Nova Scotia

Dalhousie dentistry report on sexism, misogyny outlines solutions

A report into the culture of "sexism, misogyny, homophobia and racism" at Dalhousie University's faculty of dentistry has made 39 recommendations for fixing the problems.

Panel looking into Facebook controversy charts course for improvements

Dalhousie University and its president, Richard Florizone, have been given 39 recommendations for dealing with a culture of sexism and homophobia in the university community. (CBC)

A report into the culture of "sexism, misogyny, homophobia and racism" at Dalhousie University's faculty of dentistry has made 39 recommendations for fixing the problems.

The panel, led by Constance Backhouse, laid out the plan on Monday.  

It said:

1. The professors and administrators within the faculty of dentistry should collectively agree on the necessity for fundamental change, including a commitment to implementing the recommendations in this report. This should entail developing an action plan with defined goals, timelines, and identification of people to be responsible for implementation.

2. The faculty of dentistry should improve the complaint system so that faculty members, students, and staff understand clearly when, where, and how they may lodge a complaint. The complaint system should ensure that complaints are processed promptly, fairly, and transparently, and that complainants are made aware of the outcome.

3. Notwithstanding the implementation of an improved complaints system, the faculty of dentistry should use systemic, non-punitive ways to identify and obtain information about potential or actual problems. These may include "chilly climate" reports, anonymous workplace surveys, and spot audits.

4. The faculty of dentistry should implement measures to improve working conditions for staff, specifically those related to unacceptable treatment by managers and students.

5. The faculty of dentistry should change the patient distribution/clinical credit system to ensure fairness and reduce excessive competition and patient hoarding.

Monitor student social events

6. The faculty of dentistry should monitor social and other extra-curricular events at the dental school to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and facilitation of sexist, heterosexist, misogynistic, or racist behaviour. Events that do not contribute to such behaviour should be reinstated.

7. The faculty of dentistry should improve the integration of the School of Dental Hygiene within the faculty of dentistry. One possible step might be to appoint an assistant dean from among the senior administrators for the School of Dental Hygiene.

8. The faculty of dentistry should eliminate any inequitable treatment of qualifying program students. They should be fully integrated into their classes, and recognized for the expertise they bring to the school. The faculty of dentistry should also seek to ensure that students from the United States do not receive preferential treatment.

9. The faculty of dentistry should seek ways to celebrate the role that female, racialized, and LGBTQ dentists have played in the dental profession, recognizing both their struggles and their successes.

10. The faculty of dentistry should collect data to provide information on the diversity of the student body by inviting students who wish to do so to self-identify, confidentially, with regard to sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, racialization, indigeneity, and disability status. Aggregate data should be reported to the university's senate and released to the public annually. The faculty of dentistry should also consider introducing a designated recruitment program for Indigenous and Black communities.

11. The faculty of dentistry should survey faculty members and staff to build longitudinal data on the same axes of diversity as set out in recommendation 10.

12. The faculty of dentistry should create an internal council or committee on inclusion and diversity.

13. The faculty of dentistry should conduct an independent external review to determine whether [restorative justice] sessions, properly constituted to ensure voluntary and inclusive participation, could assist in attitudinal and behavioural change in the student body, staff, and faculty members of the dental school.

Work for cross-Canada change

14. The faculty of dentistry should collaborate with other dental schools, professional licensing boards, and professional associations across Canada to address equity and sexual misconduct within the profession.

15. The faculty of dentistry should consider ways to reduce its isolation from the university as a whole, such as through cross-appointments with other faculties and by seeking to incorporate wider perspectives on inter-disciplinary research and education.

16. The faculty of dentistry should improve the effectiveness of ethics and professionalism education for dental students. Steps in doing so should include making the courses more central to the curriculum, integrating learning on these subjects with other courses and clinic activities, and including issues relating to sexism, misogyny, homophobia, racism, disability, and discrimination. 

17. Over the next three years, the faculty of dentistry should report regularly to the senate and president on its progress in implementing these recommendations.

18. The university should ensure that all of its policies are in written format and widely accessible.

Changes to university administration

19. The university should make clear how codes of conduct and similar policies apply to social media activity, whether by revising policies or otherwise.

20. The university should increase its dissemination of information about how to raise concerns and lodge complaints about sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

21. The university should publicize more information about the institutions and processes that can address issues of inequality, including harassment and misconduct.

22. The HREHP [Office of Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Prevention] should be located more visibly on campus with more adequate facilities and resources. Consideration should be given to renaming the office.

23. The university should publicize the role and responsibilities of the office of Vice-Provost, Student Affairs in dealing with student complaints. Particular attention should focus on informing students how they can raise concerns and make complaints.

24. The university should consider establishing a fully funded ombudsperson office comparable to those at other Canadian universities.

25. The university should develop early detection mechanisms to identify issues of discrimination or harassment that may be systemic in nature, and issue guidelines that will assist those with the power to initiate complaints on behalf of the university to identify when and how to do so.

26. University leaders and decision-makers should draw on those with legal and social science expertise in systemic discrimination when responding to issues that may have systemic dimensions.

Strengthen sexual harassment policy

27. The university should make it more widely known that complaints of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct can be addressed in ways that protect the complainant's identity.

28. The university should strengthen the retaliation protections under the sexual harassment policy, make them easier to invoke, and publicize them more widely. The university should extend retaliation protections to complaints about sexual misconduct made under the Code of Student Conduct.

29. The university should continue to include [restorative justice] specifically among the mechanisms it may adopt in dealing with issues of inequality, such as misogyny, sexism, and homophobia, but also continue to assess the circumstances in which it is appropriate. The university should ensure that when it adopts RJ, affected students who choose not to participate in RJ are provided with alternative courses of redress.

30. The university should maintain and develop a variety of educational programs on issues of inequality and widely disseminate them across the university. However, such programs should not be seen as a substitute for leadership and institutional commitment to confronting inequality. Recommendations related to the wider context

31. The university should seek to enhance its reputation for responding to equity issues by ensuring that complaints receive fair and timely responses and establishing, over time, a visible track record of effective intervention.

32. The university should recognize that expertise in equity issues is a necessary skill for faculty, central administrators, and institutional decision-makers at all levels, up to and including the board of governors. The university should draw on the existing internal expertise of organizations such as South House, Gender and Women's Studies and Black Canadian Studies, among others, in designing appropriate training and supports. Additional resources should be provided to increase the capacity of all of these organizations.

33. The university should seek ways to move toward greater inclusion of female, LGBTQ, racialized, disabled, and diverse ethnic and religious communities within its student, faculty, and administrative populations.

34. The university should expand its linkages with community organizations such as front-line anti-violence services and others with expertise in equity.

35. The university should ensure that faculty members, staff, and students who raise concerns about equity are not at risk of retaliation for doing so.

Explore restorative justice

36. The university should continue research into the use of RJ, exploring whether there are ways to improve its process and content in disputes within areas not included in the province-wide moratorium.

37. The university should build on its strong reputation for research by undertaking studies, including new forms of interdisciplinary analysis, into the nature of rape culture and ways to reduce or eliminate sexual violence in society generally. The university should draw upon the expertise of its faculty members, staff, and students to develop world-class research, teaching, and activism to dismantle inequality.

38. The university should expand on its strong reputation for pedagogy by exploring new educational and communication techniques to improve teaching in the field of anti-discrimination, exploring why our current forms of training appear to be less successful than we had hoped, and experimenting with new methods.

39. The university should continue with its process to implement the recommendations in the 2015 Dalhousie Report, Belong: Supporting an Inclusive and Diverse University.


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