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Dalhousie dentistry students say public attention has been harmful

03/02/2015 07:07 EST | Updated 05/02/2015 05:59 EDT
The 29 members of the fourth-year dentistry class at Dalhousie University say they've all been hurt by the public attention drawn to the scandal over a sexist Facebook page created by some men in the class.

The students, who are taking part in a restorative justice process, have posted an 1,800-word statement to the university’s website regarding the scandal that has enveloped them.

“The constant public attention has been harmful and even sometimes threatening to us, our families and friends,” the statement says.

It is posted in sections and has separate commentary from the men involved in the controversial Facebook group, the women in the dentistry class and a joint commentary from the two parties.

The university says the statement was posted in its full, unedited form at the request of the students involved.

In the statement, the members of the DDS2015 Facebook group say their conduct as members of the Facebook group was “hurtful, painful and wrong.”

'Doing the hard work'

CBC News received screenshots of the posts on the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook group in late 2014.

In one of the posts, male students in the group voted on which woman they'd like to have "hate" sex with and joked about using chloroform on women. In another post, a woman was shown in a bikini with the caption "Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious."

The new statement says: “From the beginning of this process in December we felt incredibly remorseful and took ownership of what we did (individually and collectively).”

The men say their actions have affected classmates, friends, families, faculty, staff, patients, the university community, the profession and the public.

They say that since September, the group has been engaged “in the intensive and difficult self-reflection and development required to start the process of earning back the trust of our colleagues, families, professors, the university community, the profession and the public.”

“We hope one day to regain the trust of those we have harmed and impacted.”

The men say their silence has been interpreted by some as cowardice.

“We know much more than saying ‘sorry’ is required. We are doing the hard work to figure out how to truly be sorry. We owe meaningful apologies to those we have impacted most directly first.”

The men say that through the restorative justice process, they have offered some apologies already and they have been accepted.

Views from women involved

The women in the class involved in the restorative justice process say they feel the mainstream and social media coverage of the case has not been representative of their common experiences.

“Many people (some with good intentions) have spoken about us and in the process often attempted to speak for us in ways that we have experienced as harmful, silencing and re-traumatizing,” said the women.

They say that at times, “the volume of public opinion has drowned out our voices on what we need and want in this situation.”

The women do say they feel safe with the members of the Facebook group involved in the restorative justice process.

In January, four fourth-year female students in the faculty wrote an open letter to the president of the school, saying they felt pressured to accept the restorative justice process to resolve the Facebook scandal that has rocked the institution.

Restorative justice continues

Jointly, the two parties say in the statement “the education and perspective that we are gaining through our participation in the restorative justice process will allow us to be better health-care providers, colleagues, and representatives of Dalhousie University.”

They ask that their privacy and right to pursue restorative justice be respected.

The students wrote that they're releasing the statement because they anticipate an update from the Academic Standards Class Committee.

The committee is investigating the students and an independent task force has been set up to look into the issue of misogyny on the campus.

The 13 members of the Facebook group have been suspended from all clinical activities in the program, pending consideration by the committee.

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