Disorientation Guide 2021

2021 Introduction #

This is a guide to a strange place called “UC Berkeley,” lovingly written by a group of students, alumni, and activists. To do so, we’ve drawn on our own experiences, but we are especially indebted to all the past disorientation guides, the Abolish the UC! collective, and most of all the wisdom of those who have struggled against this machine for generations.

What we hope you will find most in these pages is a voice that says “you are not alone” in a time and place of deep loneliness and alienation. That another world is possible.

In love and rage,
Disorientation 2021 crew

Credits: Thank you Slingshot for contact list and articles from old disorientations! Thank you Long Haul for providing a space to put this together! Thank you to all who have struggled against the UC machine! Many are no longer with us, killed by state forces or indirectly by poverty; others are in prison. We pay our respects to all.

Organizing in the Age of Pegasus #

Pegasus is a cell phone surveillance system that is available to anybody with the money to pay for it. Developed by NSO group, a corporate spinoff of the 8200 unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, Pegasus has been used to track and spy on journalists, activists, and dissidents all across the world. A text is sent to the target asking them if they want to receive updates on weather (for example) and even if you do nothing, the malware infects your phone, delivering full access to the purchaser of the Pegasus system.

The system has been used for increasingly sophisticated assassination schemes, including the murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Keshoggi, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The application has spread far beyond the government surveillance we are all familiar with from the many heroic whistleblowers of the past decade. The rapid adoption of the Pegasus system by Corporations, Institutions and even individuals in the private sector has attracted quite a bit of attention, being featured in the Catch & Kill podcast series on HBO, pretty much every major newspaper, and in-depth studies by Amnesty International.

When grad student workers at UC Santa Cruz organized a strike for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), the administration contracted the Alameda County Sheriffs to spy on the organizers using a van equipped with a StingRay system and other surveillance capabilities. Subsequently the administration targeted 70 of the grad students with termination, endangering the visas of many. This sordid episode of repression is only the latest chapter in the long history of the UC administration using any and all surveillance and repression available to target student activists.

In light of this history, if you are a student activist the only safe assumption is that UC is now using the Pegasus system to spy on you. And we aren’t just talking metadata; Pegasus gives them access to everything. Forget Signal, encryption, and half measures in digital security culture. We urgently need to strategize how to organize independent of cell phones.

The good news is that we still have access to a rich history of organizing tactics from the pre-digital era. The purpose of this article is to touch upon some of these tried and true methods from our radical history. -Newsletters, zines: Making a zine or handing one to a person you meet can be a social event. Zines can continue to work for your movement just kicking around at a shared house, rather than getting buried in the digital sediment. While a zine can easily fall into the wrong hands, the likelihood that electronic publications are being viewed by the power structure is much higher.

  • Prioritizing In-Person meetings: While it is still possible for the security apparatus to listen in on an in-person meeting, the difficulty is much greater than listening in a zoom call. Surveillance is even more difficult if phones are muffled and/or removed from earshot. Plus, in-person meetings tend to be more productive, less stressful, and build community and trust in a way Zoom can’t.

  • Meals together: When we eat together, we share more than just ideology. The meeting can be more substantive and productive if folx are not hungry and not rushing away to get fed.

  • Disability access: holding in-person meetings in places that are accessible is important to obviate the need for teleconferencing. Transportation can be arranged to get disabled people to the meeting. Wearing scented products to meetings should be discouraged. Removing phones and other electronic devices from the room may be necessary to accommodate those with wifi/EMF sensitivity.

  • Phone Trees: A system where each organizer has a list of trusted individuals that they contact with important information, and each of those individuals has their own list, and communications are dispersed through that network. This system is used in lieu of a mass email list, textalert system, or social media accounts – centralized accounts the state can disable instantly.

  • Paper: Lists of contacts should not be brought to actions where a threat of arrest is immanent, but are generally much more secure than a phone. Meeting minutes can be photocopied and dispersed to your “phone tree” of trusted contacts. A second copy can be stored in a secure location.

  • Flyer posting: Authority figures are not walking around looking at flyers, but they are spying on you electronically. Flyers on poles can spread the word under the radar.

  • Affinity Groups: Affinity groups are medium to long term collectives of people that are united in tactical approach. The affinity group engenders trust and makes infiltration more difficult.

