Student Faces Expulsion over Facebook Study Group

A chemical engineering student in Toronto faces expulsion from his school for running an online study group through Facebook. Chris Avenir, a first-year student at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, said he joined the social networking group in fall 2007 to get help with the homework in one of his chemistry classes. Eventually, he became the administrator for the network, which grew to include 146 students.

The homework questions counted for 10 percent of the grade in the class. When an administrator discovered the group and informed the professor, Avenir received an F and was charged with academic misconduct, punishable by expulsion. An appeal filed last week was to be settled this week by the campus.

According to the Ryerson school newspaper, The EyeOpener, Avenir was singled out even though he said he never posted any answers on the discussion pages. He is quoted as saying, "What we did wasn't any different than tutoring, than tri-mentoring, than having a library study group."

The school has proposed changes to the campus senate to extend its non-academic student code of conduct to incidents that happen online. It would also create a "Student Conduct Officer" to enforce the code.

The case has received international blog and media coverage. On campus, some students and staff have organized to protest the suggested change to the policy. Others said they believe that Avenir deserves punishment for organizing a group in which students exchange notes and answers. A follow-up article in The EyeOpener quoted the president of Ryerson's Engineering Students' Society, Griffith d'Souza, as saying, "It seems unfair to everyone who would have worked on that assignment on their own."


About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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