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By John Shmuel

Imagine yourself struggling with an upcoming test. To help your studying habits, you create a Facebook group for everyone else taking the course to share notes.

The next day Ryerson sends you an e-mail notifying you that you’re expelled.

That’s what happened to Chris Avenir, a first-year computer engineering student when he was faced with accusations of plagiarism last year.

Though Avenir was cleared in the end, the case showed that Ryerson has a broad list of what it defines as cheating. So, what should you do if you’re faced with allegations of cheating or plagiarism?

Do your research

First of all, be aware that Ryerson has a policy that applies to student behaviour both on and off campus. The much debated Non-Academic Student Code of Conduct (known as policy 61) applies specifically to what you do outside of school. Policy 61 is new to Ryerson — it comes into effect this month. So if you start an online study group, be warned. It may be monitored by someone from Ryerson.

The Student Code of Conduct (policy 60) outlines what the school considers to be cheating on campus and in class, and the repercussions if you’re caught.

Both documents are available online. Which means you can read them for yourself before you decide to do anything that you suspect might get you into trouble. You can find them at

Keep a straight face

If you are accused of academic misconduct, take it seriously. It can get you permanently kicked out of school, or even worse.

Anyone suspected of academic misconduct is contacted by Ryerson’s Academic Integrity Officer, Donna Bell. Usually the process involves a facilitated discussion — meeting with your professor, and talking about what happened.

After that, a decision is made about an appropriate punishment. Whatever the decision, keep in mind that it can be appealed.

Because knowledge is power

Be aware of your rights. Both codes of conduct can be very dense and difficult to understand. Not everyone is a lawyer, so make sure you find other resources on campus to help you decode these policies.

Your first stop should be the Student Campus Centre. The Ryerson Students’ Union has a student rights and advocacy coordinator that can provide you with important advice for free. She can even help you plan your appeal if you feel a decision the school made against you is unfair.

Be smart and get help

The bottom line? Take advantage of the help and resources offered by the Ryerson community if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Who knows, it might turn out that the school was wrong after all, and you might get the chance to become a national celebrity in the process.

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