Lawyers representing one of the dentistry students at the centre of the Dalhousie University Facebook scandal say their client was unfairly suspended based on him "liking" one photo with sexual overtones from a humour website.
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"Last night was, I guess, our last hope at what we hoped would be a simple and a fair process. In our opinion, and I think in Ryan's opinion, that wasn't the end result," said Bruce MacIntosh, one of Ryan Millet's lawyers, the morning after the fourth-year dental student's disciplinary committee hearing in Halifax.
MacIntosh and his daughter, Sarah MacIntosh, also a lawyer, spoke on their client's behalf Wednesday.
Millet's name, and photo, are among 13 names that appear in screenshots provided to CBC News showing misogynistic comments by members of the Facebook group.
Tuesday night's meeting was the first time Millet and his lawyers heard Dalhousie's case against him. The hearing lasted 4½ hours and was eventually adjourned.
Bruce MacIntosh said the university's disciplinary system is "irrevocably broken, it's just not working."
The lawyers said six Facebook posts formed the base of Millet's suspension from clinical activities, and he wasn't involved in five of them.
No grounds for discipline, lawyer says
CBC News obtained 46 pages of screen grabs from the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook page.
The lawyers said that with one post, Millet "liked" a photo from a humour website showing a woman sitting near a sign that says "public entrance."
Sarah MacIntosh said a poll posted to the page that discussed having "hate" sex with women was not one of the six posts discussed at the meeting, but it "was the straw that broke the camel's back for Ryan in bringing this forward."
She said Millet has been unfairly targeted in the disciplinary hearing process through "guilt of association."
"There are varying degrees of culpability" added Bruce MacIntosh. "Mere membership in a Facebook group is not grounds for disciplinary action."
He said most people wouldn't pass the social media standard set out by Dalhousie in the aftermath, adding that the administration is making up rules to deal with the case as it goes along.
"The sands keep shifting," he said.
Bruce MacIntosh said they objected to having outside observer Katherine Harman, vice-chair of the university's senate, attend Tuesday night's session. He was also upset his request to have Millet sworn in at the hearing was denied and that the meeting was in-camera, keeping the media out.
"There are important issues of both credibility and influence, or undue influence that we wish to explore at this hearing as to what led to the circumstances where everybody was thrown into the same pot together without any investigation other than the mere existence of the Facebook [page], suspended with consequences that are extraordinary," he said.
MacIntosh said he plans to ask Dalhousie's senate to appoint a judge or arbitrator to look at discipline at the dental faculty.
In a statement to CBC, Dalhousie spokesman Brian Leadbetter said the school will continue to evaluate each of the men’s individual cases through the dental academic standards class committee.
"We are committed to a just process. The process will comply with the law and university policies, and respect the rights of those involved. Much of the work under the policies involved is confidential, to ensure that we respect the privacy of all students involved," he wrote.
"It is premature to speculate on the length of time for the academic standards class committee deliberations or when decisions will be made. Similarly, we can't speculate on the impact of the students’ ability to graduate."
Millet is scheduled to write an exam Wednesday afternoon. He had planned to attend the news conference but a release sent by MacIntosh late Tuesday said, "addressing media questions tomorrow [Wednesday] would require more effort, energy and emotional strength than he presently possesses."
MacIntosh said the Facebook group had innocuous beginnings. It was a way, according to Millet, to talk about dentistry techniques and share funny videos. He said he was added to the group.
Millet has chosen not to participate in the restorative justice process set out by Dalhousie University, and instead chose to go before the disciplinary committee.
His lawyer said he has tentative job offers in the U.S., but has decided not to write his Canadian exams after the Facebook ordeal.