Official Statement from the University of Manchester Students’ Union on BSL Clapping
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.
Nor are we applying this motion to all events held at the Students' Union. The Union holds a huge number of events, including gigs, theatre productions and sport. This policy has no bearing on those events which make up the majority of a packed calendar at the Students' Union. It is only intended to be encouraged at the Union’s democratic events – those in which our members are invited to participate in decision making which affects the democratic organisation of the Students’ Union. In fact, those democratic events make up a relatively small number of meetings inside the organisation each year.
Inclusivity is one of the Students’ Union’s founding principles. We recognise that minority groups are underrepresented in political environments and we are working to address that. This policy is one way of doing so inside our Union.
We have already received many positive responses from disabled students (some of whom are deaf or autistic), who are pleased to feel more included in our democratic process. Some of them plan to attend upcoming democratic events at the Union for the first time, thanks to this policy.
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.
We recognise that this one motion doesn’t overcome all of the barriers to complete inclusivity and we will continue to work towards that ideal. We do, however, see this as a positive step forward in that regard.
The way in which politics is managed and conducted is often hostile – we see that on a national stage every day of the week. We hope this decision goes some way towards promoting a better way of doing politics so that more people from all walks of life find it easier to participate in decision making that will affect the way their Students’ Union is run.