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Answers to your questions


To continue to update our communities on Dalhousie University’s ongoing response to the offensive Facebook posts by students in the Faculty of Dentistry, and to provide further context on actions taken to date, the Q&A resource below responds to some of the most commonly asked questions the university has received.

We are committed to providing information on a regular basis, and will share updates as frequently as possible.

Newest additions & updates

May 29, 2015

Please note: Q&As are sorted by topic to make it easier to find all related information. Older questions and answers have been archived.

Dalhousie’s process to address the offensive Facebook posts consists of four initiatives, aimed at addressing both the specific incident and its broader implications. Learn about the process.


1. Restorative Justice

The restorative justice process has concluded. Read the restorative justice report

a) What is the status of the restorative justice process?

The Restorative Justice process began on December 16, 2014, with four female fourth-year students in the Faculty of Dentistry filing complaints under the University’s Sexual Harassment Policy. It concluded on May 6, 2015. A full timeline of the process is available in Chapter 3 of the Restorative Justice Report.

b) Who participated in restorative justice?

Twenty-nine students from the class of DDS2015 (out of 38 students in the core four-year program) participated in the Restorative Justice process. This included 12 of the 13 men identified as members of the Facebook group when the offensive material was discovered. Fourteen women and three other men from the DDS2015 class also participated in the process, as did the University, the Faculty of Dentistry, the Nova Scotia Dental Association and members of the community.

c) What are some of the activities that were part of the restorative justice process?

The 12 Facebook group members spent a total of approximately 150 hours each in sessions as a group and working collectively with other interested parties to understand the harms and impacts related to the Facebook group and culture and climate. In addition to meeting with harmed and other affected parties, the group sessions included educational and training modules and workshops supported by experts in the fields of public safety and security, sexualized and gendered violence and trauma, victim services, psychology and counseling, law, education, human rights, public opinion/confidence, religion, conflict resolution, and behavioural science.

A full summary of these activities is available in chapter four of the Restorative Justice Report.

d) What were the outcomes of restorative justice?

Through restorative justice, the male students have taken ownership of their actions, gained a deep understanding of the harm done, apologized to those most directly impacted, and together spent more than 1,500 hours working to repair the damage. Restorative Justice has also provided a forum for the participants to investigate the origins of the Facebook group, address the harms caused and examine the climate and culture within the Faculty of Dentistry. 

Within the Restorative Justice process, the men have apologized to those most directly harmed. Those most directly harmed have accepted their apologies. The men involved also expressed their regret for the broader harms resulting from their actions and have made a commitment to rebuild trust and improve climate and culture through their actions in future. As part of the Restorative Justice process, each of the men has equipped themselves to fulfil their commitments. They have taken part in expert-led workshops on misogyny and rape culture; bystander intervention; sexualized and gendered violence; homophobia; public safety and security, professionalism and social media, and other topics. This represents more than 150 hours of committed time from each of the participants.

The full outcomes—which include commitments made by the male students in the Facebook group, as well as by the other participants—are available for review in chapter six of the Restorative Justice Report.

The activities and outcomes of Restorative Justice also informed the Faculty of Dentistry’s Academic Standards Class Committee’s (ASCC) consideration as to whether the male students were able to meet the professionalism requirements of their program. The ASCC concluded that the 12 former Facebook group members who participated in Restorative Justice successfully remediated their behaviour and met the professionalism standard required for graduation, pending completion of their academic (clinical) requirements. (See ASCC questions below.)

e) What about the nine students who did not participate in restorative justice?

All members of the DDS Class of 2015 were invited to participate in Restorative Justice. As well, all were informed that the process remained open for them to join at any point. A majority of students chose to participate: 29 out of the 38 students in the core class, including 12 of the 13 men identified Facebook group members. (The situation of the one Facebook group member who declined to participate in Restorative Justice was considered separately by the Academic Standards Class Committee.)

We respect the decision of those students who chose not to participate in Restorative Justice, just as we respect the choice of those students who selected the Restorative Justice process under the Sexual Harassment Policy. The ideas and commitments outlined in section six of the Restorative Justice Report are not unique to the Restorative Justice process and its participants: they demonstrate a commitment of all involved to encourage lasting change within the Faculty of Dentistry, the Dal community, the dental profession and beyond. We expect the forthcoming report by the external task force led by Constance Backhouse to continue this process and lead to continued change that serves the interests of all Dentistry students and members of the Dalhousie community, regardless of their view of the Restorative Justice process.

f) Why has Dalhousie not disclosed the names of the men involved in the Facebook posts? Why haven’t the men themselves self-identified? Can the Facebook group members really be held accountable if they are not identified?

