Manchester’s Students’ Union (SU) hit headlines this month with its recent vote to replace any form of acclamation, such as clapping and cheering, with the British Sign Language (BSL) equivalent. As a result, attendees will be urged to use “jazz hands” at SU events, including debates and elections.
The policy was met with mass criticism from the national media, with Piers Morgan claiming that “Britain is losing its mind” and Jeremy Vine linking it to World War One, stating that soldiers were able to “ignore the difficulties caused by sudden noises 100 years ago.” A bit of an overreaction, if you ask me.
I found that a complete banning of clapping was simply not the case
Ahead of writing this article, I thought I was due a field day. I was looking forward to joining the ranks of Morgan and Vine and having a good laugh at Manchester’s expense. But after reaching out to a friend at the University – first year student, Ellie Bishop – I found that a complete banning of clapping was simply not the case.
“They are just encouraging more people to use it [BSL clapping] when in situations where you might clap. It’s completely up to us to choose,” she said in response to the media frenzy that followed the policy. “Anyway, we are very rarely in a university situation where you need to clap, and there’s no punishment if you do so.”
In actual fact, the language used in the original policy reads: “to swap audible clapping out for BSL clapping at SU events in order to make them more accessible” as well as for societies to “include BSL clapping as a part of inclusion training.” The SU clarified in a statement following the policy release that they aim to “encourage British Sign Language (BSL) clapping,” but they are “not banning audible clapping.”
Sara Khan, the SU officer behind the move, believes clapping can cause issues for students who suffer from cases such as autism, deafness, or sensory-related illnesses. More than an exercise in PC excess, the change is simply to make SU events more accessible to vulnerable students.
Ultimately, the Union is doing what every Union should aim to do – they are trying make student democracy as inclusive as possible
Ultimately, the Union is doing what every Union should aim to do – they are trying make student democracy as inclusive as possible, giving as many students as they can the chance to get involved and engage with democracy.
The reception wasn’t all negative, though. Manchester’s students, for example, some of whom benefit directly from the change, were generally delighted the new inclusive policy. Thanks to the change, some students will even be going to SU events for the first time. “We believe that in those politically-focused events – where students’ voices are being amplified – as many people as possible should feel comfortable attending in order for as many people as possible to have their voices heard.”
If a similar policy proposal were to come up at Warwick All Student Vote, I will happily support it. There are sure to be students here who could benefit, and I’m pretty sure Music Theatre Warwick would get on board.
Last (and maybe least), I have a word for Vine and Morgan. Yes, Jeremy, people had to endure horrible traumas in World War One. But how does that have anything to do with a University doing what they can to include their students? And Piers … just stop.