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Student video shakes up campus

By Ashley Cole Editor

October 24, 2013

Cartoon by Andrew Alekseev
Cartoon explaining what happens when there is free food at a school event.

An idea for a campus-wide “Harlem Shake” Homecoming video received backlash from 13 professors on Oct. 13.

Dr. Jaime Martinez, assistant professor in the department of history, sent an open email to Chancellor Kyle R. Carter on behalf of 12 other faculty members citing several problems they had with filming a Harlem Shake video.

The most immediate problem Dr. Martinez cited was the time of filming conflicted with class schedules and professor’s office hours.

Also, the video could create noise and become a distraction for students in class or in advising sessions.

Another problem some of the faculty had addressed was the possible negative publicity the university might receive after playing this video at the Homecoming football game.

Anticipated backlash

One of the main concerns was the perception that University funds were used to create the video.

This is something Dr. Martinez believed stakeholders and donors may not like.

“We anticipate significant backlash among external stakeholders and potential donors if the university appears to appropriate money and use class time for a project that not only has no obvious educational value, but also runs counter to our stated institutional values,” Dr. Martinez said in the email.

Dr. Martinez described how faculty show their school spirit and interact with students in more appropriate ways than filming a Harlem Shake video.

“We host guest lectures, movie nights and book clubs,” Dr. Martinez said. “We serve as advisors to student organizations and athletic teams. We share meals with our students [and] take them on field trips.”

Dr. Martinez also addressed some racial and historical problems with the Harlem Shake video, saying it’s “a specific dance with its own history and context...the online video craze, however, was clearly unconnected to this context and therefore represented a thoughtless and racially insensitive act of cultural appropriation.”

“None of us were aware of the controversy,” Dr. Carter said. “We met with the students, the faculty and Dr. Jones, the provost and some others and just explained the situation to students.

Song change

Not long after the professors’ protest, the song for the video was changed to “Can’t Touch This” in light of the football team’s undefeated record.

“First and foremost the student said all we were trying to do was have fun. Our intent was to show spirit,” Dr. Carter said.

Participants sported pom-poms, football helmets and black and gold attire as they danced to the song during filming, which took place around campus.

“Some people could argue the people doing these videos are ignorant to the true meaning of the Harlem Shake, but I believe it is mostly just people who see a fun current trend and want to be a part of it,” SGA president Emily Ashley said.

“After we talked, we felt like it had been done on so many campuses and this was a student-initiated project and we have confidence in the students that it would be done in good taste that we were not going to ask the students not to do it,” Dr. Carter said.

 

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Updated: Friday, November 15, 2013
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