Observe proper office conduct
Gavin Swiatek, a biochemistry instructor who worked on Cook campus, was taken into custody last week and is now being held on $50,000 bail in Middlesex County Jail. Swiatek was charged with second-degree distribution and fourth-degree possession of child pornography, and, if convicted, faces a maximum 10 years in prison. Swiatek is accused of using a University computer in his Cook campus office to distribute the materials.
Under U.S. law, a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. But although Swiatek has yet to be convicted, the incident brings up some serious questions not only about acceptable online etiquette in the workplace, but also about University obligations regarding how to handle such behavior.
Along with banning the individual from campus and relieving him from duties, the University has also said that it is considering termination. We hope that if indeed the individual in question is convicted, the University will not hesitate to permanently remove him from his post. A University campus has no room for unprofessional behavior, let alone behavior that is in clear violation of both University and federal policy.
Yet Swiatek’s act of bringing his personal life into his professional one is another thing to consider and is probably an act that many of us partake in everyday. Admittedly, Swiatek’s case is an extreme example. Distributing child pornography on your employer’s computer is something that probably does not even enter the minds of most employees. With the advent of the Internet in both the home and workplace, the line between work and play has become increasingly blurred. Having one’s personal email and social outlets like Facebook and Twitter available at the touch of a keypad has, for many, married personal life with professional practice. And for many, being able to hop from a spreadsheet to a Google+ profile can prove to be quite the distraction.
Employers need to ask themselves, how much of this behavior should be tolerated? As the Internet enables our social lives to be more easily toted into the office, employers will have to decide to what extent this marriage should be allowed — and, as with everything, there are both hard and soft lines
A little Reddit time at the beginning and end of the workday may cut into one’s daily productivity but is probably harmless. Even your boss finding that risqué Facebook photo your friend uploaded from the party last night may not end in unemployment. And as more and more of us young folk enter the workforce with our cellphones cemented to our hands and our friends’ Facebook profiles committed to memory, employers may just have to deal with the shenanigans.
Needless to say, distributing child pornography on your employer’s computer is probably a hard line.