  • Spokescouncils: Each affinity group has a spokesperson chosen to represent them at the spokescouncil. Usually the position is rotated. Spokescouncils are a sustainable model that allows intensive organizing without everybody being at every meeting. Accountability of spokespeople is maintained by witnessing and minutes review.

  • Trust: Building trust takes time. It also takes face to face contact. There aren’t any short cuts to trust.

Being honest with each other is important and accepting that disagreement is OK; usually we agree on more than we disagree. Solidarity also means protecting people from getting thrown under the bus. I f we allow our organizing partners to be attacked without support we allow infiltrators to pick us off one by one. Digital chats can be very corrosive to trust, and are geared to encourage dogpiling and lack of emotional support.

  • Community Building: Mutual aid, group meals, rehearsing direct actions, tactical brainstorming (affinity group building), dancing, and action support which could include childcare/pet sitting, contacting employers, basic physical/mental health support, measures which mitigate harmful effects of arrest or repression.

  • Deep Planning: Long-term planning that anticipates contingencies ensures that nobody gets left by the wayside. A full preparation before an action (even a full day of prep) can mean planning ahead support for participants most at risk of state violence and put less pressure on movement lawyers and bailout funds.

The Haste St. Squat of 1989! #

In 1985, after years of mass struggle, the UC regents voted to divest $3.1 billion from companies profiting off apartheid in South Africa. Unfortunately, it was a sham, but this wasn’t discovered until after the movement had dissipated. On March 9, 1989, the Campaign Against Apartheid (CAA) organized a torchlight march of about 500 people.

After the march, some students and homeless activists stormed and occupied the house at 2417 Haste St. The university-owned house had been vacant for 8 years.

Activists condemned the existence of vacant property while thousands in Berkeley were homeless. They favored direct action to reclaim it. During the week after the takeover, people worked to clean, fix up and organize the house and build political support outside.

Exactly a week after the occupation started, about 80 police officers evicted the squatters and took back the house. “It’s a crime to have that house vacant with people in the streets,” said Oscar Gutierrez, a collective member who was evicted.

The streets were filled with demonstrators after the eviction. A gay and lesbian rally was just ending nearby, and chants shifted to “What do we want? Housing! When do we want it? Now!” Hundreds gathered out front. People slung mud and bottles at police barricades from the Rochdale co-op across the street.

By the next morning, the university had torn the building to the ground, claiming it had to destroy it in order to “save” it from the squatters.

The Magic of FM #

Stop paying for Spotify and give FM radio a try! Hear music spun by DJs in real time. Find your favorite shows and tune in weekly to see what’s new. Call into the studio to talk to a real human! Just turn on your set to feel less alone late at night – you’ll be sharing a live experience with thousands of people across the city. All the stations below are 100% commercial free!

  • 90.7 FM KALX – UC Berkeley Radio | Our favorite show: DJ Pili Pili, every other Monday 9-midnight

  • 94.1 FM KPFA – Berkeley’s famous independent leftist radio station. News, talk, and music.

  • 89.5 FM KPOO – SF Black-run community radio | Our favorite show: “The Finger Snaps Salon” with DJ Lamont, live house music, Tuesday 8-10pm

  • Lower Grand Radio – Oakland QTPOC-run radio (online only) – www.lowergrandradio.com

  • 90.1 FM KZSU – Stanford radio

  • 91.1 FM KCSM – Public jazz radio from San Mateo Community College

  • 102.5 FM KXSF – New SF community radio station

  • 89.7 FM KFJC – Strange sounds from Foothill College

  • 88.1 FM KZSC – UCSC radio (listen online, no FM coverage in Berkeley)

Are You Being Designed? #

There’s this process called “design thinking” being developed and weaponized by corporations, academia, and the state to disguise violence and displacement. Basically it works like this:

Scenario 1

The university wants to build expensive dorms on People’s Park to “develop the potential of the area” and create a “win-win-win” situation. Naturally, the UC thinks the free green space, presence of poor people and Black people hanging out and playing music is “impeding development.” So they hire some firms like LMS Architects to design a number of models of what they “could” (read: intend to) build there, and Walter Hood Studio to design a nice “monument” to the lives they are displacing. UC and these design firms hold a public input session to “discuss” these “solutions.” You find out about the meeting and go with a bunch of people who live at and use the park. The “discussion” is a speech by somebody from the design firm showing off multiple “potential models” of the buildings that will replace the park. You and your friends get mad and start asking questions about what will happen to the people who live there, breaking into loud chants at times. Security people show up, but the designer tells them to let you speak. The designers say you and your friends make interesting points and she’d like your ideas to be incorporated into the new plans.

