Relax, close your eyes and drift back to the sixth grade. You surely remember those carefree days of middle school dances, eating lunch alone when your BFF was sick and worrying the bean burrito your mom made you eat would “reappear” during that quiet moment in English class. Imagine what your classmates looked like in those pre-teen days. With the rare exception of premature hormones and vertically challenged victims of unfair chromosomes, everyone looked pretty much the same. Skinny legs, no hips and average size feet were standard for everyone. Classes were crowded due to underfunded public schools, but tightly placed desks only meant that maybe that cute person that sat at the back of social studies just might have to glide by you close enough to brush gently against your shoulder. Sigh, the memories of the smells of gym socks, peanut butter and Tic Tacs come flooding back.
Fast forward to college. Classes are still crowded but the scenery is vastly different. Football and track practice are long forgotten, hormones have wreaked their havoc and years of drive thu windows have taken their toll. Body shapes are as varied as iPod playlists and most people are least double the size of that sixth grader they once were. So why is it when you discover your Psychology 200 class in Godby 136 you find those same desks that you so easily slid into during sixth grade are crammed in tight rows? As you turn sideways, suck up the middle parts and hold your backpack above your head to wiggle your way to the only empty desk in the back row, you desperately hope you don’t knock a laptop to the floor or pass gas in someone’s face.
Contorting your body to fit in the desk is only the initial challenge. Try removing your jacket and finding a place for your bag in a microspace you occupy for fifty minutes. Then, where do your feet go? Each shift to find a better position creates a tremor of earthquake proportions in the desk just millimeters in front of you. The occupant of said seat gives a half glance (glare?) backwards and repositions in response. This sets off a chain reaction that only ends at the front of the room where the instructor is relieved to notice that row is now awake and temporarily attentive. The scenario repeats across the room until class ends and the extrication from the desks can begin.
What’s up with this?
Those who beat the drum for the rights of college students everywhere need to take on the cause of all those who suffer from “Tight Desk Syndrome.” Tiny desks and too many in a classroom is a conflict of college campuses everywhere. Don’t let the experts downplay the problem as just the result of too many cheeseburgers and not enough Stairmaster! Salads and exercise bikes will not make feet smaller, legs shorter and clothes cleaner. Diets will not make crowded classrooms smell better and exercise will not reduce the number of desks in those classrooms. Students need to argue for bigger and fewer desks and retain their rights to consume buffalo wings every day and wash their clothes between semesters: we are entitled to rush in to class seconds before the teacher and glide gracefully to their seat without fear of deep personal embarrassment.
Personal space is a basic human right and violations can prove damaging to both academic and social futures. It’s hard to concentrate on a lecture when the person sitting just inches to your right slept under a chicken coop in the same clothes they had on in class on Friday. An extra twelve inches would vastly improve your concentration as opposed to keeping your breakfast down where it belongs.
Until funding appears for bigger classrooms and desks, all students must band together for everyone’s comfort. Please lay off the garlic, wash your clothes more often and get to class earlier if you are inclined to be clumsy. The future of education may depend on the eventual erradication of Tight Desk Syndrome.