Dalhousie 'restorative justice' response a 'cop out': student leader
Published Thursday, December 18, 2014 8:45AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 18, 2014 11:10AM EST
Students at Dalhousie University are criticizing the school's decision to pursue "restorative justice" for male dentistry students who allegedly made sexually violent comments on Facebook about some of their female classmates.
The school's president, Richard Florizone, announced Wednesday night that fourth-year students involved in the Facebook group “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” will not face suspension or expulsion.
Instead, the matter will be dealt with through a process involving several face-to-face meetings between the parties involved.
Florizone said many of the affected women came forward, and agreed to proceed with the informal and confidential “restorative justice” process.
As well, if either side no longer meets a standard of "good-faith participation" at any time in the talks, he said, a formal complaints procedure will be launched.
The university will also be creating a presidential task force in the coming weeks that will look at ensuring the school's community is "inclusive and respectful."
Jennifer Nowoselski, vice-president of the Dalhousie Student Union, said the school's actions are simply not enough.
"Dalhousie's reaction to this issue is not action. Our students are not safer today, than they were yesterday," she told CTV's Canada AM.
Nowoselski said that while she trusts the affected women in this case chose the best option for themselves, it's important to note that they weren't given any new options on how to resolve the matter.
"Even, though the university knows that this process was not suitable and did not make students feel comfortable moving forward in this process in the past," she said.
She added that the union receives "constant complaints" from students about sexual harassment, sexist comments and other forms of discrimination, and the school has minimal resources to support them.
The student union has already spoken with school administrators about how to deal with student complaints, by suggesting that the school create an anonymous complaints process, as well as a student advocate who can help students navigate the different resources available to them.
"There are a lot of things that the university is already aware of, and creating a task force in order to look into this further is a cop out," she said.
Nowoselski also slammed that the lack of immediate consequences for the male students involved in the Facebook group, especially given the punishments doled out for other student offences.
"It's really unfortunate that we're in an institution where there are higher consequences for misquoting a paper than there are for threatening to rape your peers," she said.
And Nowoselski is not alone in her view that the school’s response is insufficient. In the hours after Florizone made the announcement, the hashtag #DalhousieHatesWomen started to trend on Twitter, with many echoing the sentiment.
Women don't get a 'second chance' at not being raped. They just are. So why do men who threaten rape get that luxury? #dalhousiehateswomen— Kathleen Pye (@KathleenCanada) December 17, 2014
#dalhousiehateswomen when they punish plagiarism more severely than clearly documented threats of sexual assault— Emily (@Emibumblebee) December 18, 2014
There should have been no question. These men should have been expelled. #dalhousiehateswomen— Shannon McKarney (@zchamu) December 18, 2014
Dal will let men who talked about raping and drugging women enter a profession where they anesthetize patients because #dalhousiehateswomen— Chris Parsons (@cultureofdefeat) December 18, 2014
I wonder how the Canadian Dental Association feels about dentists who joke about assaulting anaesthetized patients? #dalhousiehateswomen— Ned Zed (@greatislander) December 18, 2014
Call me crazy, but I'm not cool with the guy sticking his hand down my throat being a fan of rape "jokes". #dalhousiehateswomen— Julie S. Lalonde (@JulieSLalonde) December 18, 2014
The issue even made it to the Nova Scotia legislature, with MLA Joanne Bernard weighing in.
"It's very concerning that many of these students are an exam set away from being doctors," she said.