The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Lefties have rights, too

I'M NOT black, I'm not poor, I'm not disabled -- but I face discrimination. It isn't because I'm female, either. The University discriminates against me based on a physical characteristic intrinsic to who I am that I have little power to change. But where's the uproar, the camp-out, the strongly-worded letter to the editor? No one gives a second thought -- nor even a first -- to how the University violates my rights simply because I'm left-handed.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Granted, handedness is not a hotly-debated factor in University admissions -- okay, it's not a factor at all. But although the struggle of lefties doesn't involve lynchings or being forced to sit in the back of the bus, there is a history of oppression, and problems still exist today.

You can spot a southpaw in distress at a mini-golf course, huddled in the bushes in order to have enough room to tee off. In an elementary school classroom, you'll find a little boy frustrated by the fact that he can't cut his paper. It's because the multi-colored plastic child-size scissors are often available for right hands only. And the shape and location of your computer's mouse is yet another testament to the fact that we live in a right-hander's world.

But here's the easiest way to locate a struggling lefty at the University: if the girl next to you during your physics test is hunched sideways, twisting her spine at obscene angles just to reach the desk to write on, she's a left-hander in pain. She's suffering from a common -- yet solvable -- problem here at the University: the lack of left-handed desks in several major auditoriums.

It's widely believed today that handedness is an inherent tendency, although it's still unclear if genetics or factors during pregnancy are the primary cause. Even though our culture now accepts left-handedness as normal, there are some things that just can't change to accommodate left-handedness. Writing from left to right is one of them. Some problems have been solved, however, by the creation of left-handed versions of products, from scissors to guitars.

Southpaws can and do adapt to the right-handed world's tools and products -- otherwise, lefties couldn't even drive stick-shift cars. But the one thing that can't change is which hand they write with, and the University places lefties at a disadvantage for this. In the physics auditorium and in Wilson 301, there are hundreds of seats. Not one has a left-handed desk. This is ridiculous.

One out of every 10 people is left-handed ( -- that's 40 in a class of 400. These 40 people probably are okay during daily lectures -- "okay" meaning "not in excruciating pain" -- when they write on top of notebooks in their laps. But then test time rolls around, and professors instruct students to put everything away except for that lone test paper. That's when the fun begins.

You can't fill in a bubble sheet on your lap unless holes punched through the page will count as answers. So left-handers force their bodies into their standard test-taking position, hunched over a right-handed desk. It's not too bad, at first. After 45 minutes, lefties are cramped in place, wondering why they're stuck in that torture chamber of an auditorium. Knotted back muscles screaming for relief are like sirens blaring in your ears -- you probably wouldn't score your best in either scenario. Yet year after year, test after test, the agony continues.

Call me melodramatic for this graphic depiction, or call me a whiner for making such a big deal about what you may perceive as a small issue. But believe me, over time these injustices add up, like so many pairs of useless plastic scissors. The problem isn't really that hard to solve, but it requires help from the University and from you, the right-handed readers.

The University needs to renovate all the auditoriums that lack left-handed desks. Or at least it must replace the desks on the left sides of the rows. Until this happens, professors should allow left-handers to take their tests outside or at a table, where they can write in comfort. Right-handed students, please be considerate enough not to sit in seats with left-handed desks just because they're convenient. Scoot in, for goodness sake. The middle seats won't bite. That way, no one who comes in late will have to crawl over you, and we left-handers will at least have a chance to score the desks we desire.

I've made much ado about a little something. But the University does pride itself on fairness and equality, and unless it plans on providing me with a back massage after every test, it should provide lefties with equal seating accommodations. Hopefully it won't take an auditorium sit-in for changes to be made.

(Jennifer Schaum is a Cavalier Daily associate editor.)