Anti-mascot professor arrested after allegedly videotaping mascot supporter in public restroom

Anti-mascot professor arrested after allegedly videotaping mascot supporter in public restroom
A University of Illinois professor who made a documentary about the negative effects of Native American imagery in sports was arrested Monday night after allegedly videotaping a supporter of the school's former mascot in a public restroom. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

A University of Illinois professor who made a documentary about the negative effects of Native American imagery in sports was arrested Monday night after allegedly videotaping a supporter of the school’s former mascot in a public restroom, the News-Gazette reported.

Jay Rosenstein, 57 — an award-winning professor of media and cinema studies — was booked into jail at 9:46 p.m. on a preliminary charge of unauthorized videotaping, the paper said, citing Champaign County sheriff’s records.

What allegedly occurred?

Ivan Dozier, president of the Honor the Chief Society — founded in 2001 to “lend historical perspective to the Chief Illiniwek tradition at the University of Illinois” — told Campus Reform that Rosenstein followed him and Omar Cruz into a restroom during a basketball game against Michigan State University.

Cruz — an Illinois student who unofficially portrays Chief Illiniwek — was going to change into the Chief Illiniwek outfit in the restroom, Campus Reform added.

“After finishing at the urinal, I turned to find the professor, phone still in hand and pointed right at me,” Dozier told the outlet. “I was almost speechless. The man was literally trying to catch me with my pants down.”

Dozier has made several campus appearances recently to promote awareness of the history of Chief Illiniwek, the News-Gazette said.

What will happen next?

Rosenstein is expected to appear in court Tuesday afternoon, the News-Gazette reported, adding that the preliminary charge against him is usually a Class A misdemeanor if the recording takes place in a public restroom without the permission of the person being recorded.

But a felony can result under certain circumstances, the paper said, adding that the state’s attorney’s office will decide whether or not to file charges after reviewing police reports.

Rosenstein on Tuesday did not immediately reply to the TheBlaze’s request for comment.

What’s the background?

  • Chief Illiniwek was retired in 2007, the News-Gazette reported, but the Honor the Chief Society has continued to campaign for some remembrance of the school tradition and has named unofficial Chief Illiniwek portrayers each year.
  • The portrayers dress in Native American outfits and appear at school football and basketball games, the paper reported, adding that they’ve also appeared in annual homecoming parades.
  • Cruz marched in last fall’s homecoming parade but had to be escorted away when protesters blocked him, the News-Gazette said.
  • Apart from his 1997 documentary “In Whose Honor?” which criticizes the Chief Illiniwek tradition at the University of Illinois, Rosenstein has favored getting rid of the mascot.
  • He penned a 2016 piece for a Champaign-Urbana publication blasting Chief Illiniwek portrayals, particularly at sporting events.
  • “When the Chief’s theme music is played at halftime, students and other spectators fold their arms in front of them, mimicking the Chief’s imagined movements, holding that pose while yelling “Chief!” — an action so blatantly racist that we doubt any would have the courage to do in the face of an actual American Indian,” Rosenstein wrote. “It is an embarrassing display of ignorance.”

What else did Dozier and Cruz say?

“All I want is to be able to go to an Illini game, and be proud of the Native heritage that we used to honor and respect at this school,” Dozier told Campus Reform. “Instead, I have professors literally following me into the bathroom, clearly misinterpreting the term ‘exposé.”

“This is just one of the many things that make this campus unwelcoming and abusive,” Cruz noted, according to Campus Reform. “As a student and member of this community, I feel unsafe having a pervert teaching amongst the students on campus. He needs to be stopped before he attacks other students.”

Here’s a clip of Chief Illiniwek’s “last dance”: