rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Notes from Quebec by Ethan Cox

Ethan Cox's picture
rabble's Quebec correspondent, Ethan Cox is a 29 year-old journo, pundit and incorrigible rabble rouser from Montreal. A former union organizer and student union executive, Ethan has also worked on a number of successful municipal and federal election campaigns, and was a member of Quebec central office staff for the NDP in the 2011 election. More recently he served as Quebec Director and Senior Communications Advisor on Brian Topp's NDP leadership campaign. He now spends his time writing for rabble, freelancing for outlets like the National Post, appearing regularly on CJAD radio in Montreal and working on a book about austerity. You can follow him on twitter @EthanCoxMtl

Expelled Dawson student waives privacy rights, challenges College to prove he deserved expulsion

| January 23, 2013
Expelled Dawson student Ahmed Al-Khabaz

A day after Montreal's Dawson College held a press conference to tell their side of the Al-Khabaz expulsion tale, the 20-year-old former computer science student fired back at the college with a legal waiver and a youtube video appeal.

Earlier this week I broke a story in the National Post about Ahmed Al-Khabaz, a student who discovered a vulnerability in Dawson's data security, and ended up expelled after running a testing program on Dawson's system.

The story was picked up by most other outlets, and Al-Khabaz became something of a viral folk hero, receiving numerous offers of employment. A development I followed up on in the Post.

After initially refusing to return calls from myself and other journalists, Dawson began defending themselves on the basis that they had had good reasons to expel Al-Khabaz, but privacy laws prevented them from telling us what those reasons were.

This raised the tantalizing prospect that Al-Khabaz might not be telling the press the truth, and was perhaps holding back crucial details which would not cast him in such a positive light.  Unlikely, given most of his story had been coroborated by Edouard Taza, the CEO of Skytech, as well as a professor and several students, but certainly possible.

Al-Khabaz and his allies in the Dawson Student Union were obviously tiring of that line of insinuation, and so delivered a waiver signed by Al-Khabaz to Dawson on Wednesday. The waiver, a copy of which was obtained by rabble.ca, authorizes the College to publicly divulge any details of the student's academic or disciplinary record that relate to his expulsion.

Having promised media for days that the portions of Al-Khabaz's file they were prohibited from sharing contained game changing revelations, Dawson's media staff will be scrambling to produce some Thursday, as journalists return for the promised dirt.

Meanwhile, Al-Khabaz and the DSU released a YouTube video consisting of a direct appeal from the student, in which he asks viewers to share his story and support his demand: that his grades be restored and the black mark removed from his transcript. Al-Khabaz also took to twitter, where his handle is @wololodev, tweeting a bold defence of his actions: "If I broke the rules, then I am proud of doing so. #EthicalHacking"

Al-Khabaz says he has resigned himself to the fact that he won't be returning to Dawson, but feels the school owes him a clean transcript, so he can continue his education elsewhere.

A petition on HamedHelped.com, a support site, has received over 14,000 signatures since its launch Monday. In the face of mounting public pressure the College held fast at a press conference yesterday, arguing that the student was expelled on legitimate grounds and media reports were "inaccurate."

In a bizarre twist, when a colleague from CBC Radio called Dawson's Director of Communications Donna Varrica for a comment, she told CBC that Dawson was in the process of suing me, and that CBC better watch out, because if they weren't careful Dawson would sue them too.

This is fairly clearly an empty threat, given that if they sued me they'd have to sue most of the media in this country, all of whom reported the story in largely the same way I did. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that a College facing a major scandal over their alleged bullying of a twenty year old student thinks threatening the media is the best way to make the story go away.

I'll continue to follow this story as it develops on twitter, where you can find me at @EthanCoxMTL

embedded_video