By Jesse McLean
Student politicians are celebrating after Ryerson back-pedalled on a controversial policy that would allow the school to punish students for online behaviour.
Toby Whitfield, a student member of the committee discussing Policy 61, said the group has removed a section that explicitly stated offences conducted on the Internet are punishable. Whitfield said the change protects students’ personal lives online, but other sections of the policy allow the school to punish online harassment.
“Basically, if you’re doing things with your friends deemed destructive, but it’s not connected to Ryerson, it’s not an issue,” Whitfield said. “But if you’re harassing another student, that’s still an issue, and you’ll be dealt with.”
The school’s move to police students on the Internet became controversial last month when engineering student Chris Avenir faced expulsion for running and online study group.
The committee has also rewritten the statement of principles to provide a point-form summary of the policy. Whitfield said that this makes it easier for students to understand.
“It’s definitely a successful first step,” he said. Zouheir Fawaz, Ryerson’s VP Students who is also chairing the committee, said he is happy with the amendments so far.
He said the group has refined the open-ended language of the original policy, making sure there is no room for ambiguity.
“The worry of the student’s that the university is out to get them [was as a result] of confusion, and I think these changes will show that’s not what we’re doing, that we’re trying to help,” he said.
Still, Whitfield and others are quick to say there is still a lot to change with the policy before it gets approval.
Ryerson’s Senate won’t vote on the policy until May and, if it gets approved, it will go to another committee to decide how it will be implemented.
“The devil is in the details, and the procedures are where the details will be worked out,” said Ryerson Students’ Union President Nora Loreto, who has attended several meetings regarding the policy.