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.

Win Ron Steen’s money

Stock and bond traders are used to the idea of getting income from a future stream of earnings — established musicians have even sold financial instruments whose value is based on future sales of their classic hits or “back catalogue,” a product pioneered by David Bowie. So why not a “bond” based on the future earning potential of some smart young lad about to enter university? Ron Steen figures it’s about time for such a thing, so he has listed himself on eBay (hat tip to Nick Carr for the link).

What Ron is offering is the chance to bid on payments that amount to two per cent of his annual income for the rest of his life, payable by cheque once a year until he is 65. Wisely, Ron has left any potential inheritance income out of the picture, but he has agreed to pay the winning bidder two per cent of any future “windfall” income such as lottery winnings (although he warns that he doesn’t buy lottery tickets).

Ron — who describes himself as a “really good guy” with a “dynamic personality” and a “team player who is willing to learn” (he also says he has no drug or alcohol problems and his car is paid off) — says he will be entering Cal State university in the fall, and wants to pay for his tuition with the money raised by his auction. The starting bid is $100,000.


For what it’s worth, Lazymotivation.com says that Ron’s idea isn’t really that great an investment (debatable) and that Ron may or may not be lying about his SAT scores.