Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ryerson Student Won't Be Expelled Over Facebook Study Group

We reported on the case of Chris Avenir last week.

He's the student at Toronto's Ryerson University who faced expulsion over charges that a Facebook study group he administered facilitated cheating among the group's members.

Today, the decision of an appeal committee that heard Mr. Avenir's case last week was released.

Mr. Avenir will not be expelled. But while Ryerson declined to impose the most serious of academic misconduct penalties on Mr. Avener, it appears the 18 year-old engineering student wasn't entirely cleared, either.

The Engineering Faculty Appeals Committee's decision was reported by Ryerson's campus newspaper, The Eyeopener:

The Eyeopener) - A student who attracted international media attention when he was accused of academic misconduct on Facebook will not be expelled from Ryerson.
The school e-mailed its decision to first-year engineering student Chris Avenir Tuesday afternoon. He said he felt relieved when he read the decision. Avenir was targeted by Ryerson when he became the administrator for a Facebook group last semester, where members of the group could exchange class-related material.

But the student isn't off the hook. He will receive a zero for the assignment he is alleged to have cheated on, and he will have to attend an academic integrity tutorial before the end of the Fall 2008 term. As well, he will have a disciplinary notice placed on his record. The notice will be gone upon graduation, Avenir said.

But the door is still open for the school to become involved with the conduct of students when they're online.

"The argument that a student should be entitled to do whatever they want online is a false argument," said university spokesperson James Norrie, after learning of the school's decision through a reporter and not through the university. Avenir has not decided if he'll appeal the disciplinary notice.

The Toronto Star adds a bit of detail:

In a landmark ruling on Internet use, a disciplinary panel at Ryerson has ruled the first-year engineering student should not be drummed out for helping run a Facebook study group in chemistry last fall, and ordered his passing mark in the course restored.

In a seven-page ruling, the engineering faculty appeals committee found no proof the Facebook site actually led to cheating by any of its 147 users, even though it invited them to "post solutions" to homework that was worth 10 per cent of the final mark.

But the committee ruled that because the site provided "the potential for large-scale cheating," Avenir should get zero on that 10 per cent portion – which won't change his passing grade – and that he attend a workshop on academic integrity.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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