Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone has announced the steps he will take in response to sexually explicit Facebook posts attributed to some male students in the faculty of dentistry.
Florizone issued a statement Wednesday evening, saying the comments have caused harm to the university and the dental profession as a whole.
"It has impacted women across Dalhousie and across the country," he said at a news conference Wednesday evening.
He called the incident "very shocking," "disappointing" and "challenging."
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Florizone said a number of the women in the case have elected to proceed with a restorative justice process under the university's informal resolution procedure, a process that is already underway.
He said 13 men — all of the members of the Facebook group Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen — are taking part in the process.
It was the women's decision to proceed with restorative justice instead of lodging a formal complaint, he said.
Under restorative justice, the two sides come together and discuss what an appropriate punishment should be.
Florizone stressed even under restorative justice, the code of conduct still lists expulsion as a possible outcome from the process.
Florizone said the outcome of the process may be made public if those involved decide to come forward.
The restorative justice process is being done in good faith, he said, and if those involved don't show enough commitment to the process, a formal complaint will be lodged under the university's sexual harassment policy.
No formal complaint yet
A formal complaint is an option some of the women can pursue, but Florizone said no one has done so yet.
"We all need, I think, some patience and understanding to let this run its course," he said.
Florizone, who said he met with the women involved on Wednesday, broke down in tears while recounting their conversation.
"I am guided by the women and the choices they have made," he said.
Although he has not met with the men involved, Florizone said he has received a letter from one of the men involved expressing remorse.
The president said he was struck by the concerns expressed to him over the past 48 hours.
'This is only part of the story'
"I've received views that we should take harsh action immediately," he said. "But I've also heard from voices, from professionals who say be cautious because this kind of high pressure environment, for both the men and the women, presents suicide risk and harm."
There is no timeline for how long the process will take, but the men involved are due to graduate in the spring.
"We should see where this goes," he said. "But we should not be graduating students until we get this resolved."
When discussing the next steps, Florizone said, "this is only part of the story." He also committed to forming a presidential task force "in the coming weeks."
"I am committed to nurturing an inclusive and respectful community," he said.
Florizone said he would present another update at the end of January.