By Vanessa Greco
The Ryerson student facing expulsion for joining an Internet study group faced an appeal Tuesday, but the outcome won’t be known for five days.
Still, Chris Avenir vows to fight until he clears his name and might take legal action if he loses.
“I don’t have any regrets about what happened,” said Avenir, a chemical engineering student after his appeal.
Avenir got in trouble for joining the Facebook group “The Dungeon/Mastering Chemistry Solutions” last semester.
When he became the group’s administrator, the school targeted him and charged him with academic misconduct.
Avenir’s case has since attracted international media attention and 20 supporters showed up to Avenir’s appeal.
“Ryerson’s image is pretty much going down the drain,” said first-year hospitality and tourism management student Shannan Scott, Avenir’s girlfriend. “I think it’s great that we’re getting his case out there.”
Not all students, however, are supporting Avenir, and the campus is divided over the idea of policing students online.
The president of the engineers’ student group maintains Avenir committed academic misconduct for administrating a Facebook group in which students exchanged notes and answers.
“It seems unfair to everyone who would have worked on that assignment on their own,” said Griffith d’Souza, president of the Ryerson Engineering Students’ Society.
But he said Avenir has been singled out for the indiscretions of each member of the “Dungeon/Mastering Chemistry Solutions” group.
Students and staff are also mobilizing against a motion before Ryerson’s Senate that would allow the school to punish students for things that happen off campus and on the Internet.
The proposed policy would also create a Student Conduct Officer, who would enforce the Non-Academic Student Code of Conduct (Policy 61).
Ryerson’s two student unions are circulating an online petition against Policy 61, describing the proposed amendments as “the biggest affront in years to students’ freedom of speech.”
Computer Science professor David Mason, a member of the committee updating the current policy, said the school needs more time to gather input on a renewed draft of Policy 61.
He said because material is usually submitted two weeks prior to each meeting, it’d be difficult to incorporate student suggestions into the draft.
The motion lost by a narrow margin of 25 to 27, which Loreto calls a direct attack on students. But VP Students Zouheir Fawaz, who chairs the group drafting Policy 61, said as long as the draft is the subject of student concern, the committee will not be forced to present the draft.
“Trust me, I’ll be the last person to watch a committee under my chairmanship proposing something that infringes on student rights,” he said. “The university isn’t sending spies onto the World Wide Web to monitor you.”
However, Loreto argues that the role of the conduct officer will be to hunt down students. “We’re paying another salary to someone whose sole purpose is to police students,” she said.