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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 RussianSensation on 3/24/2008 2:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
It's very difficult in the real world to prevent someone from doing their homework as a group and getting help from external sources. However, you realize that almost every test and every exam you write in high school/university is written by 1 person, not as a group. Therefore, teachers DO want to test someone's individual ability. They also incorporate "group work" by assigning group assignments (which mostly get done by people assigning someone do part 1 of the assignment, someone else do part 2, etc. in the end those parts are put together). Of course that's not real group work. That's simply individuals "stitching" together each other's parts to make it a 1-piece item.

Now, my particular university allowed us to look/buy old exam papers and tests to practive those types of questions. But if Ryerson's policy is that you are not allowed to use old exams (regardless of how one obtained them), then it is cheating. Of course when you start sharing those tests publicly, some people might find out, while if you do in a private group setting, its harder to get caught. So I suppose, if their policy is such then the kid was pretty brave and also stupid for openly (publicly) using such information.


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