Nova Scotia

Dalhousie dentistry Facebook members can graduate if clinical requirements met

The Dalhousie University dental students who took part in a restorative justice program after the contents of a misogynistic Facebook group were made public have met the professionalism standards required to graduate, according to a report by the Halifax school.

Students in restorative justice program met 'professionalism' standards to graduate

Dalhousie report author discusses justice process

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6 years agoVideo
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Jennifer Llewellyn says the restorative justice program was educational for all parties involved 4:54

The Dalhousie University dental students who took part in a restorative justice program after the contents of a misogynistic Facebook page were made public will be able to graduate as long as they meet clinical requirements, according to a report released this morning.

While it says the men involved have changed, the report detailed a long history of sexism, homophobia and racism within the faculty of dentistry.

The report was released Friday, more than five months after the group was exposed. It found the men involved met the "professionalism" standards needed to graduate.

Twenty-nine people (14 women and 15 men) of the 38 people in the core fourth-year dentistry class took part in the restorative justice program. The private Facebook group was known as the Class of 2015 DDS Gentleman's Club.

CBC News obtained screen shots of the group's sexually explicit posts in December.

Students have until May 27 to complete academic requirements for the May 29 convocation. University president Richard Florizone says he doesn't yet know exactly how many will walk across the stage. (CBC)

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 13 members of the group were suspended from clinical activities for two months this past winter.

"The men have taken ownership of their actions, gained a deep understanding of the harm done, apologized to those most directly impacted, and together spent more than 1,500 hours working to repair the damage," said Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone.

Writing on the wall

The Facebook page was started in 2011 as a way to discuss homework, but escalated as the men tried to one-up each other.

The restorative process "found that the men's Facebook group began as a bonding activity but became a place to vent frustrations, often in unhealthy and at times extremely offensive ways," the report says.

However, the report points out it was part of a larger atmosphere.

"While the offensive content in the Facebook group is inexcusable, the restorative process revealed that similar attitudes and behaviours existed within the competitive climate of the faculty of dentistry."

For example, during the probe investigators uncovered "The Cavity," a five-metre-by-one-metre-long room covered in "misogynistic, racist, sexist, and homophobic" graffiti in the students' lounge.

The report says some of the graffiti dates back to the 1990s and was seen as a tradition. The walls have since been painted over.

Another instance is the annual "Roast," dating back to the 1960s, where students drink and try to humiliate each other.

"Partners/spouses are not allowed to attend, because in past years relationships were destroyed by the 'jokes' and revelations," the report says.

The event was postponed this year.

The review also found cultural insensitivity and discrimination occur regularly within the dental clinic, but are rarely reported because classmates don't want to be labelled "troublemakers."

While the report notes this doesn't excuse the Facebook page, the authors say it helps explain why students felt the behaviour was OK.

'Justice takes time'

Dalhousie law school Prof.Jennifer Llewellyn, who helped write the report, said: "This process set about to find the facts,"

She said the report had to look at if the men met the professionalism standards needed to graduate, and found they "remediated their behaviour."

Llewellyn said people wanted action right away, "but justice takes time."

"I think that dissatisfaction was in the understandable human instinct, which was 'This is not good. This is bad, This offends us, now we want action.'"

Students have until May 27 to complete academic requirements for the May 29 convocation. Florizone said he doesn't yet know exactly how many will walk across the stage at the graduation ceremony.

He added the members won't have to add their names to the convocation guide.

After graduation, it's up to state and provincial dental boards to decide who gets a licence and under what conditions they can practise.

The Nova Scotia legislature amended the rules last month to allow the Dental Board of Nova Scotia to prescribe supervision or additional classes for dentists.

To read the full report click here

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