The Disorientation Guide Disorients



As members of the class of 2018 arrived and made themselves at home at Dartmouth, The Dartmouth Radical and the Dartmouth Action Collective, a group that rose from the ashes of Dartmouth Real Talk, collaborated on a document that they called The Dartmouth Disorientation Guide. In it, they offered their perspectives on the College’s social problems and advice on how to get through their time here. With articles such as “How to Survive as an Under-Represented Minority @ Dartmouth” and the poignantly titled “F**k Your White Tears,” the 43-page document makes itself out to be a primer for helping incoming freshman see the “real” Dartmouth through its oppressive power structures.

Given its polarizing topic, reactions on campus to its appearance have been mixed. Some have expressed admiration for its authors’ stand and have supported its efforts at encouraging new students to think beyond admission packet platitudes. Others, however, have taken issue with the document and have accused The Dartmouth Radical and the Dartmouth Action Committee of trading spectacle for substance in its efforts to radicalize freshmen on campus.

For this later sentiment, there seems to be ample evidence. Take, for instance, the entry titled “F**k Your White Tears”. In this aggressively written piece, the author expresses outrage at several events that have occurred at Dartmouth in which she was personally offended. But critics have pointed out that as much as the authors of the guide ask people not to prejudge people based on their exterior appearances, they should encourage members of the Class of 2018 to extend the same courtesy to the Dartmouth community at large. According to these critical views, rather than sending freshmen into next four years of their life with the idea that those around them are out to get them, upperclassmen should encourage underclassmen to treat the College as their tabula rasa and write their own narrative onto their time here. If they do so, the experiences they have will likely be very different from those chronicled by the document’s authors.

To The Radical’s credit, however, other observers have noted that The Disorientation Guide does provide some useful information to students on campus. Its primer on vegetarian/vegan dining options is undoubtedly helpful to many, as is its advice about ways to save money in Hanover. These sections help soften the overall language of the document and make it more accessible to students, new and old.

The Review believes that this is where the guide should have exerted the most energy. Rather than tell freshmen that they will be discriminated against, ignored, or disrespected, the authors of The Disorientation Guide should let the incoming class experience the College on their own while providing them with constructive ways to get the most out of their time here. If campus is truly as bad as they claim it is, then students can form that conclusion consensually and independently. If it isn’t, then the anger the authors convey only serves to derail the experiences of others and force them into their way of thinking.