Oxford librarian fired for Harlem Shake

Oxford University undergraduates have asked for a college librarian to return to her post, following her dismissal after students filmed a version of Harlem Shake under her watch.

Members of St. Hilda's College believe that the decision to fire Calypso Nash, a graduate student and former college scholar, was "hugely unjust". Her sacking has inspired a petition for her reinstatement, attracting attention from public figures such as the Respect MP George Galloway, who blame the college authorities for "a severe sense of humour loss".

The Harlem Shake, which was originally released in 2012 by Baauer, has since been performed by the Simpsons, the cast of Saturday Night Live and even members of the English National Ballet. St. Catherine's, another Oxford college, has also produced its own take on the dance, suggesting that it is in direct competition with St. Hilda's, as the two colleges are known for their rivalry.

The college's version of the viral dance routine follows the craze started by songs such as Psy's Gangnam Style, which led to parody versions being uploaded to Youtube from all over the world. The clip on the site shows around thirty students dancing to ''The Harlem Shake' in fancy dress, with some members opting to dress in animal costumes and others even dressed as the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Esther Gosling, the college's JCR president, defended the decision to upload the video by an anonymous college member. She claims that it was filmed on 17 February and was filmed in just seven minutes from 11.30pmin order avoid disruption in the library.

Ms Gosling said the JCR's pleas were reasonable, adding that she was not "deliberately trying to undermine the college."

Emily Handley

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  1. Sasha Valeri Millwood, Girton College

    Sir: An academic library is no place for any noisy activity at any time of day, and it is certainly not the place of those in statu pupillari to take it upon themselves to determine otherwise. It is also unacceptable for someone to take it upon themselves to film in a library without obtaining appropriate permission in advance. Ms Nash was grossly negligent in having failed to prevent — or at the very least report — this breach of the peace. Given that she is a graduate student, I am led to assume that she is not a permanent employee of the library, and therefore probably does not have any highly skilled librarianship duties within her remit. In fact, the purpose of these student assistants is to maintain order within the library outside office hours, something which Ms Nash blatantly failed to do or even attempt. Therefore, I am of the opinion that her sacking is proportionate and justified (if on the other hand she were also being rusticated and thus unable to complete her degree, that would be disproportionate). It is also worth bearing in mind that there might be a surplus of graduate students interested in invigilating for the library (especially if the work were paid), in which case the unsuccessful applicants deserve a chance to prove themselves better at maintaining order. St Hilda's College is to be commended for taking discipline within its library seriously. It is a pity that many of their students do not appreciate that a library has rules that are strict for good reason: to protect the inalienable right of all members to a safe and peaceful place of study (and crucially, without the need for a member to explicitly request this or complain about the lack thereof); and to protect their privacy. This sacking would not have been controversial if it had been on account of theft (or failing to prevent overt theft), or if the disruption had happened in an official examination. I sincerely hope that the College authorities (to be honest, given we are not talking about a permanent employee, it is probably an internal matter for the library directorate) stand firm in defending the sanctity of the library, and do not bow to the tyranny of popular opinion.