Nova Scotia

Dalhousie dentistry school's Facebook scandal has cost $650K

The cost of hiring extra lawyers and outside public relations experts during the Dalhousie Dentistry School scandal in Halifax is nearing $650,000.

Almost $350K went to pay for public relations as scandal unfolded

Dalhousie University in Halifax spent nearly $650,000 to defend its reputation after a Facebook group known as the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen exposed sexism and homophobia within the Dentistry Department last December. (CBC)

The bill outlining the costs associated with Dalhousie's Dentistry School scandal has arrived — and it's a big one.

The university has spent nearly $650,000 to defend its reputation after a Facebook group known as the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen exposed sexism and homophobia within the dentistry department last December. 

An email from Dalhousie University says the largest portion of the total bill — $344,669 — went to hiring outside public relations experts as the scandal unfolded.

Additional public relations costs included:

  • Strategic communications support and counsel.
  • Media monitoring and media training.
  • The writing of some materials.

The cost for outside lawyers, in addition to legal staff already on the university's payroll, topped $118,000. 

Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone appointed an outside task force to quell concerns from students and faculty. The task force's report cost $183,100 to produce. (CBC)

Dalhousie says $58,181.34 went to the university's "response and management" of the scandal. Another $57,771.80 went to support the Faculty of Dentistry as a party in the Academic Class Standards Committee process.

Professors on that committee determined all 13 members of the Facebook group had "remediated" their behaviour in time to graduate with their dentistry degree in May.

"The university has very skilled staff that provided support, advice and counsel around this issue," said Dalhousie communications adviser Janet Bryson. 

"However, the issue was very complicated, long lasting and evolving. Additional legal and communications resources were necessary." 

Cost of the task force

Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone appointed an outside task force to quell concerns from students and faculty worried about the potential for a cover up. 

Constance Backhouse led the panel's investigation, which resulted in 39 recommendations. The cost of implementing those recommendations is unclear. (CBC)

The task force was also asked to deal with the fallout from the Facebook group and previous allegations of sexist behaviour on the part of faculty members.

"We think the culture in the dental school is paternalistic," said task force chairwoman Constance Backhouse, a legal scholar from the University of Ottawa.  

"There has been a degree of obliviousness to changing mores."

The task force made 39 recommendations aimed at improving the learning and working environments within the clinic and school.

According to information provided by the university, the task force's report cost $183,100 — including fees for interviewing, discussing, writing and editing the document. It also included travel costs for the three members. 

The cost of implementing the task force recommendations is still unknown. They include the hiring of an ombudsman to investigate all complaints.

It's unclear if the $646,217 represents the final tally associated with the scandal. The bill will be paid from the university's contingency fund.

Dalhousie University says the largest portion of the total bill — $344,669 — went to hiring outside public relations experts as the scandal unfolded. (CBC)

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