They’re suspended, kind of.
The 13 fourth-year dentistry students at Dalhousie who were involved in the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen Facebook group have been temporarily suspended from clinical activities by the university. That announcement was made this morning by Dalhousie, just hours before a few hundred gathered on campus to protest the school’s disciplinary actions so far.
The suspensions can be lifted pending consideration by the dentistry faculty’s academic standards class committee. That group will be considering whether the 13 students have violated their professionalism requirements. It’s a formal approach looking at the requirements to be a dentistry student, and not the informal sexual harassment policies Dal has so far been using.
According to a press conference this morning, the male students in question are only suspended from clinical practice. The university has yet to decide whether the 13 will be allowed back in class. Fourth-year dentistry lectures have been postponed a week, to deal with the fall-out. The men could end up segregated from their classmates. It’s possible they’ll still be allowed on campus and able to attend classes, as well as participate in any athletic teams or student societies they may be a part of. Like so many parts of this mess, Dalhousie is still figuring it out.
It’s a reversal, of sorts, from what the university was telling the public before Christmas. On December 17, president Richard Florizone held a press conference championing an informal restorative justice approach which he claimed was chosen by the women directly harmed. The Coast, and other media outlets, have since reported several women directly impacted by the hateful Facebook posts did not seek nor approve of any informal disciplinary measures.
The university later softened its position, stating expulsion and suspension were still possible outcomes. Florizone had previously told the media he did not feel there was a public safety issue from the 13 men involved in the Facebook group treating patients.
The decision to suspend the men was apparently made on December 22, but not communicated until now. Florizone told media today that was due to “credible” threats of self-harm by some of the men in the group. The university wanted to make sure all students were back in Halifax and had “the proper supports” in place in terms of student counselling.
Students in the dentistry and dental hygiene schools are meeting all day today to overview the past few weeks and discuss schedule changes. The university will also be detailing the restorative justice process (which is still ongoing) and advising students about available counselling.
Thomas Boran, dean of the faculty of dentistry, told the media at today’s press conference that the scandal has “totally rocked our administration.”
Dalhousie has also launched a new section of its website today, entitled Culture of Respect, to address some of the more pointed questions the press and public had had for the administration.
According to Florizone, the formal complaint filed by four Dalhousie faculty members is still being dealt with. The university will have an update on that call for an independent investigation later this week.