The newest edition of the Disorientation Guide, an annual publication which critiques the University’s impact on the surrounding community, was published on Aug. 24.
The guide is divided into essays that focus on Penn’s impact on it students and staff, as well as Philadelphia and the world. This year’s issue covers topics ranging from the demolition of the University City Townhomes to how Penn’s refusal to pay PILOTs impacts Philadelphia’s public schools.
College junior Megha Neelapu, an editor of the Disorientation Guide, said that the mission of the publication is to educate the student body, especially first years, and to serve as an introduction to the activist community on Penn’s campus.
“Our primary mission is to educate the student body. Specifically, we look to target freshmen,” Neelapu said.
The guide was first published in 2017. It was originally published in print, but switched to an exclusively online format in 2021. The guide’s student writers and editors are currently handing out and posting flyers around campus to publicize it.
Contributors to this year’s edition include Justice 4 Mackenzie, Natives at Penn, Penn Against the Occupation, the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes, and Police Free Penn. Contributors to the Disorientation Guide also published a Google Form with different topics that they hoped to cover, and they allowed students to submit pieces for publication.
College junior Timethius Terrell wrote an article for the guide on the history of the fight for cultural houses at Penn. Terrell said he found that typically cohorts will pass on information about activism year by year, but that events like the COVID-19 pandemic can disrupt the flow of information.
He added that some topics covered in the Disorientation Guide are not readily publicized by Penn, which is why he believes the Disorientation Guide is especially important.
"[The Disorientation Guide] is not like other brochures and things Penn offers that inform you about Penn, right?" Terrell said. "It's kind of [implied] in the name 'Disorientation Guide.'"
Neelapu added that the Disorientation Guide also serves as a historical record of activism on campus.
“We really try to cover as many issues as we possibly can and try to have an article on as many things as we can,” Neelapu said. “A lot of knowledge and history and experience gets lost every four years because you have undergraduates graduating. Honestly, Penn kind of relies on that, after one one activist space cycles out and if we don’t pass on our knowledge, then I don’t think we’re doing our job right. It makes us less effective in the kind of work that we do.”
Neelapu said that the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes protest held during Convocation on Monday served as an affirmation that the Disorientation Guide was fulfilling its mission for some of the publication’s contributors.
“I checked our website stats, and I saw that the Townhomes article was the most read article. I’m just really happy that we accomplished our goal in some ways already,” Neelapu said. “We were able to educate people about this issue.”
They added that they believe everyone who contributed to the Disorientation Guide should feel accomplished in their work.
“Everybody who worked on the guide, or even just helped post flyers around, should understand that they made a real impact and have a feeling of accomplishment,” Neelapu said.