Various orientation packets were distributed by the University to new students during orientation last week, but a new, student-produced guide surfaced Monday.
Called the “Disorientation Guide *The S**t Penn Won’t Say,” the booklet is an expansive critique of Penn's administration and school culture. It contains articles by 15 Penn students on a range of issues including incidents of racism and sexual assault on campus, as well as challenges faced by first-generation, low-income students at Penn.
“Congrats, you’ve made it to the top university in the world!!” writes the opening sentence in the guide. “There are a few things we forgot to mention in your glossy orientation packets. Like our larger white capitalist imperialist values that are central to the core of our money sucking busine — err higher-education institution.”
University spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy did not respond to request for comment.
College senior Miru Osuga was one of the students behind the guide. She came up with the idea after hearing about similar guides being made at Wesleyan University and Cornell University.
“There were all these guides that covered a huge amount of topics that I wish I had access to when I was a freshman,” Osuga said. “And I thought that if I had seen this information when I had come in, and just really know what was going on at Penn, there would be so many other students who would want access to this information as well.”
The introduction of the guide says that it's a “resource for people fighting injustice and a documentation of Penn’s blunders and resulting campus activism.”
The first piece in the guide, titled “History and Tradition: Penn’s Legacy of Racism,” discusses the experiences of the first black students to attend the University.
Author of the article and College senior Kellie Ramdeen said she felt compelled to write the section because she wasn't aware of these issues until she attended an African American Arts Alliance presentation.
“I thought about how I had no clue about any of it until that presentation because Penn is so proud of its diversity,” Ramdeen said.
The guide also includes a section written by Students for Justice in Palestine, which includes information about initiatives that they have organized on campus like the Apartheid Wall and the Gaza memorial. These were organized "as a visual reminder reminder of the ruthlessness of occupation and war," the guide states.
"SJP’s goal has always been to expose the human rights issues in Palestine, and for us it is a human rights issue," Osuga said. "Just like brutality and violence against people’s bodies and that space — I think that piece speaks for itself in terms of what injustice they’re trying to expose."
Penn Hillel did not respond to request for comment.
Not all students are fans of the guide.
"The guide deals with some issues, but the trouble is they mix the real issues with what I regard as left-wing, politicized fanaticism," said Michael Moroz, the co-director of the College Republicans' editorial board and a College and Wharton sophomore.
"It accuses this University of being a white supremacist organization that excludes any other people from participating any other people from participating, which of course, we know is not true," Moroz added. "The University of Pennsylvania, as an institution, is not systematically and routinely discriminating against people of other races, and in fact, it's proactively trying to include more of them in the student body."
But Moroz also said the guide raised important points such as class issues as well as the University's troubled history with mental health.
"One of few things I agreed with was [the guide's] discussion about class issues at Penn," he said. "My parents were born out of the country. I'm on financial aid, so I do recognize... there is a challenge in kind of, existing in a social sphere where many people are much wealthier than you are — I certainly understand that."
The disorientation guide was also meant to show that student activism was vibrant on Penn’s campus, Osuga said. In a piece entitled “Stop Killing Ethnic Studies!!,” an anonymous author discusses Penn students' protests to increase support for the Asian American Studies Program. The department has historically been underfunded, and last semester, students rallied for increased legitimacy for the program on College Green.
College sophomore Jessica Li said she read the guide after seeing several students share the link to it on Facebook.
“From reading the introduction, I was like ‘wow, this is exactly what we need,’” Li said. “Because I think it says a lot of issues that the Penn administration would never, ever say, and we have a history of covering up issues that need to be talked about.”
Senior News Editor Rebecca Tan contributed reporting.
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