The photo in question was allegedly taken during a first-year Illustration class. PHOTO: JESS TSANG

Photo flap hits fashion school

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By Angela Hennessy

An investigation into an incident involving fashion students has been launched after photos were allegedly taken of a life model during an illustration class.

Fashion school chair Robert Ott said that the photo has also allegedly been redistributed, possibly on social media.

The model had been hired by the fashion school for students to practice life drawing. The class often uses nude models but Ott could not comment if the model was naked or clothed in the alleged photo.

“I became aware Thursday evening that there might have been incidents where students were taking pictures of the model then that [the photo] was allegedly put on social media,” said Ott.

In an email sent from faculty, fashion students were notified that there would be a ban on using recording devices in illustration classes, effective immediately.

“I’m actually appalled on behalf of all the students who are upset this has happened,” said Ott.

Ott said they began looking for the involved students on Sept. 20 (the morning after he was first informed about what happened by faculty). Because no one has turned themselves in, the situation will be handed over to the Ryerson student conduct office.

Student conduct officer Mark Atia said he will deal with any complaints that come through the office that are listed in the student code of non-academic conduct, policy 61 of the Ryerson senate.

“I will take the complaint, review it and then interview the complainant and continue with my investigation,” said Atia, who could not comment on specific cases due to confidentiality agreements.

Examples of “non-academic conduct” can include anything frombringing firearms, explosives or weapons onto campus or theft.

Fashion instructors were made aware of the situation after students brought to their attention that alleged photos had been taken and redistributed.

The school is not sure what class section the incident took place in.

There are six sections of this course and there are roughly 180 students enrolled. Ott said there are between seven and eight models in total who have worked with the school during this term.

Ott could not comment on who the models were. “I reached out to all of them on Friday and I apologized and I promise this will not happen again,” said Ott.

Laura Virdo, an agent at Sutherland models, (a modeling agency in Toronto that does not work with Ryerson), said that the fashion school should be responsible for the space that models work in.

“We would immediately take legal action against the person or institution who had hired the model if a situation like this happened,” said Virdo. “We would look at whether or not the fashion school at Ryerson did due diligence in ensuring the safety of their models.” Ott said there is currently no specific policy outlining that photos are not to be taken in this setting, but that this incident was unprecedented.

“I don’t understand why anyone would do this. I remember being told the first week we were not allowed to take pictures,” said Andrea Markle, a second-year fashion student.

At this point, the school isn’t sure how the photo was taken and Ott acknowledged that “a camera is a part of a lot of technology that students bring into the classroom.”

“[Students] need to come forward to be held accountable for their actions,” said Ott. “I don’t believe their actions were malicious or ill intended, but instead possibly selfish or ignorant.”

With files from Sierra Bein

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