You feel confused, angry, but strangely hopeful that this big-wig might take your concerns into account. The designer has everyone at the session split into small groups to discuss different aspects of the plan like “public usage,” “beautification,” “security” and “community impact”… you and your friends are split up to try to variously influence the official people there to talk about why this plan will displace you. The meeting ends, the free snacks are eaten. You and your friends leave, the official plan will move forward unchanged.

Scenario 2

A mass campus movement has called for the abolition of campus police and funding and creation of a food pantry open to the public. After months of silent repression, the Chancellor suddenly invites spotlighted or well-connected students of the movement to join a new advisory council on “Re-imagining Campus Security and Basic Needs.”

Despite the university having hundreds of administrators whose job it is to move money around and establish new programs, they want you to take the lead on this re-imagining. The committee will have 2 radical students, 2 student politician types who hand-wave and do nothing, and 4 administrators with fancy titles who are there to “help” you understand how to implement your ideas (i.e. tell you why it’s so complicated and how you can’t get anything done). After months of “learning the ropes” of university economics, the committee will run out of time. It produces a 50-page report and disbands. None of the movement’s demands will be implemented, but the committee’s existence will be used to justify the continuation of the status quo.

Disorientation recommends the following response to “design”: Flip the tables, make a lot of noise, don’t listen to anything they tell you! It’s all bullshit. Start getting organized, and build a militant movement to stop it.

The Coalition for a Truly Public UC #

The Coalition for a Truly Public UC is a group of students, staff, faculty, and community members calling for justice and a truly public University of California. We come together as a group with the understanding that, although each of our respective struggles has its own unique details and dynamics, they are ultimately all rooted in the same foundation. In that spirit, we are uniting our efforts to expose and fight against the ongoing privatization of the University of California system, and accompanying exploitation of working class people in the form of real estate speculation, displacement, and militarized policing – not only within the state of California, but across the world.

  1. We DEMAND a truly public (i.e. zero-tuition) higher education system, governed according to democratic process where regular people in the system have meaningful power and opportunity to impact major decision making.

  2. We DEMAND the UC cease efforts to demolish and displace the 1921 Walnut st tenants and building on People's Park as outlined in UC Berkeley’s 2021 Long Range Development plan. More generally, the University of California should cease ALL real estate acquisitions and real estate speculation, particularly such acquisitions that will displace people and other threatened species, and instead create housing options that are accessible to students and working class people, which necessarily means priced below the current market rate in most UC campus towns.

  3. We DEMAND the demilitarization of and divestment from campus police, with reinvestment into services that actually benefit students. We call for the end to UCPD involvement in labor disputes and in harassing and displacing homeless people in the areas on and around UC campuses, such as People’s Park in Berkeley.

  4. We DEMAND an end to the pattern of privatization, devaluation, and contracting out of UC labor across all 10 UC campuses.

  5. We DEMAND an end to the UC’s ties to colonial and imperial projects. This means ceasing support of, and direct investment in, the Thirty Meter Telescope project on the sacred Mauna Kea in Hawaii. It also means actively supporting Indigenous-led efforts to rematriate stolen land, remains, and property held by the Regents and Anthropology Departments across the state.

Protect Mauna Kea!

Mauna Kea, part of stolen crown lands, is now targeted for development by a consortium of private companies and UC. They are hoping to build (and profit massively from) a telescope on the top of the mountain, the highest in the Hawaiian chain.

Mauna Kea is unique for its rare indigenous plants and animals. It has deep significance to Hawaiians and all Pacific Islanders. National Geographic honored it in a special edition in January 2011, titled, “The Earth’s Holiest Places: Sacred Journeys.” It’s a sacred place for Kānaka Maoli and all Polynesian Nations. It represents creation, the embodiment of ancestors, a burial ground. It is home to 100 archeological sites, hundreds of cultural sites, and historic and still-used shrines, three of which are directly endangered.

