HALIFAX — Students headed back to class at Dalhousie University’s dentistry school Monday, with some men ordered to study elsewhere because of sexually violent comments made on Facebook about their female classmates.
Students wearing blue scrubs refused to comment as they went into the school for their first classes since the holiday break. The resumption of school was delayed by a week as the university dealt with the controversy.
Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone said Friday that 13 male dentistry students will have to attend classes remotely after they were alleged to be part of a Facebook group that contained misogynistic comments.
The university also delayed the reopening of a dental clinic at the school and stripped the 13 male students of their clinical privileges there.
Patients going to the clinic Monday had mixed feelings about the incident, with some saying the male students should be expelled while others said they should be allowed to finish their studies.
“They should get rid of them,” said Winston Teal as he took his granddaughter in for her appointment, adding that he was pleased the members of the Facebook group were not practising in the clinic.
“That’s a help, yep.”
Steve Olsen, who has been going to the clinic for 30 years, said the public and the school have reacted too harshly, and that all of the students should be allowed to carry on with their studies.
“I think it’s bad, but it’s life,” he said as he headed into his appointment which was delayed for a week. “It’s too big a deal, as far as I’m concerned. I think they’ve already been beaten up good enough.”
Patient Gail Murphy, who also had her appointment disrupted by the delayed opening, was critical of the university’s handling of the incident and said Florizone should be forced out.
“I think they’ve handled it poorly,” she said. “I think the president has to go. If they had have dealt with it in August, none of this would have happened. Now the whole department is in a mess.”
The student union has said it reported complaints of sexism in the dentistry program to the president last summer and were referred to the university’s human rights, equity and harassment prevention office. The union says the matter was dropped when the office said complainants would have to provide their names if they wanted to proceed.
The university has launched an independent investigation that will explore the environment, training and policies at the dentistry school to determine if they contributed to a tolerance for misogyny and sexist conduct.
Florizone also said over the weekend that it would not proceed with a complaint filed against the Facebook group by four professors because the issue is already being dealt with under an academic standards committee.
Anne Forrestall, the school’s vice-provost of student affairs, said the committee will evaluate the students on professionalism and will make recommendations based on their findings.
Reports of the offensive posts and the university’s initial response prompted rallies and calls for the expulsion of the 13 students.
The Facebook page at the centre of the controversy has been taken down. But according to the CBC, members of the Class of DDS Gentlemen page on Facebook voted on which woman they’d like to have “hate” sex with and joked about using chloroform on women. The CBC said in another post, a woman is shown in a bikini with a caption that says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”