Some of you may be wondering why there are two alternative-themed intro weeks this September. The short answer is miscommunication. Does it matter? Arthur spoke to VP Student Issues Tessa Nasca and organizers of DisOrientation to figure it out. This year, the TCSA is hosting [Alt]-[O], a week of events designed to expose students to the alternative communities at Trent and Peterborough. However, what many new students might not know, is that there is already an alternative week planned every September, and it’s called DisO (short for DisOrientation). Tessa said that Alt-O was the result of the uncertainty of DisO’s existence this year. She explains, “We hadn’t received an invitation to be involved, and we thought it was valuable to have this programming and to give these community partners the space to participate in programming in a centralized area.”
The TCSA wants to create space for organizing events geared towards political and social justice issues. Tessa adds, “We do have a responsibility to create spaces for students interested in having these kinds of conversations.” Though both alternative weeks focus on political and social justice issues, DisO organizer Liat explains that what distinguishes DisO from Alt-O is that it is “grassroots, autonomous, D.I.Y, local, and anti-oppressive.” Ki, of the Centre for Gender and Social Justice, stressed that though the spirits of the events are the same, they will be inherently different because they are being offered by a different organization. Laura adds, “Some of the spirit is similar, but the mandates are different… DisO is a radical introduction to community organizing.”
Moreover, an apparent issue between Alt-O and DisO is the similarity in name. Tessa explains that the TCSA had been referring to the alternative week as “The Week After” for a long time, but that it was not an official name. When they had sat down to brainstorm names, they figured Alt-0 was a more interesting and easy-to-talk-about name. DisO organizer and community member Laura Greenwood points out that if the TCSA was aiming to replace DisO, DisO’s name would have been on their minds. However, when the TCSA learned that DisO was actually happening, they thought it would still be valuable to go through with their alternative week because of the support received from community members. “I would love to see [Alt-o] continue. It can go hand in hand with welcome back week. As the student union, we want to try to cater to as many students and as many niches in different communities as possible.”
Ki, of the Centre for Gender and Social Justice, takes interest in the idea that Alt-O is desired to become annual, particularly because the premise of Alt-O was that DisO wasn’t happening. “I understand… There was a desire to maintain the alternative spirit of DisO and since it wasn’t happening anywhere else, the TCSA was picking it up… but what’s head-scratchy to me is that if Alt-O was really trying to fill an important gap, but this gap is filled. Why would it continue to be a yearly event?” Ki claims that the TCSA hasn’t been involved in DisOrientation historically because it is supposed to be autonomous from administration: “The politics and political outlook of the TCSA changes from year to year and it is important to be distinct from that so that the spirit of DisO isn’t compromised from year to year.”
DisO organizers want it to be made clear that DisOrientation is supposed to connect Trent students to their community. Karolyn explains, “DisOrientation was born upon a time where Trent was removing itself from the community and DisO was a site to try to keep making space for students and community involvement and relationship building.” DisO organizers are open to collaboration with the TCSA but emphasize that the alternative week could not be “TCSA-centric” because of the historical nature of DisO and their interpretation of what it is to be alternative. Karolyn said, “I’m not sure what it means for a group to have an alternative to itself and whether it really accomplishes an alternative.” Other DisO organizers suggest the TCSA should consider fusing Alt-O with their Welcome Back Week.
DisOrientation week is already underway; it started on September 6 and will continue until September 13. Alternative Orientation week will take place September 17-22.