Dalhousie students condemn restorative justice in Facebook scandal
4 female students write open letter to Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone
A group of fourth-year female students from Dalhousie University's faculty of dentistry have written an open letter to the president of the school, saying they feel pressured to accept the restorative justice process to resolve the Facebook scandal that has rocked the school.
In a two-page letter addressed to Richard Florizone and disclosed to CBC News on Tuesday, the four unnamed students say they are not willing to accept the university's response to the Facebook page called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.
The page was created by some male students in the fourth-year dentistry class and contained misogynistic and sexually explicit posts, including a poll about having "hate" sex with female students and comments about drugging women.
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The women say in their letter that they "do not wish for the sexual harassment and discrimination perpetrated by members of our class to be dealt with through this restorative justice process."
"The university is pressuring us into this process, silencing our views, isolating us from our peers, and discouraging us from choosing to proceed formally," says the letter.
"This has perpetuated our experience of discrimination. This approach falls far below what we expected from you, and what we believe we deserve."
The women also say they are concerned about their future at the school.
'We have serious concerns'
"Telling us that we can either participate in restorative justice or file a formal complaint is presenting us with a false choice. We have serious concerns about the impact of filing formal complaints on our chances of academic success at the faculty of dentistry, and believe that doing so would jeopardize our futures," they wrote.
"The reason we have not filed formal complaints is also the reason we have not signed our names to this letter."
According to the letter, the school held an information session about the restorative justice process on Monday, which was the first time all of the women in the class of 2015 were asked whether or not they consented to participate in the process.
The women say that was contrary to what Florizone has been saying publicly.
'We have been disappointed'
Florizone has repeatedly spoken about "those most directly affected" and said the restorative justice process was chosen by a number of women involved. He tearfully told a press conference on Dec. 17 that he was "guided by the women and the choices they have made."
The women disputed that in their letter.
"Please ensure that our wishes are properly considered and represented in any further announcements you make," they wrote.
"We have been disappointed to hear you speak to the media about 'those most directly affected' in a way that ignores our views."
The women also expressed concern that the school had been in possession of a copy of the Facebook posts since Dec. 12, but has not disclosed the full extent of the posts to them.
There are 47 students in the fourth-year class — 21 women and 26 men. Thirteen of those men were members of the controversial Facebook group, which has since been removed.
'You will be telling us that we don't matter'
The university's handling of the scandal has angered many, including four professors who recently went public about filing a formal complaint with the school.
The women wrote that they support the complaint and that it accurately reflects their concerns.
"If, despite our requests, this matter is not properly investigated or considered formally as a code of conduct complaint, Dalhousie will send the message that there is no penalty for harming its female students in this way," the letter says.
"You will be telling us that we don't matter."
Florizone said late Tuesday that the university expects to make an announcement this week about the faculty members' complaint. He thanked the women for their letter and reiterated his commitment to a "just process" to dealing with the scandal.
The letter comes one day after Dalhousie University announced the 13 members of the group have been suspended from all clinical activities in the program, pending consideration by the faculty of dentistry's academic standards class committee.
The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario has asked Dalhousie to give it the names of the men involved, amid mounting pressure to reveal their identities. But the school said Tuesday it has no intention of sharing the names "to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our students."