Dalhousie suspends 13 students from clinical duties over Facebook page
Published Monday, January 5, 2015 2:57AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 5, 2015 9:30PM EST
Dalhousie University announced Monday the suspensions of 13 dentistry students from clinical duties over misogynistic comments allegedly posted on Facebook.
The decision to suspend 13 male students’ clinical privileges was made on Dec. 22, but the administration waited two weeks to announce it because of “credible reports” that the affected students were at risk of harming themselves, university president Richard Florizone said.
"We had credible reports from our frontline staff of potential self-harm," Florizone told reporters. "We took those seriously and so that concern for student safety overrode our concern about communicating this publicly."
He said the school wanted to ensure that appropriate support was available to the students before their suspensions were announced.
The suspensions mean that the fourth-year students won’t be able to practice at a community clinic while a university committee reviews the allegations against them. The suspensions could affect the students’ ability to graduate, Florizone said.
It remains to be decided whether the men will be allowed to return to classes next week.
The men allegedly made offensive comments about female students on a Facebook page called “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.” One poster allegedly joked about using chloroform to render a woman unconscious, while another asked members of the Facebook page which female students they would like to have “hate sex” with.
Francoise Baylis, one of four Dalhousie University professors who launched a formal complaint over the Facebook posts, said the clinical suspensions may not be enough to address the problem.
“On one level, we can say that we are pleased to see that some action is taken, but I think our perspective is that the action being taken is insufficient, at least with the respect to the kinds of concerns that we’ve raised,” Baylis told CTV News Channel Monday.
In the formal complaint from Dec. 21, the four professors called on the university to suspend students responsible for the offensive posts on an interim basis.
Baylis said she and other professors involved in the complaint want the university to do a proper investigation to find out exactly who was actively involved in the misogynistic posts.
An informal “restorative justice” process was launched last month after some female students filed a complaint under the university's sexual harassment policy. But many have criticized the informal approach, and Baylis has said that not all affected female students consented to it.
Alexandra Killham, a Dalhousie student who sits on the board of the South House sexual and gender resource centre, said she was “frustrated” and “disappointed” by the university’s decision to hand out clinical suspensions.
“This is the bare minimum that we should be doing at this point,” she told CTV’s News Channel Monday. “I don’t want to give the university credit at this point.”
On a positive note, Killham said South House has finally scheduled a meeting with university administrators to discuss the dentistry school controversy and the larger problem of misogyny on campus.
With files from The Canadian Press