Misogyny complaints emerge from Manitoba dentistry program
University investigation into inappropriate conduct within dentistry program never made public
A University of Manitoba investigation into inappropriate and misogynistic conduct within one of its graduate dentistry programs has never been made public, CBC has learned.
According to documents obtained by CBC News, the university hired an external investigator two years ago to examine "breaches" relating to its "Respectful Work and Learning Environment" policy. The investigation involved 42 interviews with dental residents. The investigation largely focused on a complaint made by a female resident around the actions and behaviours of a male resident.
One document summarizing part of the investigation acknowledges the female resident did not have the support she needed from the university soon after initial complaints were launched. But the university has never told the complainants nor the public the full contents of the 142-page report dated Feb. 17, 2013.
All the university will say today is that "a number of actions were taken by the university including appropriate disciplinary action."
CBC News sat down with one female resident who shared what she feels the university was "trying to keep a lid on."
"It was hell," said the resident, CBC News is calling "Sarah". We have agreed to protect her identity because she fears retaliation and damage to her professional career.
Over the course of her final year in residency she says she and other female peers were targets of misogynistic jokes, comments and text messages made by a fellow male resident.
"When I started I was one of two females and the jokes [and] the acceptance for certain kinds of jokes were shocking to me."
"He would make comments about other [female] residents weight or about her height. When we were studying cranial-facial abnormalities he would pick each one of us and say that we look to have this syndrome."
"I got a text message from him asking where he could find girls like me, I asked what he was talking about and he said 'oh, because you're a whore.'"
In group text message she showed to CBC News, the male resident referred to fellow female residents as "psycho bitches," only "good for cooking eggs" and performing oral sex.
"That's the difference between him and the guys at Dalhousie: it was said [to] our faces. He was not hiding in the 'gentlemen's club' and it wasn't the first time."
Sarah said she grappled with complaining: fearful it might only aggravate the situation. The small faculty also meant a complaint couldn't be anonymous.
"My friends used to tell me 'just leave it, you're almost done.' But it's really hard. It's really hard to be by that person everyday...knowing he thinks you're less of a person because of your gender."
Female residents filed complaints over misogyny
Another female resident sent screen shots of the the text messages to the program's director. Sarah says the next day, the male student sent an email to class apologizing.
The letter read,
"It's been brought to my attention that my behaviour to residents in the program has been unacceptable, inappropriate and not in a professional manner,"
It goes on to say, "I'm sorry for the time I have wasted everyone and sorry for damaging relations in the class ... I will be making changes immediately."
Sarah says the faculty did not follow up the complaint with the female students targeted. And the behaviour only continued.
"It was disgusting to me," said Sarah. "There was this email and that was it."
"I think receiving the task of just writing an email to apologize gave him so much power -- gave him a sense of 'I'm invincible'."
Finally she filed a formal complaint with the faculty, who launched the investigation. During this time, she says she was still forced to sit two chairs from this resident, despite pleading with the faculty to have him moved. It was not until Sarah hired a lawyer that the university obliged to switch him out of the class.
"What upsets me the most is that if his comments would have been towards an ethnic group or about someone's sexual orientation ... or religion, it would be unacceptable." she said.
"It would never have been 'I can write an email and I'm sorry'. But because it's about being a female it's not that bad."
After a three month investigation, a 142-page report of the findings was drafted. Residents were not privy to the outcome for confidentiality reasons.
A spokesperson for the University of Manitoba says "following the investigation a number of actions were taken by the university including appropriate disciplinary action."
The spokesperson said the investigation had to remain confidential "to help ensure a safe environment where all individuals’ privacy is protected."
Sarah says she does not know if or how the male resident was disciplined. He graduated and is now practising out of province.
She and the other female residents allegedly targeted by him went on to fail their licensing exam.
Sarah says coming forward to the faculty with the complaint only made life more difficult.
"I felt no support," she said. "I think everyone felt they were on trial. They were being watched. I felt guilty like 'this is not worth it.' because I was isolated and ostracized in an environment that felt so toxic."
'Not surprised' about sexism at Dalhousie dentistry
Sarah said the bravery of the women at Dalhousie's dentistry school motivated her to speak out about what she experienced at the University of Manitoba.
"When I started reading what those boys were saying...It brought all the memories [back]," she said.
"I was shocked, but in a good way." she said "I was so impressed that somebody grabbed those screen shots and took it to a news station...that's the way to go. I understand that some of those girls took it to the university in the summer...and here we are in December."
Sarah says it's difficult for women to come forward because complaining about it is often seen as retaliation -- a way to ruin the male student's career. She said faculty members told her she 'seemed determined' to get her male peer expelled.
"This is not revenge. This is justice. But when it comes to women it turns to be revenge. 'She's upset. She wants vengeance.' And that was never it. I just wanted respect."
Sarah says she hopes the women at Dalhousie University see the justice she never got.