Lack of charges in U. of I. professor's videotaping incident raises questions
When it comes to propriety in the workplace, offenses must be taken seriously, especially in the midst of social awareness movements such as #MeToo, which swept the country last year.
And the recent incident involving Jay Rosenstein, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor who allegedly videotaped a person in a public restroom has been a hot topic in the fight against sexual assault and offenses.
The incident involved a student who was donning a Chief Illiniwek costume as part of an Illini basketball game and was changing into the costume in the State Farm Center bathroom.
Dave Wischnowsky of the Chicago Tribune commented on the situation and the ramifications that will follow.
"Rosenstein was arrested for recording individuals in a public restroom without permission, which is a misdemeanor crime by law," Wischnowsky told the Chambana Sun. "According to the police, he even admitted to said crime. So, yes, he absolutely should have been charged with it, just like anyone else should expect to be if they did the same."
The details of the incident were complicated by the professor's claim that he was filming the student changing in the bathroom as part of a journalism project.
"The law plainly was broken, and that's why it should have been handed over to the full legal system to sort out. Unfortunately, (Champaign County) State's Attorney Julia Rietz intervened and decided otherwise, using politics as an excuse to not pursue charges," Wischnowsky said.
The decision to side with the political excuse by Reitz was, in Wischnowsky's opinion, disappointing, especially when considering the details of her professional career.
"And since she also works as adjunct professor for the university, I find it fairly troubling too. I would have preferred that she had recused herself from the case," Wischnowsky said.
The political angle, which Wischnowsky mentioned, involves the portrayal of the chief of the Illiniwek tribe and the group of individuals who believe that portraying him as a mascot is disrespectful.
"The entire Chief Illiniwek issue is deeply complex with many layers. But, at its core, I've always believed it to be an issue of free speech and freedom of expression. And I've always thought that the small-minded ones in the debate are those who comprise the anti-chief crowd, which is ironic because they claim that those who support the chief are the simpletons," Wischnowsky said. "However, it's anti-chief folks who seemingly are incapable of expanding their minds beyond a shallow, one-dimensional view of Illiniwek and unwilling to examine with truly honest eyes what's undeniably a multidimensional issue. If they did, they'd have to acknowledge all the positive things the chief represents to so many people. Because, while the chief was never perfect, he always has been cherished and beloved – which is the antithesis of racism."
Wischnowsky believes that there have been many flawed actions by those against the Chief Illiniwek mascot and that there is a need for dialogue concerning the sensitive topic.
"Rather than seek better ways to embrace those powerful emotions and evolve the tradition to more accurately honor the proud Native Americans after which this state is named, the anti-chief crowd instead wants only to condemn and obliterate everything related to the Chief – including the opinions of those who think differently than they do. Why? Well, I think part of it is fear, honestly," Wischnowsky said. "They want to protect that predetermined narrative, so they seek to stifle views that oppose it and oppress those who hold those views – all under the guise of supposedly fighting oppression. As the recent ... Rosenstein incident showed, chief critics can be terribly hypocritical. After all, ... Rosentein immediately clung to his own First Amendment rights in the midst of pursuing his crusade to stifle the freedom of expression belonging to others. And, really, what's more hypocritical than that?"
Whether Rosenstein's actions have been considered serious enough to be grounds for termination remains to be determined, but Wischnowsky believes a decision should be made concerning the legality of his actions.
"I think Rosenstein's job status is up to the university. His legal status, meanwhile, should have been up to the legal system," Wischnowsky said.