Student fighting expulsion over Facebook optimistic
A Ryerson University student facing expulsion for running a study group on the popular social networking website Facebook is optimistic he will be exonerated.
Chris Avenir, a first-year computer engineering student, emerged from a faculty appeal hearing late Tuesday surrounded by his family and supporters.
"I feel pretty confident and optimistic about the meeting," he told reporters, without taking any questions. "I don't have any regrets about what happened inside, and that's all I can say right now."
The Toronto university accuses the 18-year-old of using the website to help his 146 classmates cheat on tests and assignments.
Avenir maintains the group used the website to compare notes and share homework tips and questions. He says if what he did was cheating, then so is tutoring and all the mentoring programs the university runs.
Avenir's professor, however, did stipulate the online homework questions were to be done independently and sees this as a case of academic dishonesty.
Ryerson has charged Avenir with one count of academic misconduct for helping run the group and another 146 counts for each classmate who used the site.
The appeal committee hearing the case has five days to render its decision. If they decide expulsion is warranted, there will be an automatic review by the school's Senate Appeals Committee, where Avenir can be represented by a lawyer.
The Ryerson Students' Union is standing behind Avenir, saying the school's actions are "outrageous and totally unwarranted."
"The students' union is going to be doing whatever we can to make sure (expulsion) doesn't happen," president Nora Loreto told CTV Newsnet.
"It's going to be a hard road for Chris if it is the case that he's going to be expelled from Ryerson, which is why we're dedicated to fighting this with him 100 per cent of the way until he's totally cleared."
Loreto says a number of faculty members also support Avenir.
Kim Neale, the student union's advocacy co-ordinator, says students are afraid to use Facebook to talk about schoolwork. She admits the professor instructed the online homework questions were to be done independently, but points out students have traditionally done homework in groups.
Some Ryerson students say the charges against Avenir are unfair.
"I think it's kind of ridiculous because it wasn't even him that was posting the answers," one woman told CTV Toronto. "I don't think he should be getting expelled. I think he should be getting a warning or a suspension."
One student said the online group is no different than studying in a mentoring group or with friends.
"They're making it a really big deal because it was posted on the Internet," said another student.
The university released a statement late Tuesday morning, saying it "welcomes the appropriate and innovative use of technology by students and faculty, including Facebook study groups."
But the school refused to discuss the details of Avenir's case.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon and files from The Canadian Press