The ubiquitous “Harlem Shake” video has shaken up Bellevue College. A video surfaced on YouTube featuring five BC students and garnered around 40 views before it was removed by its original poster at the request of BC faculty due to some offensive content.
This new trend of Harlem Shake videos is a viral YouTube dance craze. “Harlem Shake” videos are 30 seconds in length and feature an individual dancing to the song, “Harlem Shake” by disc jockey and producer Baauer, among an oblivious group of people who joins in when the bass drops.
The BC video was filmed in Student Programs in the El Centro Latino Resource Center area, although no one in the video was affiliated with El Centro Latino. The video featured the five students, who were masked, dancing in an allegedly sexually suggestive manner. The video was filmed after school hours without permission from any faculty member and was uploaded under the title, “Bellevue College Harlem Shake.”
Assistant Dean of Student Programs Faisal Jaswal said that an official complaint was made by a BC employee about the video because of the content. That employee could not comment on the issue. Of the video’s offensiveness, Jaswal said, “Yes, it offended some people and it won’t offend some people. But I’m not even taking it to that level. If someone uses this space that way when they have no authority to do so that’s my issue…As soon as we compromise that and as soon as it’s not a safe space for people then it becomes difficult.”
The students involved in the video were not reported to BC security or the administration, and Jaswal took care of disciplinary action himself. The students were punished primarily for using the Student Programs area inappropriately. Jaswal said that Student Programs is first and foremost an office and a department, though this is sometimes forgotten, as many students not only work but socialize there. While student employees have office hours, students are free to come and go as they please and their time in Student Programs is not policed by faculty members.
Adding to this confusion is the fact that previously, students have made other videos under BC’s name. In October of 2012, BC’s Flash Mob club re-enacted the dance from the popular Korean pop music video “Gangnam Style” by Psy and posted it on YouTube under the title, “Bellevue College Gangnam Style Flashmob”. Jaswal said that these two videos were very different in the way they were produced: “First and foremost [the Harlem Shake video] was filmed in a department. Why does it have to be called Bellevue College? Why not call it something else, because it doesn’t have anything to do with BC. People wearing masks and using the space after hours concerns me. I didn’t have a problem with ‘Gangnam Style’ because it did not create a potential unsafe environment.”
Jaswal does not object to creative content being created in Student Programs, but “As soon as we start creating an environment where it hampers people’s abilities to feel safe or learn, that creates a whole different story.”