There is an international movement to protect indigenous sovereignty and stop UC and their cronies’ project.

Visit protectmaunakea.net or connect with protectors at UCB!

Some text from "Protect Mauna Kea!" by Stephanie Hedgecoke, copyright © 2021 Workers World, used by general consent.

UC, the City of Berkeley, and Housing #

UC is being sued by community groups due to wild over-enrollment beyond what was in the 2005 Long Range Development Plan. About 9,700 beyond that plan as of 2019. Has this contributed to a housing crisis in Berkeley? Well, of course, but don’t be fooled. The city is equally culpable as it has allowed developers to build market-rate housing everywhere, housing that many students and longtime residents can’t afford, just as many students cannot afford UC’s outrageous dorm rates. Meanwhile, as of late March, a Rent Board member stated that, there were some 3,700 empty housing units in the city, many vacant for 10-15 years.

This is land speculation, folks, and it’s going on across this country. Housing guidelines that have appeared on the city’s website state that the standard is 2 for studios, and 2 per bedroom + 1 for other units. Even if those 3,700 all were studios, they could reasonably be housing for 7,400. But many are 1 or 2 bedrooms, so tack on 1 or 3 people for those and you know housing for 10,000 has been available but the city has not intervened. So, yes… UC is, absolutely to blame, and the City of Berkeley is as much to blame because if it intervened to disallow extended vacancies, you’d have more housing options and more landlords would have to respond. Though UC depends on students’ desperation and taking on more loans to pay for their exploitative housing while they hand over more California-funded land to private developers in what they call private-public partnerships.

In 1987, due to rising houselessness and private and city vacant buildings in abundance, a squatting movement took hold. HDAC, the Homeless Direct Action Collective, squatted houses near 4th St., exposing many of those vacant for a decade or more. Developers bought up houses when people died, often Black working class people whose neighborhood had been ignored by the city for decades. Overnight, they created their fancy 4th St., another playground for the wealthy. At the same time, UC says they “have to” build a dorm on People’s Park and they plan to build on Oxford Tract, too, places where students have green space, and community. We would like to suggest that they turn their sights to the Chancellor’s Mansion on campus, an excellent commute for students, with a slightly bigger footprint than People’s Park. In the meantime, the time is ripe for squatting publicly once again in Berkeley. Get your crowbars ready!

On Being a Student of Color at Cal #

In poor schools across the country, college admission is discussed as if it is a golden ticket into paradise. On my college visits as a high school senior, the promise of paradise was superficially confirmed by the overflowing food at the dining halls, the rows of brand new computers in the computer labs and the promise of financial aid dollars. I was also promised the opportunity of joining a prestigious intellectual community.

Coming from a “low-performing” urban high school, where most classes included worksheets and goofing off, I was excited to become a part of a community that valued critical thinking. But as soon as I started receiving acceptance material it became clear that paradise was more like a polishing school for suburban middle and upper class students in order for them to secure corporate jobs.

My dreams of becoming part of the greater campus community quickly dissipated as I was encouraged to limit my activities and course schedule to those organized by students and faculty of color, most of whom shared my feelings of rejection and disappointment. What I had not been prepared for was that leaving my home town and “movin’ on up” also meant entering into a world where what I said, what I wore, what music I liked to listen to and the color of my skin, made me strange.

Together the African American community on campus made our own parallel institution within the greater university, and this was somewhat satisfying. We had our own newspaper, theater group, acapella group, themed dorm and graduate ceremony. This was our way of challenging the isolation and alienation that we had found in paradise, but what I realize now is that it was never paradise to begin with. The modern college culture that rejected me and other students of color is universally alienating and dehumanizing. Those suburban men and women who I was so envious of are being manipulated into sacrificing their spiritual, psychological and physical health to become slaves to a way of life dominated by fear and aggression.

All they get for their sacrifice are trinkets bought on credit. At least I was welcomed into a community when I got to college which was nurturing, meaningful and did not require hazing to become a member.

