POLITICS

Dalhousie rejects request from Ontario to release names of accused students

01/06/2015 04:15 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Dalhousie University has rejected a request from the licensing body that governs Ontario's dentists to hand over the names of 13 dental students accused of posting sexually violent comments about women on a private Facebook page.

University spokesman Brian Leadbetter says the university in Halifax has an obligation to protect the privacy of its students.

He also restated the university's position in an email statement on Tuesday that the online comments were deeply offensive, degrading to women and unacceptable.

Irwin Fefergrad, registrar of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, said Monday the governing body wanted the names to make sure that if any of the students involved apply for licences in the province they would face questions from the college.

Fefergrad said if the names are withheld, the college would have to ask every Dalhousie graduate seeking a licence if they had been the subject of a complaint or an inquiry at the university.

University president Richard Florizone announced Monday that the school had suspended the clinical privileges of the 13 students.

According to the CBC, members of the Class of DDS Gentlemen page on Facebook voted on which woman they'd like to have "hate" sex with and joked about using chloroform on women. In another post, a woman is shown in a bikini with a caption that says, ``Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).''

The Facebook page has since been taken down.

The posts and the university's initial response prompted rallies, calls for the men's expulsion and a demand by some faculty members for an independent inquiry into how the school handled the incident.

Hundreds of protesters filled a square outside the president's office building Monday, where they demanded the students be expelled and that more be done to address sexism on campus.

The university launched a restorative justice process last month after an unspecified number of women filed a complaint under the university's sexual harassment policy. It is an informal and confidential resolution procedure that includes the parties involved.

Meanwhile, Florizone issued a statement late Tuesday responding to what he called an anonymous letter sent to the school by four women in the dentistry program.

The CBC reported that it obtained a copy of the letter, which accuses the university of pressuring the women to take part in the restorative justice process.

A copy of the letter dated Tuesday that was posted online by the CBC suggests the university is trying to silence the views of women in the program and demands that Dalhousie officials deal with a formal complaint filed by faculty members last month.

The letter says a meeting the university held Monday to explain the restorative process marked the first time that all of the women in the class were asked whether they consented to participate in the process.

It says the university should use the school's Student Code of Conduct to determine whether the women were deprived of a learning environment free from sexual harassment and discrimination.

Florizone thanked the unnamed women for coming forward in his statement posted on the university's website, but he gave no indication that the school would change its approach.

"As previously stated, we are committed to a just process to determine the consequences for the offensive behaviour," the statement says. "The process must comply with the law and university policies, and respect the rights of those involved."

Florizone also said the university expects to announce a decision this week on the complaint from faculty.

The school has said it will decide this week whether fourth-year dentistry classes will resume on Monday.