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A number of groups sprung up on Facebook in support of Chris Avenir, unsurprisingly.  (Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech)
School decides not to take away student's freedom to obtain a college education

Early this month news broke of a wild expulsion hearing at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.  While students normally are expelled for indiscreetly copying their friends solutions during an exam, plagiarizing others work, or other such gaffs the Ryerson student, Chris Avenir a first year chemical engineering student, was just trying to engage in what he thought was a beneficial and harmless student practice -- creating a study group.

Avenir created a group on Facebook known as "Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions," named after the study room nicknamed "The Dungeon."  The group allowed students to share advice on homework questions, exchange questions from past tests, and speculate on what might be asked on upcoming tests.  At its maximum, the group helped 147 students.

Soon, however, Avenir's chemistry professor caught onto Avenir's efforts to help his fellow students and they weren't happy.  They not only changed Avenir's grade from a B to an F, but also recommended him for expulsion, putting him up on 147 counts of academic misconduct.

Fortunately, justice prevailed and Ryerson's academic conduct committee ruled last Tuesday not to expel Avenir.  They informed the 18-year-old that while he would not be expelled, he would receive a zero failing grade on the assignment portion of the class, as per the professor's discretion.  The assignment portion was worth ten percent of the total grade, but Avenir still passed the class easily.

Avenir could not be reached for comment, but may decide to appeal the decision as per the school's rules if he feels the failing assignment grade was unfair.  Overnight, Avenir became a celebrity and a poster child for the debate over the legitimacy of online study groups.  Advocates say there is no difference between online groups and school-sponsored tutoring programs, which often have old copies of tests, and will assist students in solving homework problems.  Critics state that helping students access materials not given by the professor or solve problems is cheating, plain and simple.

Avenir's advocates still aren't satisfied with the ruling, but appreciate that it marks a victory for their views.  Says Nora Loreto, president of the Ryerson Students' Union, "Chris in our view is still innocent, so it is still too bad that he got zero for that 10 percent.  But considering we were facing expulsion I think this is a victory, certainly a broader victory for the students at Ryerson."

As per the ruling part of Avenir's punishment includes mandatory attendance in a academic misconduct workshop.

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RE: Cheating?
By jackedupandgoodtogo on 3/24/2008 2:15:28 AM , Rating: 2
Grades have their purpose: to indicate your position between Pass and Fail for you alone. But you're suggesting we should use that to compare one person against others, which is wrong.

Don't judge a person's competency (which is also an indicator of intellect or achievement) based on a grade because it's too easy to fool people with a grade. How smart are you if you got an A and the teacher is a fool, and gave elementary tests? There's no context attached to a grade, therefore it reflects only one measurement. It doesn't demonstrate any real intellectual capability because if a genius and a hard worker can both get an A, you couldn't tell who the genius was and who the hard worker (or a cheater) was.

I've met and know many people who excelled in their coursework, only to fail in their jobs because they only know how to memorize and recall, but not innovate or extrapolate what they're learned outside of the box. Those who think out-of-the-box typically don't care about a grade. It's the over-achievers who are hung-up on their grades, trying to impress others with a visual record of their intellect, rather than present some demonstrable act of intelligence. It sickens me when people flash their credentials and yet have no real understanding of what they profess as their competency, simply because they can't think beyond their textbook intellect.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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