Student accused of cheating on Facebook appears before expulsion hearing

A first-year student at Ryerson University in Toronto who stands accused of cheating by helping run a Facebook study group appeared before an expulsion hearing Tuesday.

A first-year student at Ryerson University in Toronto who stands accused of cheating by helping run a Facebook study group appeared before an expulsion hearing Tuesday.

Chris Avenir, an 18-year-old studying computer engineering, fought the charges at the engineering faculty's appeals committee. He faces one count of academic misconduct for helping to organize the group, and another 146 counts for every student who used the group.

The hearing was closed to the public at Avenir's request, according to a university spokeswoman.

The appeals committee hearing the case is expected to decide on the issue within five business days. If the committee rules against him, Avenir can appeal the decision to the university's senate.

Avenir said Tuesday he hopes the academic charges will be dropped and his name will be cleared.

"I feel pretty confident and optimistic about the appeal meeting we just had," Avenir said after the 90-minute hearing ended.

"I don't have any regrets about what happened inside."

He has said he joined the online chemistry study group Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions last fall, and then took charge of it as an administrator. The group was named after a study room known by students as the Dungeon.

He said the group, which shared notes on assignments that contributed 10 per cent to the overall course mark, was a place on the internet where students could ask questions and that it was no different from any library study group or peer tutoring.

In dispute is a note that appeared on the group's main page, which read: "If you request to join, please use the forms to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted."

Instructor gave him an F

Upon discovery of the site, the course instructor gave Avenir an F and charged him with academic misconduct. The instructor had asked students to prepare their assignments individually.

The university, which is not commenting on the case, said it has to ensure that students are doing their own homework. Many students, however, say the charges are unfair.

In a post on the Facebook group "Support Chris Avenir," Ryerson student Matt Boyle called the school's action an "outrage."

"How is this any different from a study group in the library or something?" Boyle said. "I don't see the school policing those."

With files from the Canadian Press