Now I am in graduate school at Cal and I have seen students of color struggle with the same sense of bewilderment that I felt when I first got to college. What has helped me this time around has been an understanding that the dominant culture of the university is a disease that infects our ability to make connections.

Our ability to identify relationships between people, our environment, our hearts, our minds and our actions are destroyed by the modern diseases of isolation, otherization, manipulation and domination which flourish on our campus. The antidote that has worked for me in warding off these devastating diseases and their consequences (depression, apathy, drug and alcohol abuse), has been seeking out the interconnections within my life and the world around me. It has also included becoming active in creating a campus culture that is conscious and respectful of diversity and interdependence.


Be sure to check out this extensive resource list!

Resources for BIPOC Students: #

Ask around or search online for many student clubs, or get off campus into the Bay Area!

Free Food! #

Struggling to buy groceries? Apply for CalFresh aka Food Stamps or EBT! The process is very bureaucratic, but once approved you get a card you can use like a debit card at almost all grocery stores. Get up to $200/month in free food!

To qualify you must

  • Meet income requirements
  • Be a US citizen (except if receiving SSI/SSP benefits) or a legal permanent resident
  • Be enrolled as a student at least 1/2 time
  • Work a minimum of 80 hours a month (work study can count towards the 80 hours). Exception to this: If you have a child under age 6 without adequate childcare.

How to Apply Go to a UC Berkeley Group Application Session, or request help from a CalFresh Ambassador. Book online or email calfreshsupport@berkeley.edu.

Or do it yourself at getcalfresh.org.

Note: If you live in a co-op house where there is communal food you’re not eligible for Calfresh. Ask your fellow co-opers for advice.

Looking for affordable housing near campus?

Berkeley Student Co-op
17 houses, 3 apartment bldgs; 1,250 members!

Call 510-848-1936 OR visit bsc.coop

Free Textbooks! #

Need books for class? Why spend $100s funding Jeff Bezos’ space vacation when you could get them for free!
(Boycott Amazon!)

  1. UC Berkeley Library. Visit search.library.berkeley.edu and see if you can get it either in print or online (Pro tip for PDF e-books: you have to download one chapter at a time, and it will limit how many you can download. When you hit the limit, copy the link, shut down your browser, open a new Private window and keep going!)
  2. Berkeley Public Library (Main library: 2090 Kittredge Street.)
  3. Oakland Public Library (Rockridge branch is handy to 51B: 5366 College Ave, Oakland.)
  4. Alameda County Library (Albany Branch: 1247 Marin Ave)
  5. Online...websites. Reliable, trustworthy, legally questionable sources for free PDFs: Library Genesis, Z-Library. Check wikipedia for the latest links, they change from time to time due to government censorship.

Can't find it? Get it cheap at a used bookstore!

Used Bookstores in Berkeley (ordered by price, low to high)

  • Friends of Berkeley Public Library 2433 Channing Way (in corridor of shops next to Unit 3/red parking garage)
  • Urban Ore 900 Murray St (take the 36 Bus towards West Oakland and get off at 7th and Anthony)
  • Long Haul Infoshop 3124 Shattuck Av @ Woolsey
  • Ecology Center Store 2530 San Pablo Av @ Blake
  • Half Price Books 2036 Shattuck Av @ Addison (by downtown BART)
  • Pegasus Books Shattuck @ Durant
  • Moe’s Books Telegraph @ Dwight (next to Sliver pizza)
  • Sleepy Cat Books Telegraph @ Dwight (across the block from Moe’s, next to Peet’s)

UC Berkeley's Manufactured Mental Health Crisis #

What to do if you’re hurting: a survival “guide”

I hadn’t attended class in weeks. I couldn’t keep up with assignments, I barely left my room. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I knew it was time to seek help. If you find yourself in a crisis like mine, here’s what you need to know:

Call (510) 642-9494 to make an appointment with University Health Services—any student can do this, regardless of insurance. It took me a long time to make the call; I had no experience with mental health professionals and I assumed that my symptoms weren’t “severe” enough to bother with. Don’t make that judgment yourself, the intake staff at UHS can determine what kind of care is best for you.

