News & Politics

Hold Your Applause, Oxford Students, or You Might Trigger Somebody

Oxford University All Souls College photo credit: Bill Tyne, accessed on Wikimedia Commons.

Everybody loves the sound of applause, right? If you’re a performer, applause means the audience appreciates all your hard work. If you’re an audience member, applauding means you like the same thing everybody else likes and you’re part of the crowd. There’s just something viscerally satisfying about slapping your hands together when you’re happy. Applause is a great way for human beings to bond with each other and celebrate our achievements. Or it means your plane has just landed. I’m not sure what that’s all about…

In any case, never mind all that. Those days are over. Applause is literally toxic poison that’s hurting people, and you will cease doing it immediately. So say the students of the oldest English-language university in the world.

Michael Culbert, Oxford Student:

The first Student Council meeting of the academic year, yesterday, passed the 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…

BSL clapping is used by the National Union of Students since 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 proposers pointed out that alternatives to traditional clapping have been in place to aid accessibility in some organisations since 2015, when The New York Times for instance declared snapping is the new clapping.

Everybody remembers that, right? Snapping is the new clapping? You snap your fingers now instead of clapping, don’t you? Well, now you can’t even do that. Too noisy. It’s jazz hands now.

As I recall, the lovely folks at Occupy Wall Street had a similar method of silently indicating agreement or appreciation: “twinkles.”

Isn’t this much better than all that noisy applause? All that deeply satisfying and natural human behavior?

Look, I’m not going to go out of my way to hurt people with anxiety disorders and whatnot. I’ve got my own anxiety problems, and it’s no fun. But I’m also not telling the rest of the world that they have to stop everything to accommodate me. People clap when they like something. It’s nothing personal, children. It’s not a social injustice.

And now that I’ve said all that…