U.K. student union bans applause in favour of ‘jazz hands’ because clapping could ‘trigger anxiety’
Sara Khan, Manchester University’s liberation and access officer, argued that traditional applause was not sufficiently ‘accessible.’ Whooping is also discouraged
With jazz hands, no one gets hurt.Getty Images
LONDON — Clapping has been replaced with “jazz hands” at a British student union amid fears that the noise of applause could trigger anxiety among some students.
Whooping is also discouraged at Manchester University student union events on the basis that the loud noise may be a problem for those with sensory issues.
The use of “jazz hands” — where students wave their hands in the air — is the British Sign Language expression for applause and is deemed a more inclusive gesture.
At the union’s first meeting of the year, Sara Khan, who is Manchester University’s liberation and access officer, argued that traditional applause was not sufficiently “accessible.” The union resolved to ban clapping in favour of “jazz hands,” and urged “student groups and societies to do the same.”
The students’ union also plans to make “BSL clapping” part of inclusion training for new students.
The union noted that “loud noises, including whooping and traditional applause, could pose an issue for students with disabilities, such as those with anxiety or sensory issues.” Jazz hands should be favoured at debates, panels and talks as well as at meetings of the student senate, it said.
Students who whoop, cheer and clap should face ‘consequences’
“Jazz hands” were adopted by the National Union of Students (NUS) in 2015 on the basis that clapping “triggers anxiety.” Delegates at last year’s NUS conference said that students who whoop, cheer and clap should face “consequences.”
Audience members were repeatedly warned that they must cease whooping to express support for a speaker because it had a “serious impact” on the accessibility of the conference for disabled students.
Critics of the move say that such behaviour is typical of an over-sensitive “snowflake generation” of students who are quick to take offence. Last year it emerged that Oxford University’s equality and diversity unit had issued guidance to students advising them that those who avoided making eye contact with their peers could be guilty of racism.
The University of Glasgow started issuing “trigger warnings” for theology students studying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whereby students would be told in advance that they may see distressing images and would be given the opportunity to leave the room.
Let’s silently hear it for jazz hands! Getty Images
Earlier this year, If, Rudyard Kipling’s poem of paternal advice, was scrubbed off a Manchester University building by university students who claimed he was a racist on the basis that the poem was a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson, the British colonial statesman who led the Jameson Raid against the South African Republic in 1895-6.
Student leaders at the university declared that Kipling stood “for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights.”
The poem, which had been painted on the wall of the students’ union building by an artist, was removed by students in a bid to reclaim history on behalf of those who had been oppressed by “the likes of Kipling.”
A union spokesman said the hand gesture referred to as “jazz hands” was “designed to support those with disabilities and/or sensory conditions to participate in events.”
They added: “Students’ unions strive to make their events welcoming to all of their students by acknowledging their experiences and responding to their needs.”
A spokesman for Manchester University said: “We consider this a matter for the Students’ Union.”