Left-handed students are rising up to protest what they call “systematic academic discrimination” at the University of Ottawa.
Members of the Left-Handed Students Association have been picketing in front of the Jock Turcott University Center for the past week. Their issue is the UCU Auditorium, which, according to left-handed activist and LHSA president Maria Perry, blatantly favours right-handedstudents.
“Each seat in the auditorium has a fold-up desk that gives students a surface to write notes on. But on all of the seats, the desk is on the right side of the chair. This makes it almost impossible for left-handers to use.”
University officials have insisted that the design flaw is a simple oversight. However, Perry says that this is an example of the conscious disregard for the needs of left-handed students. “Studies show that writing things down helps the brain retain facts. By making it difficult for lefties to take notes during lectures, the university is hindering our academic success.”
The LHSA has demanded that the school renovate the auditorium and include a special section for left-handers. However, the University of Ottawa has already turned them down, citing the “exorbitant” costs that a renovation would entail.
The LHSA disputes these claims, alleging that the school is refusing to remodel so they can continue to suppress the ambitions of left-handedstudents.
“They think if they give us our own section, we’ll be able to collaborate and overthrow the whole system,” says Perry. “The mainstream view has always been that if you provide equal rights to lefties, they’ll be able to rise up and remake society.”
Although the Pro-Left movement is gaining traction, there is already dissent in the ranks of the LHSA. Second-year political science student Zak Brown feels that the focus of the protest is too narrow.
“Is the UCU Auditorium an important issue for the lefty community? Yes, it is, and we need to reclaim it as soon as possible. But there are wider issues here. Although the right-bias is most noticeable in academics, with the anti-left layouts and the gel pen conspiracy, examples exist everywhere if you look closely enough. We’ve been shamed away from eating in cafeterias – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten dirty looks whenever I sit down to eat and knock elbows with the right-hander sitting next to me.”
The left-handers have risen up before, barricading themselves in the PIVIK convenience store. However, the movement did not live up to its full potential due to communications issues. LHSA director of communications Mark Yentil explained, “Our manifesto was unfortunately written with a gel pen, and it just ended up being a smudged mess. No one could read it, and used that as an excuse to not even consider our demands.”
Despite the setbacks, the movement has surged in popularity. “We’ve seen a renewed passion for left rights not just on campus, but throughout the city,” Perry says. “This could be our year of revolution.”
Originally published in The Fulcrum as “The Tomato: Lefties Fight Auditorium Oppression”, October 3, 2013. Satire