By Paolo Zinatelli and Matt Kwong
The author of Ryerson’s original Human Rights Policy is considering launching a formal complaint against a student.
Last week, fourth-year film student Michael Sage–the “Chief Researcher” on a survey titled Are you Hot? 2K5: The Search for Image Art’s (sic) Sexiest Students–sent out a mass e-mail to his graduating film class, informing them they were subjects in his study.
Sage requested that participants score their peers out of 10 on three criteria: Face, body and sex appeal. “Leaving out the scores for the unfortunate-looking would be doing them and yourselves an injustice,” he wrote.
But when sociology professor Jean Golden (who drafted the university’s code of conduct) learned of the study, she was outraged. “It’s a misnomer to call it scientific. When you ask students to sexually rank, you are sexualizing the study environment,” she charged. “And once you (do that), you’re involved in sexual harassment.”
It wasn’t long before students voiced their anger. “I just thought it was really disgusting. I don’t find it funny at all,” said a female film student in her fourth year who withheld her name because she is afraid of Sage.
Others wished to remain anonymous because they feared he might “pester” them, since there are only 50 students in the class. “If they don’t want (Sage) pestering them, every one of them should take these questionnaires and rip them up,” Golden suggested.
While some have already complained to department head Alexandra Anderson about the study, students are concerned that even if they choose not to participate, there’s no stopping others from judging them.
Ann Whiteside, Ryerson’s discrimination and harassment officer, said students could lay complaints to her if they feel the survey might set up a “poisoned environment” on campus. Chair of Sociology Murray Pomerance said the study–though informal–likely breaches Ryerson’s Research Ethics Board policy.
Research involving human subjects has explicit guidelines for anonymity which could be violated if Sage publishes results and pictures from his survey. Sage defended his reputation: “People think I’m akin to Hitler, (but) if there’s anything I’m being discriminating against–it’s ugliness,” he said. “More than likely, the people who are complaining are just ugly,” reasoned Sage, who considers himself a seven out of 10, or “slightly above average…definitely not bottom of the barrel.”
In the coming weeks, he expects his scores to jump. “Once my braces are done, I expect high ratings,” he boasted. “Braces should indicate I’m trying to make myself hotter.”
He plans to distribute a list of the Top 10 Sexiest after the results are in and publish pictures of the “winners” next month. “Last year, I had taken enough paparazzi photos over time to use,” Sage said, referring to his “collection” of photos at home. “I would say I’m the Lorenzo Lamas of Ryerson,” he added later.
But that kind of behaviour makes him sound like a “sexual voyeur”, said Golden.
Still, Sage stands by his survey. “I say bring it on,” he challenged, to which Golden responded: “He says bring it on? Well, let’s bring it on for him.”