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Thursday, May 01, 2014

First World Problems: I can only take exams in comfortable chairs

Fish, barrel, I know. But since the campaign for smaller sections was swamped by end-of-term grading, the campaign for official nap space fell asleep on the job, the campaign to lower eyebrows at instances of serial alcohol poisoning lost consciousness, I was beginning to wonder when Harvard students would make a new request for the amelioration of their harsh conditions. Fortunately, with all the critical thinking taking place in Cambridge, one never has to wait long for a fresh injustice to be detected. And here it is: the seats in which many students take their final exams are too small and uncomfortable:
It’s time to start talking. The vast majority of exams at the college are given in the Science Center, Sever, and Emerson—three buildings that have immovable chairs with little legroom and attached desks that can barely hold a single bluebook. These desks severely restrict movement within the confined, rigid space, and are predominantly designed for right-handed people, giving left-handed people an additional disadvantage.
Not just left-handers are unfairly disadvantaged, as it turns out, but also those with learning disabilities that prevent them from thriving in low-legroom environments, so this is actually a civil rights issue. With an analogy that vividly brings the suffering home to us, our complainant informs us that the situation is worse than "economy class airplane seats"! And what greater torment could be inflicted on a man than to give him an economy class airplane seat?

The author supplies photographic evidence of the shocking, barbarous conditions to which he has been subjected during his final exams. Looking at those uniform rows of slightly worn velvet cushions into which hapless students are regularly packed like veritable sardines (but with one empty seat on either side of each sardine, per university exam rules), I can't help but be reminded of Solzhenitsyn's descriptions of the Soviet gulag, and how strong a resemblance they bear to Sever Hall, except I'll bet that at even in the gulags, the exam desks were big enough to fit an entire sheet of paper.

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