Op-ed

Lefties in a righty classroom

Lefties are one of the world’s largest minorities—making up about ten percent of the general population. While most people know a lefty or two in their lives, many overlook the struggles that left-handed people face on a daily basis: living in a right-hand dominated world.

In the past, being left-handed was stigmatized and even seen as an abnormality—or a sign of weakness. “Historically, being left-handed had some bad connotations,” says Dr. Lance Workman, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Glamorgan. “In the Bible, the favoured sat at God’s right hand. Every mention of left-handedness had a sinister connotation. And, of course, the word `sinister’ comes from the Latin sinistra, meaning left,” said Workman.

Obviously, today lefties are rarely ever criticized or frowned upon for their “handedness”. However, society itself is still right-biased—and that’s why lefties have to adapt to society as it is. “Things are different today, but the world is still designed for right-handed people. Some have said that the reason left-handed people have more accidents is because they are clumsy. But it may be because they live in a right-handed world,” said Workman.

While most lefties are highly capable of sucking it up and dealing with the “righty” way of life, it doesn’t mean that things couldn’t be improved in society to accommodate for them as well as for any people that fit outside the ‘norm’.

This is a problem that left-handed people face here at West Chester University. Classrooms, particularly in Main Hall, have primarily right-biased arm desks with some left-handed desks randomly dispersed throughout the building, along with full-sized tables in the conference rooms. “The University plans for classrooms to have 10% of students who are left-handed. Sometimes people move the furniture between classrooms throughout the day and week, and do not return the furniture back to the initial classroom,” said WCU’s associate provost for Enrollment Management and Campus Planning Director, Joseph H. Santivasci.

“I do see at least two [left-handed desks] in every classroom I attend lecture in,” said left-handed West Chester student, Victoria Zebley. “I don’t think that there are enough … because where I choose to sit in the classroom may not have one. I generally like to sit towards the front of class due to my eyesight.”

“One time…I went into a classroom, and there were like 20 right-handed desks—and like two left-handed desks,” said Sunny Morgan, another “lefty” West Chester student. “And people were at the left-handed desks—and they probably weren’t even left-handed! It’s just very frustrating.”

Sitting and writing in right-hand desks can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and even painful at times for lefties. “A right-biased tablet arm desk does not offer left-handed students the same arm support that right-handed students enjoy,” said M.K. Holder, Ph.D. of the Handedness Research Institute. “Depending upon the width of the half desk, and the way the student holds the pencil, left-handers are susceptible to back, neck and shoulder pain.”

“[After sitting in a right-handed desk], I feel the strain on my left arm/hand from leaning over to take notes,” said Zebley. “But if I am using my laptop—not so much. Since my left arm is the strongest, I would rather have it elevated on the armrest,” she said.

Not only that, but when left-handed students write on right-hand desks, they are actually more physically limited than the average right-handed person (the majority of their classmates).

“The inefficient and awkward writing position that some left-handers must adopt in this kind of desk can cause slower handwriting, placing many left-handed students at a real disadvantage on important timed examinations. Thus, for tests that have a time-limit to complete, left-handers should not sit at right-biased desks, but at a full desk or table,” said Holder.

“I am definitely slower writing by hand in a right-handed desk because it is not easy. I have to angle my body, and it’s not comfortable—resulting in slower writing,” said Zebley. “I understand that left-handers are a small amount of the population, but it does make our classroom experience harder.”

Santivasci has responded to students cries by stating, “The Facilities Division plans to have a discussion about what it would mean if we ordered a larger percentage of left-handed desks in the future. However, this still would not guarantee the proportion of left and right-hand desks in each room would remain, as people may continue to move the right-handed desks to another room, leaving a much larger proportion of left-handed desks in one classroom,” said Santivasci.

There is hope for a brighter, more comfortable classroom experience for left-handed West Chester students in the future, though. “West Chester University is currently working to improve this issue,” stresses Santivasci. “The University continues to make it a regular practice to review new furniture for classrooms to create a more comfortable and flexible learning environment.”

Emily Drossman is a fourth-year student English Writings major who minors in journalism. ED843805@wcupa.edu

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