Have you ever had to sit segregated from your group of friends in lecture? Have you ever had to walk into a classroom and step over countless feet on your way to the most inaccessible corner of the room? Or have you had to take notes glancing at the board over your shoulder?
Congratulations. You experience what is known as “right-hand privilege.”
As a northern-based and higher institution, Cornell’s self-proclaimed dedication to being at the “forefront” of inclusive diversity seems to be a foregone conclusion—so typical of what one would naturally assume for a university like this, that it’s easy to forget to check whether the college is actually following through.
Namely, with one of the world’s most historically persecuted and forgotten minorities: lefties.
For lefties on campus, regular classes can turn into daily sources of stress and challenge. With handwriting already having a tendency to be extra sloppy (constructing sentences from left to right creates a natural smear of freshly written words), having little to no access to the appropriate desk type can result in illegible notes altogether.
It’s a pretty impossible task for me to examine each classroom in search of an average ratio of left and right desks available on campus, but the lack of accessible information on the subject on any of the university’s many web pages offers a fairly telling narrative in and of itself.
Cornell’s Diversity Statement outlines the university’s commitment to “inclusion and opportunity” as well as “equity and reason”; undoubtedly the institution has managed to hold up this declaration in certain areas of campus life. For instance, thirty-three separate clubs/organizations exist for undergraduate students representing Asian identities and culture alone, including two separate fraternities and one sorority—not even including the Asian and Asian American Center, an entire organization dedicated solely to making students belonging to this group feel welcome and represented on campus.
This level of inclusion is incredible, and Cornell should truly congratulate itself for such an accomplishment, especially one that does so much for a mere 5.6% of the total U.S. population. Knowing this, you’d assume the existence of an even greater number of groups to support a demographic of 10% lefties, or at least an equitable amount. But how many leftie-based organizations exist to represent and protest the lack of “equity and reason” in Cornell’s left-hand accessible, campus utilities? Zero.
This may not seem like a big issue, and for many it isn’t one that they’ve ever considered. To be entirely honest, adapting to right-handed life here hasn’t killed me (yet), but the embarrassment eventually might. Having to take up two desks—one for sitting, and one on the left to write—or turning completely around to awkwardly face the kid on your right while trying to avoid looking like you’re cheating and also writing your Spanish essay at the same time is… inconvenient. And uncomfortable. But it’s not the end of the world. What is, is having to arrive thirty minutes early for a prelim to walk the rows of seats like an usher, stressing over finding an appropriate chair more than you are the actual exam.
“We are committed to creating a positive, welcoming environment where every member of our community can thrive,” is a statement taken directly from Cornell University. But, as a student myself, I can say that this environment is not one built where everyone can thrive—not when some of us are forced to take hand-written, 60 words per minute notes on their laps, or sit in a row pushed to the farthest side of the room. Lefties have been forgotten and cursed for centuries now, but in the progressive age that we live in today, is it really too much to ask for a few more desks? We have rights too—even if we are mostly left.
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