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Publicize Dalhousie dentistry Facebook scandal names, group urges

01/06/2015 09:45 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
A social justice group at Dalhousie University says it's "encouraging" that Ontario’s governing dental body has asked for the release of the names of students behind sexually explicit postings on the Facebook page of the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. 

"Seeing those statements come out of Ontario yesterday was really showing that there are people who are deeply concerned about this on a public safety level, and to see more provinces step up and make those demands would be very encouraging," said Jordan Robert, who's with the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group.

On Monday, the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario asked Dalhousie to name the 13 men who were part of a Facebook group who made sexual comments about female classmates. The posts included a poll about having "hate" sex with female students and drugging women.

'We would want to know who they are'

Registrar Irwin Fefergrad said the college is "concerned that if these students, soon to be doctors, if they applied for a licence here in Ontario, we would want to know who they are and we asked for disclosure of their names to us."

There are a total of 47 students in the fourth-year class — 21 women and 26 men. Thirteen of those men were not members of the controversial Facebook group.

On Monday, Dalhousie announced the 13 members of the group have been suspended from all clinical activities in the program, pending consideration by the faculty of dentistry's academic standards class committee.

"Rape culture is something that we see as an endemic problem across university campuses across North America. I think Dalhousie has had the false view that it hasn’t existed on our campus because we haven’t had an international or national incident — like the SMU rape chants, like Steubenville, like the folks that are doing the carry the weights actions — and this is the wake-up call that, I hope, our university listens to," said Robert.

She said allowing complainants to remain anonymous would have allowed what was happening in the Dalhousie dentistry school "come to light a lot earlier." 

"What happens right now, people have to put their names on to a complaint, and in our university culture that’s … something that people are unable to do — they’re worried about their professional careers, they’re worried about their academic careers," said Robert.

"When we’re talking about how this goes forward, if you want to report harassment or assault on campus, you cannot remain anonymous, but if you perpetrate assault and harassment on campus you can."

Dalhousie president Richard Florizone has said the administration wants to take a "victim-centred, or student-centred" approach when deciding on the fate of those involved.

"I think if they want to have a student-centred approach, they need to start approaching students," said Robert.

"So far, some of the leading organizations on campus that work with students, particularly around gender equity, sexual assault, and sexual harassment … none of the staff or leaders of those organizations have been contacted about this. They’re talking about a student-centred approach, but we aren’t seeing students being approached."

'Step in the right direction'

Robert suggests one way to address "rape culture" on campus is to require first-year students to take a class on gender equity.

"Having part of your education be inclusive of gender equity, training around anti-racism, LGBTQ issues — that would be a great step in the right direction, in terms of how to prevent these types of incidents from even occurring," she said. 

Robert said the suspension from clinical work is a "good step in the right direction," but with an online petition gathering more than 47,000 signatures, it’s clear people want more action from Dalhousie.

CBC News requested interviews Florizone and dean of dentistry Tom Boran. Neither was available.

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