U. of C. students reprise unauthorized guide to university

Assistant to the Editor

The Disorientation Guide, a University of Chicago student-published primer for incoming classes on campus life and the South Side, has returned from hiatus with a 2013 edition.

Inaugurated in 2010, the publication, known alternatively as the DisO’ guide, offers an unofficial, critical introduction to the school, its administration and its relationship with surrounding communities. The guide includes alternative viewpoints and information glossed over or left unaddressed in the school’s orientation week programming, according to editors.

“I read the guide when I was initially coming into college and it stayed in the back of my mind,” said Natalie Wright, a second year student from Cheyenne, Wyo., who wrote the introduction for the guide.

Wright and fourth-year student Grace Pai shared with each other their interest in the Disorientation Guide at a meeting at the end of their last academic year.

“We started to reach out to all of our various contacts and tried to get a wide range of involvement across all kinds of areas of the student body,” said Pai, who edited the guide’s conclusion. The 2013 edition includes material from previous years, as well as new content solicited using Facebook and e-mail and reviewed by a team of several editors.

Divided into five sections — “We Are Here,” “On The Institution,” “Theories and Perspectives,” “Community” and “On Getting Involved” — the document examines a potpourri of subjects. It includes background information on the neighborhood, the CTA and the university’s police force; a history of activism at the U. of C.; essays discussing class, disabilities, gender, sexuality and race in the context of life at the school; a list of political student organizations and even a guide to partying and hosting parties in the area.

The goal of the guide has been to “give as many people voices as possible,” said Zoe Kauder Nalebuff, another second year who edited the guide’s community section. “So there were a lot of different editors taking charge of different sections.”

Nalebuff, who read an edition of the guide before arriving at the U. of C., said she recognized similarities between the “town-gown relations” in Hyde Park and her native New Haven, Conn., where Yale University is located. She added that “seeing the guide and seeing what students were doing to shed light on what was going on between the university and its neighbors sort of struck a chord.”

Open Produce manager Becci Behlen, a community resident of 15 years, printed and distributed the Disorientation Guide’s first edition and contributed a section on sexual assault. Her sister, a University of Chicago student, was also a guide contributor.

Behlen said she was pleased about the revival of the guide. “I really think of it as kind of like a living document,” she said.

To download a PDF of the 2013 Disorientation Guide, visit