DisOrientation Guide 2019

An Introduction from the DisOrientation Editorial Collective

Entering graduate school is an exciting time; for many of us, we are pursuing our dreams and passions in a dynamic environment surrounded by like-minded collaborators. But unfortunately educational institutions often reflect the biases and problems of our times. One problem at Penn is simply the problem of simply navigating the complicated bureaucracy. When we arrived at Penn, we realized that we learned the most about how to do things not from administrators, faculty, or staff, but from fellow students. Our ability to figure out simple things like how to get paid or how to pay taxes hinged on being surrounded by knowledgeable-enough students.

On top of the opaque, complex, and sometimes counterintuitive bureaucracy at Penn is the fact that graduate students exist in a gray space between student and worker. We are not treated as customers like undergraduates at the institution are, but we do not have the protections that employees around the country and at Penn are guaranteed. This arrangement puts graduate students in precarious situations. No matter how brilliant and intelligent we are, we are often one serious illness, one lecherous professor, or one unexpected family emergency from jeopardizing our funding or enrollment.

We put together this guide to give everyone a leg up on getting through Penn. We did research, asked friends, and tried to come up with the best answers we could find for students across the various graduate schools (there are 12!) and try to bridge knowledge between students in different fields. Graduate school can be a tricky time, but in the end, we are as strong as we are together. We encourage you to join us in supporting graduate students as workers in the graduate student union GET-UP (Graduate Employees Together at the University of Pennsylvania), which will be putting together more resources for students, taking up issues related to healthcare and childcare, and working to end sexual harassment on campus.

Learn more by emailing us at penngetup@gmail.com.