In non-pandemic times, drop-in counseling is available at their offices in the Tang Center. Now, you call their phone line and state that you would like “Drop-in urgent counseling.” This is very useful for immediate help — you’ll probably have to wait at least two weeks before getting an appointment with a counselor the regular way. Urgent is a very loose term: you can qualify for urgent care if you are having thoughts of self-harm, if you have been sexually assaulted recently, or if you haven’t attended class in a week, among others reasons. I recommend taking an urgent counseling session whenever possible.

If you do not qualify for drop-in urgent counseling, you can take a walk-in, virtual Let’s Talk Counseling session. Just sign up online. Either way, it’s better than waiting.

About your University counselor: they are (in my experience) all very nice, helpful people that are on your side. But they are overburdened and underpaid by the university, so your meetings with them will be limited to three sessions a semester, two weeks apart between sessions.

Suffice to say, this is not a lot of time. I suspected I had depression, but I was too shy to be pushy with a diagnosis with my counselor; instead, I settled for describing my symptoms and experiences. This isn’t the right approach: there’s just not enough time with your counselor to play detective like that. Observe your symptoms on your own time, then consult the internet, talk to your friends, or reach out to Peer advising, and come up with a name for what you might be suffering from. Communicating this self-diagnosis with your counselor ensures that you’ll get the kind of help you need quicker.

As you can see, the biggest problem with Berkeley’s mental health services is that it is S L O W ! It is very difficult to rely on the University’s slow-ass mental health services to help you while you’re still trying to complete schoolwork. UHS can hook you up with the school’s pretty generous Disabled Students Program (you should always do this), reduce your courseload, or change your grading option. Another option to consider is withdrawing from school for medical reasons (by the way, SHIP lasts ‘till the end of the semester even if you withdraw).

If you do decide to stay in school, make sure to be frank and open with your professors that you are struggling with your mental health; your counselor can even write a letter of “proof” that you can show your professors. Even if you aren’t in the DSP program (they’re ALSO SLOW), the professor might offer you accommodations regardless.

The university does not adequately fund its mental health programs! You’ll have to advocate for yourself to get the help you need.

In crisis? Pause, take a breath. Call a mental health hotline.

Grad School is a Sham, Support the Union! #

Here’s the thesis of Marc Bousquet’s “The Waste Product of Graduate Education,” a must read essay for both undergraduate students and graduate workers alike:

“Under casualization, it makes very little sense to view the graduate student as potentially a product for the job market: most graduate students are already laboring at the only academic job they’ll ever have. (Hence the importance for organized graduate student labor of inscribing the designation “graduate employee” in law and discourse.) From this standpoint, it has to be acknowledged that increasingly the holders of the doctoral degree are not so much the products of the graduate employee labor system as its by-products, insofar as that that labor system exists primarily to recruit, train, supervise, and legitimate the employment of nondegreed rather than degreed teachers. This is not to say that the system doesn’t produce and employ holders of the PhD, only that this operation has become secondary to its extraction of teaching labor from nondegreed persons, primarily graduate employees and former graduate employees now working as adjunct labor—as part-timers, full-time lecturers, postdocs, and so on.”

Here’s the takeaway: a PH.D. is not a ticket to the job market of academia (a job market that does not exist). It is functionally an employment contract, and receiving your PHD marks the end and not the beginning of your college teaching career.

The question on so many undergraduates’ minds is whether or not to go to graduate school. They will often be reassured by professors that some PH.D. programs are fully funded, and that they won’t necessarily go into debt if they’re choosy with applications. This is true, but it’s better to conceptualize going to graduate school like this: you are signing a contract to work for a University for, on average, eight years. You won’t get paid very well, but you may get benefits like health insurance, a steady paycheck, and, of course, time to research and pursue scholarly interests. Don’t expect a possible full-time tenured professor job at the end of the rainbow: the reason why Universities are taking on so many graduate students in the first place is to make the full-time tenured gig a thing of the past. It’s much cheaper for a University to hire a new graduate worker (or adjunct, or lecturer) than to give you a permanent job, so that’s what they’re going to do.

Doesn’t that sound terrible? No judgement to those who still choose to go, but you have to keep in mind that the system is rigged, and there’s only one way to change the situation: support the activities of our campus’ graduate workers union, UAW Local 5810. Spread word of the strikes, don’t cross a picket line, and encourage your professors to do the same!