HALIFAX – People marched to the office of Dalhousie University’s president Friday to demand the school expel dentistry students accused of posting misogynistic messages online about their female peers.
The group of about 200 gathered in front of the dentistry school in Halifax to read speeches panning the university’s response to comments posted on Facebook about female students in the faculty.
Jordan Roberts, who helped organize the protest, said Dalhousie University should have expelled the male students who were members of the Facebook group where the comments were posted, rather than opt for a restorative justice process.
“I think it’s appalling that Dalhousie would still give accreditation to these male students when they have said the kinds of things they would do with that kind of power,” she said.
“I think expulsion is the answer.”
The school is coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism after announcing Wednesday that it had launched the process as a means of dealing with the sexist postings.
University president Richard Florizone said in an emotional news conference at the time that some of the women have chosen the restorative justice process, which is an informal and confidential resolution procedure that includes the parties involved.
He said the 13 men who were members of the Facebook group are fourth-year dentistry students and will participate, adding that some have expressed regret in correspondence to him.
Florizone said the process is intended to explore the impacts of the comments and address accountability, adding that its outcome may be made public depending on the wishes of those involved.
But he said not all of the women affected have said they will participate in the process and it’s still possible one or more could launch a formal complaint procedure that could go to the university senate disciplinary committee.
Some are questioning whether Dalhousie University is using the most suitable process for this type of offence.
Wayne MacKay, a law professor at the university and expert on cyberbullying, said the school needs to pay close attention to whether the parties involved are satisfied with the process while avoiding re-victimizing the women.
MacKay said he supports restorative justice in some cases, but there have been instances in the United States where it has not satisfied complainants.
“It does give them a lot of control … in terms of how they handle the process, but with that control comes a lot of pressure and in some ways the potential for revictimization,” he said.
“The message has to be clearly sent that this is taken seriously that this kind of conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated and whatever process they’re using, that message has to be out there.”
Adsum House, a Halifax homeless shelter for women and children, said restorative justice does not go far enough in sending the message that there is no tolerance for misogyny and sexism.
“Anything less than expulsion is reprehensible,” it said in a statement.
Some faculty members also issued a statement Friday asking for a third-party investigation into the matter.
A spokesman for Dalhousie did not respond to a request for an interview Friday.
According to the CBC, members of the Class of DDS Gentleman page on Facebook voted on which woman they’d like to have “hate” sex with and joked about using chloroform on women.
In another post, a woman is shown in a bikini with a caption that says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”
The page has since been taken down.
Florizone said if the people involved in the restorative justice process don’t participate in good faith, a more formal complaint process will go ahead involving an investigator that could be referred to the university senate disciplinary committee.
In the university’s students’ code of conduct, penalties for violating set behavioural expectations range from a warning to a suspension or expulsion.
The university has postponed fourth-year dentistry school exams until January.