that I think the guide should promote.

      I’m not sure if you know the creators of this guide, but I know the majority of them and I do think they tried to reach out to a wide population, and am sure they would respect that you feel disrespected by swearing, and think it’s valid. The reason why the specific words were chosen for the list, I think, is because they are repressive to marginalized groups, because of their identity. Even if you do not wish to change your language, it’s important to recognize that language is connected to power and that these words do exercise power over specific groups of people. I completely respect your feeling about the word “crazy” and what is empowering to you – but as you know, people with mental illnesses are not all the same or identify the same way, and some do find the light use of the term “crazy” as offensive. Again, I think we should consider this guide about dialogue, not as hard and fast rules on how to be at Carleton.

      On your critique of “thoughts about service work abroad” I don’t think the author meant that water sanitation and health weren’t human rights, but that we must consider our approach to development aid. Mindsets in which we think that only we have something to offer the global south, and not vice versa, does reinforce colonialism by creating a victim/liberator dichotomy which removes agency from people. While I believe that we have many responsibilities to poorer countries, especially because Western institutions are so involved with keeping them poor, we must really think about our approach – because many in the past have been more hurtful than helpful. A concrete example is the Structural Adjustment Programs, which create requirements on loans given to “developing” countries by the IMF and World Bank. See: or Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People

      Sorry for the late response and thanks for your comments.

  3. Abram permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:11 AM

    My room mate and I were checking out the disorientation guide last night (specifically the part about not saying “guys” a word that frankly, I don’t think I’m willing to give up) and ran through an interesting thought experiment:
    Alternatives to “guys” when addressing a group of girls:
    “Hey ladies”
    “What’s up girls”
    Alternatives to “dude” when addressing a girl”
    “Hey girl”
    “Hey woman”

    Last time I checked, I was a sexist if I ever dared to utter any of the above.

    We concluded that “dude” and “guys” were necessary gender-neutral acknowledgments of friendship.

    Apparently we just can’t win.

    • Jill permalink
      November 16, 2009 12:37 AM

      No need to be so defeated. Here are some we have come up with:

      “Hey everyone!”
      “What’s up ya’ll!”
      “How’s it going, team?”

      Addressing an individual woman, “Hey there,” “Hey [name],” or “How’s it going?” should be perfectly acceptable, no? I sometimes use “Hey lady!” but I know that some women prefer that I don’t use that toward them (so I don’t).

      The important point to take away from that article is that, if someone tells you that how you address them is marginalizing, erasing, or hurtful, you should take their word for it. You may have groups of female friends who absolutely don’t care if you refer to them as “guys,” but that doesn’t mean that it’s fair to assume that ALL women feel that way. I know, for me, I’m still working on using more gender-neutral words (“guys” is really hard for me to let go of too!), but ultimately, to those women who feel excluded by the word “guys,” trying to lose it means a whole lot.

    • Laura permalink
      November 26, 2009 11:53 AM

      Certainly no one can change the words you use, or should force you to do so. With that in mind, I will share a quote from a comment from the blog Feminists with Disabilities, in response to a post of theirs about language:

      “[By saying its hard to change language and not changing the words they use] Those people are essentially telling the people marginalized: your marginalization is an acceptable cost for my continued thoughtlessness. My ability to never address my privilege is more important than your basic human dignity.”

      While we’re at it, how about I just post the article itself?

      And to be super generous, here’s another!

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