Nova Scotia

Dalhousie dentistry student speaks for 1st time about Facebook scandal

A male dentistry student in Dalhousie University’s class of 2015 says the past three months have been "a pretty wild ride," but says he supports his classmates — even though they brought scandal to the school.

Ben Lawlor says he can't see 'any good' coming from naming members of misogynistic group

Thirteen members of the class of 2015 were suspended from clinical practice for their membership in the group, after CBC News reported on misogynistic postings that stretched back for months. (CBC)

A male dentistry student in Dalhousie University’s class of 2015 says the past three months have been "a pretty wild ride," but that he supports his classmates — even though they brought scandal to the school. 

Ben Lawlor spoke exclusively with CBC News Tuesday morning, saying the fallout from the scandal has been "tough on all of us."

Ben Lawlor spoke exclusively with CBC News Tuesday morning, saying the fallout from the scandal has been "tough on all of us." (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

"It’s tough because we know these guys and we know our class so well. Just to see the way it’s been spun. I don’t know. What they did was wrong, but when you know them, it’s harder to take it serious because you know they’re good people. They said something stupid."

Lawlor said he’s forgiven them, and hopes others will too.

If somebody screws up in your family, you can't just cut them off. You eventually learn to forgive that hurt and move on.— Ben Lawlor, Dalhousie dentistry student

"It seems like [the women] have forgiven the guys and are excited to have the guys back in. Dentistry is a family," he said. "If somebody screws up in your family, you can’t just cut them off. You eventually learn to forgive that hurt and move on."

But at least four women haven’t taken part in the restorative justice process. Lawlor said he has "no hard feelings" toward them.

He doesn’t think the men should be named. "I don’t see any good that would come of it. If someone’s uncomfortable with their dentist, or they want to know, I think every person definitely should and every person has the ability to ask their dentist," he said. 

He acknowledged the dentist could just lie and say he wasn't involved. "I don’t have the answer for that."

But Lawlor said publishing their names online would "haunt them for the rest of their lives."

"They’re already going through a difficult time with their family and friends and career right now. I would rather it be dealt with in private. Let the dental boards deal with each person individually."

He said different men did different things in the Facebook group, and naming all would paint them all with the same brush.

Lawlor went through the restorative justice because he was in the class. "It was tough for me because I’m close with some of the girls involved and some of the guys. It’s been tough just staying neutral and offering support to both sides."

Lawlor said he’d never heard the word "misogynistic" before. He said he wasn’t qualified to say if the Facebook posts were misogynistic. 

He’s the first member of the class to speak publicly about the damage caused by classmates who were members of the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook group.

'Immature' college humour

Lawlor was not a member of the now infamous Facebook group, when it was exposed in December.

He said he was a member of the group in first year, but "left mostly for personal reasons." At the time, "it was just more immature college humour than anything terrible." 

Thirteen members of the class of 2015 were suspended from clinical practice for their membership in the group, after CBC News reported on misogynistic postings that stretched back for months. 

In one, group members voted on which classmate they would have hate sex with. In another, dated May 2013, a member defines a penis as "the tool used to wean and convert lesbians and virgins into useful, productive members of society."

Lawlor told CBC News he still counts the guys among his friends.

He said he feels the restorative justice process — which has been underway at the school for weeks — has been "fantastic" as a tool to help repair relationships within the class. 

"They all feel bad for their part ... and they want to make things right," he said of the men. "The  guys are genuinely sorry for what they’ve done."

Last week, the university said 12 men had returned to clinic duties. A 13th member, Ryan Millet, would be allowed to return, but — according to his lawyer — only after admitting guilt to professional misconduct. 

There is no word yet on Millet’s decision. 

Guatemala fundraiser falls short

Lawlor said he spoke out now to raise awareness of a trip he organized to Guatemala. Several students (not including the then suspended men) went in February. Lawlor and the others treated about 400 patients, providing 300 fillings, 12 dentures and 800 extractions.

Lawlor said the group hoped to raise $20,000 to fund the work.

“We were going to do some fundraising over the Christmas break, but we didn’t do that,” he said.

They did eventually raise under $8,000.

“We actually had quite a bit of positive response,” he said. 

He hopes the group will be able to go again next year. 

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