Oxford Students Push University To Cancel Clapping

Students call for more inclusive jazz hands

Oxford University / Getty Images
October 24, 2019

The Oxford University student council is lobbying the prestigious British university to end applause, arguing that it could trigger anxiety and was unfair to disabled students.

The Oxford Student reported Wednesday that the council had passed a motion to "mandate the Sabbatical Officers to encourage the use of British Sign Language (BSL) clapping, otherwise known as 'silent jazz hands' at Student Council meetings and other official SU events," and to "lobby the University" to make similar changes.

"Loud noises, including whooping and traditional applause, are argued to present an access issue for some disabled students who have anxiety disorders, sensory sensitivity, and/or those who use hearing impairment aids," the university newspaper said.

The students' decision comes a year after the University of Manchester Students' Union made the same move to "avoid triggering anxiety and improve accessibility."

Enthusiasm for banning clapping has been growing among students in the United Kingdom since at least 2015, when the National Union of Students' Women's Campaign warned conference delegates that applause was "triggering anxiety" in the crowd.

Since then the movement has picked up more mainstream acceptance. Conservative Party MP Cheryl Gillan asked her colleagues Thursday if the British Parliament would consider moving away from applause as well.

"Perhaps we could also have an experiment in this House that would create a more relaxing environment for autistic visitors including returning to waving our order papers in the air rather than clapping, that often causes distress to people with autism," she suggested.