It’s the first day of class, you’re excited and ready to get things started. You make it to Plumb Hall, open the classroom door and you’re faced with a nightmare come true: You can’t fit into the desks.
On the fourth floor of Plumb, and across campus, you can find those annoying little desks that have the chair and desk attached. These desks are irritating for every student, but most don’t understand how ableist these desks really are.
They were not made with larger students in mind. They were not made with disabled students in mind. Really, it feels like no actual thought went into these desks.
Now, even able-bodied people I know don’t really like these desks. There’s just not enough space to actually function as a student. Teachers love to give handouts, and expect notes to be taken, but there’s not even enough space for a notebook.
Not to mention nearly all of those desks are only right-hand friendly. Or that they aren’t conducive to group work and cooperative learning. They’re meant to keep students in their seat and focused only on the teacher, which isn’t an accurate representation of the modern classroom.
These desks represent a traditional and antiquated way of teaching. Education has changed and we have to show support for all students, not just the ones that fit a specific mold.
Struggling to just sit in those desks while the rest of your peers already have their books and materials out is embarrassing. For some, it could be the difference between going to class and staying home.
These desks were not designed with students' needs in mind.
The university must do better. There are far too many of these ableist, fatphobic desks in our classrooms. They only foster embarrassment and shame.
Just from the basic logistics, removing 30 desks from more than 10 classrooms and replacing them isn’t going to be easy. However, taking steps to put normal desks or even the large tables that can sit two or more students would help so much.
Unfortunately, these desks aren’t limited to Emporia State. You can see them across Kansas, and probably across the country. Higher education institutions must do better. There are different physical needs for every person, even if you can’t see them.