Ryerson fails, not Facebook student

Although it’s been at least a couple of decades since I was in university, I can remember how useful it was to get together with other students at the library or in the coffee shop to talk over a problem or an assignment. Using something like instant messaging or Facebook would have been a huge benefit — but now a Ryerson student is being threatened with expulsion for using Facebook in just such a way. This seems like a gigantic mistake to me, and not something I would expect from an institution as supposedly progressive as Ryerson (which happens to be my alma mater).

Tony Hung at Deep Jive Interests is calling for a blogosphere uprising on Digg and elsewhere to help the student, Chris Avenir, and I would wholeheartedly support that call to arms. If there was evidence that Avenir and the group were somehow cheating, that would be a different — since cheating is clearly wrong, as Michael Geist notes in his post. But so far it looks like Ryerson’s response is completely out of proportion to what the students actually did, which was to exchange tips on homework that only accounted for 10 per cent of their final mark.

Ryerson says that it is not anti-Facebook, and that it has to maintain its academic integrity. I don’t think anyone would argue with those goals — and if the Facebook group was set up for the express purpose of exchanging answers to exam questions, then the university would be well within its rights to take action. As far as I can tell from what’s been reported by the Star and the CBC, however, that’s not what it sounds like. And I think that Ryerson risks losing a lot of goodwill with its students if it bans a social networking site without having a pretty iron-clad case.

17 thoughts on “Ryerson fails, not Facebook student

  1. Pingback: Deep Jive Interests » For The Love Of Digg, We Have To Save Chris Avenir!

  2. Not just “fail” — I believe the appropriate phrase is “EPIC Fail”.

    Secondly, the bigger academic question is how appropriate is it to have homework assignments that hinge upon anyone “not copying” the answer in this day and age?

    It seems ludicrous, because while Facebook was the easiest way to form a study group around this issue, all it does is drive it into the social “underground” into more obscure sites, or simply private online groups, where it can still proliferate.

    t @ dji

    • I agree, Tony. It's not like copying or sharing answers didn't exist
      before Facebook came along — before that it was IM, and before that
      it was plain old hard copy. Facebook may make it easier or faster, but
      that's about it. I think academia is struggling with many of the same
      information-control issues that media and content companies are.

      • I totally agree. Sad thing is that kids like Chris Avenir get caught in the middle (did I just call him a kid? Wow, I feel old) with real ugly consequences — that is, not just consequences that are severely ugly, but are actually real. If he gets expelled that is, I think, a Big Deal.

  3. oh, academia's *definitely* struggling when it comes to understanding social networking–not to mention most of what's happening online. When I read this story this a.m., I wasn't just horrified–I thought about a prof I met last week at We Media Miami, who is from Ryerson, who was talking about how she teaches media literacy in her class. …and what I've discovered is that there are pockets of professors in many universities who are teaching about the ups and downs of Facebook in their classes. But that the universities, overall, have no understanding of life online. So, we get really bad stuff like this happening. I sure hope Ryerson sees their way to not expelling this kid.

  4. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that everything you say and do online can and will be indexed by Google on the world wide web. The overriding sentiment is that the Facebook study group is no different than students hanging out at school or the library helping each other with homework. Over at my blog, I argue that actually, it is.
    Whatever you do in private is your business. When you do it on the Internet, it becomes everybody else’s business. Govern yourselves accordingly.

  5. Pingback: Media Driving with Jay Moonah » Post Topic » Ryerson’s Anti-Facebook Stance

  6. Someone should advise the accused student to start a petition against the school to drop its unwarranted threat of expulsion and to offer him an official apology for their misappropriation and duly bias negligence in the assessment of the matter.

  7. Hey Guys…this is horrible. As a soon-to-be grad (hopefully) from San Diego State…this is more of the old thinking that the ivory tower shoves down our throat.

Is it OUR fault that schools are so antiquated they don't understand that Facebook is like a virtual study hall or dorm room or any other place we would all normally study?

    Don't let Chris take the fall on his own.

Go to www.ChrisDidntCheat.com and buy something from the CafePress store.

    The money will be donated to Chris. He can either use it for legal expenses or for a round of beers (which I think we can all agree he'll need during/after this debacle).

Spread the world.


  8. I think the whole issue here was about plagiarism. The whole thing is that helping too much and too many tips can lead to plagiarism and from my point of view, I don't care if it counts 10%,5% or 1% of teh final mark. It counts and that is that. Students rely on internet too much and plagiarism is somehow a very serious problem nowadays. Copy/paste is not a desirable outcome that we want to promote in our universities.
    Online Education

  9. I think they are making a big fuss over nothing. And that guy Ryerson needs to check his clock, it's 2009 for God's sake.
    My erectie blog has all you need.

  10. I think they are making a big fuss over nothing. And that guy Ryerson needs to check his clock, it's 2009 for God's sake.
    My erectie blog has all you need.

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