A library can be host to a freak out as easily as any location.

Rob Hardy

Silhouette Staff


This week, I came across a story online that I felt quite important to write about. Though I’m not much one for viral videos, it nevertheless did what it was intended for: to interrupt, make people take notice and then find themselves on either side of a highly charged and divisive debate. Nevertheless, I will proceed with what became a fascinating meme for a relatively minor Internet audience last December.

The incident happened at California State University in Northridge, where a girl apparently had a minor freak out in the library during finals week. Speaking in what seemed to be a relatively controlled manner, despite her extreme visible frustration, the girl becomes aggressive in demanding silence and respect from students who have made it impossible for her to effectively study in the library. That the girl is Asian (and the perpetrators are African-American) further fuels and in fact gives this talking point much of its staying power in the common arena, as many of the comments detract from what relevant conversation may be found here, reducing it to a discussion on racial proclivities. Now that you have enough information to become participatory voyeurs yourselves, what follows are my thoughts on what I will assume you have now been compelled to watch and weigh in on.

This video for me stood out on many levels. I will leave out any comments relating to the girl’s Asian ethnicity except to say that universities today definitely have a strong reliance on the funding that international students bring to the table, funding that winds up partially subsidizing the education that regular citizens in America and Canada get for a much lower cost. We have much to learn from a global classroom, and this video illustrates that though globalization has begun, we are far from accustomed to its presence.

At the centre of this debate is the issue at hand: the girls were clearly being disruptive in an academic environment, and when confronted about it during what was obviously the untelevised portion of the video preceding its start, they decided to deliberately aggravate her, with the intent of taping her provoked frustration to post online. As I have spent considerable time reading, there are many comments for this video, along with the noise level of libraries in general, which support the girl’s actions and sympathize with her anxiety. Though others may disagree, I also applaud her fearlessness in speaking out and confronting the problem directly, likely having spoken for at least a few others who were too timid and would otherwise have suffered through the noise and chatter.

In today’s society we have become far too politically correct in establishing blanket zero-tolerance policies for expressing anger and frustration. This has led to businesses and people in general taking advantage of the expectation that people must be willing to absorb whatever legitimate concerns are greatly bothering them. That is not to say that people should habitually, or even semi-regularly, go around “hitting the roof” or “blowing their stack.” Indeed, it should be avoided at all costs, for several reasons, one of which is that it is simply no longer socially acceptable, and the second being that you could find yourself on YouTube while having a really bad day.

On the other hand, the girls filming the frustrated student were clearly in the wrong by actually instigating the physical manifestations of the resultant book slamming. That they claim to be just sitting there minding their own business does not wash when it is clear they knew exactly what they were doing. One would suspect that had they the misfortune of appearing in front of Judge Judy, they would be in for a severe dressing down.

With all the talk of bullying going on, it is also extremely disappointing that two students who appear to be in university would get so much pleasure from participating in this tacky display, and be immature enough to want to actually broadcast this to the world. Perhaps it is a generation’s easy answer to surrounding themselves with the kind of drama that triples their online friends in a week and makes them feel important as they busy themselves responding to a considerable volume of email. Regardless, the result is that our already suggestible psyches become reconditioned by polarized debates that quickly whip up people into Facebook vigilantes, feeling quite impassioned to defend their point of view to the death.

I feel guilty of this to a degree for propagating the incident in this article, and further feel more likely to simply not watch that which was perhaps public, but only in the strict confines of what the girl felt was the actual extent of her public space. This assumption needs to be consciously broken, however, for our surroundings are now no longer limited to the physical.

To sum it up, I agree wholeheartedly with the girl suffering through finals in a noisy library, and who obviously had to be there for some reason, or she would have already moved without incident. She was clearly going through a lot in a challenging situation and was at least partially provoked.

The domain of public space, however, is less personal than ever. Libraries have become just as vulnerable to societal declines and must conform to newer standards, while silence and the benefits it brings has become another luxury that some who live in disruptive or precarious housing simply cannot afford to secure for themselves. Though it’s of little use at the time, especially when you are right, the old adage of counting to ten is one that is quite wisely remembered.

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