The sound of no hands clapping

POSTED: October 2, 2018

From today’s online version of NME, which I look at from time to time:

Clapping and cheering has been replaced at Manchester University’s Student Union events in order to make them more accessible.

The traditional method of clapping has been axed in favour of ‘jazz hands’, which is the British Sign Language (BSL) equivalent.

According to the union, the loud noise of clapping often proves to be an issue for students who are affected by anxiety and sensory conditions.

Instead, students are now encouraged to use quiet clapping or jazz hands when in attendance at students events such as panels, talks and wide-ranging debates.

The policy, passed at a student union senate, states: “To swap audible clapping out for BSL clapping at SU events in order to make them more accessible.

“To encourage student groups and societies to do the same, and to include BSL clapping as a part of inclusion training, it was argued that the loud noise of traditional clapping and whooping pose an issue to students with anxiety or sensory issues. BSL (British Sign Language) clapping – or, jazz hands – would be a more inclusive form of expression.”

I confess that I had never heard of jazz hands before this, which obviously says more about me than it does about Manchester University’s Student Union.

Walking this back a bit

The very next day, i newspaper published a report which quoted a spokesperson from the Students Union as saying:

Given the enormous amount of media attention on a motion passed at our Senate last week, and a number of inaccuracies in media reports on the matter, the University of Manchester Students’ Union feels it necessary to clarify the scope and intentions of the policy.

The policy was proposed in order to encourage the use of British Sign Language (BSL) clapping during our democratic events to make those events more accessible and inclusive for all. We are not banning audible clapping – we understand that some people may be more comfortable to continue using it.

In addition

They said the SU is not applying the rule to events held there and is simply “to be encouraged at the Union’s democratic events” which are a relatively small number over the university year.

The National Union of Students has encouraged BSL clapping since 2015, not that anyone ever told me.