Typically, Dalhousie does not release details (including names) and outcomes of complaints and disciplinary processes within the university, including sexual harassment claims, in order to protect the privacy of those involved (including the complainants).

Given that the complaint in this case concerned, in part, wider issues of culture and climate within the Faculty of Dentistry and the university that are of significant public concern, the facilitators and participants in Restorative Justice agreed to release their public report in the hope that what was learned within the restorative process will contribute to broader understanding and change.

In their statement in the report, the male Facebook group members who took part in Restorative Justice acknowledge how their actions have impacted the public trust, and commit to full honesty with their patients, colleagues, the profession and future employers and employees about their involvement in the Facebook group if asked. While they acknowledge the interest of the media and some in the public for their names to be identified publicly, they explain they have decided not to do so at this point based on what they and their families have experienced over the past five months (including significant threats and harms). (Read the full statement on pages 10-12)

g) The restorative justice report identifies a number of concerns about the culture within the Faculty of Dentistry. How are these being addressed?

The Faculty is committed to building a stronger, more inclusive community. The Faculty of Dentistry is taking comprehensive action to strengthen culture, policies and curriculum around professionalism, diversity and inclusiveness. There is a lot of work already underway, and there’s a lot more still to be done. Some of the specific work includes updating the Dentistry Student Code of Professional Conduct, Academic Policy Manual, Clinic Policy Manual, and reviewing Orientation Week and other activities to address concerns and foster a safe and inclusive environment. This work will be further informed by recommendations in the forthcoming report from the external task force chaired by Constance Backhouse. Read more on the Faculty of Dentistry website.


2. Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC)

a) What is the Dentistry Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC)? Who are its members?

The Academic Standards Class Committee has broad authority over academic performance, including professionalism. This committee also recommends students for graduation. No student can receive a DDS degree from Dalhousie without meeting both academic requirements and professional standards.

The ASCC assessed the situation of each student identified as a member of the Facebook group to ensure any individuals recommended for graduation will have complied with the professionalism requirements of their academic program.

The committee is comprised of fourth-year Dentistry course directors and is governed primarily by the Faculty of Dentistry’s Academic Policy Manual.

b) What did the ASCC conclude regarding the 13 members of the Facebook group?

Informed by outcomes of the Restorative Justice process, the Dentistry Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC) concluded that the 12 former Facebook group members who participated in Restorative Justice successfully remediated their behaviour and met the professionalism standard required for graduation.

While details of the ASCC consideration of the 13th Facebook group member are confidential, we can confirm he has met the professionalism and academic requirements for graduation.

c) Does the ASCC’s conclusion regarding professionalism mean that the male students will all be able to graduate?

The Academic Standards Class Committee has determined that all of the male students participating in Restorative Justice have successfully remediated their professionalism. They will be eligible to graduate pending the completion of their clinical requirements. Given our legal privacy obligations, we will not be providing numbers or individual graduation dates.

The 13th male student is on the approved Convocation list for this May.


3. External task force in the Faculty of Dentistry

Learn about the Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry.

a) What is the mandate of the external task force? Who are its members?

The external Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry is investigating the culture, practices and policies within the Faculty of Dentistry. The task force will also consider broader policies and practices at Dalhousie; review policies, standards and practices at other Canadian universities to address the issues of misogyny, sexism and homophobia; and identify policies and practices that could be put in place to investigate anonymous complaints of harassment and discrimination.

Constance Backhouse, a distinguished university professor and university research chair at the University of Ottawa with a long-standing background in issues of gender equality, chairs the task force. Professor Backhouse is joined by Don McRae, a professor at the University of Ottawa, and Nitya Iyer, a lawyer with expertise in human rights and professional regulation.

b) How has the task force been engaging with the Dalhousie community?

The task force was launched on January 9, 2015 by President Richard Florizone. The task force held meetings on campus on February 27-28, March 13-14, April 13-17, April 27-28, and, May 11-12. During these meetings, the task force met with students, faculty, staff and the broader community to hear from those who had been directly involved in the Faculty of Dentistry’s Class of 2015 Facebook issue; those who had information regarding the culture, practices and policies within Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry related to these issues; and/or those who had opinions about the broader policies and practices at Dalhousie to address the issues of misogyny, sexism and homophobia.

The task force also welcomed submissions from the general Dalhousie community via email and through a private online portal.

c) How does the work of the Restorative Justice process and the task force intersect?

The restorative justice process participants and facilitators have provided relevant information identified through its inquiry process to the external task force, in the hopes that it will provide further support to the task force’s efforts to offer a wider lens on the culture and climate within the Faculty.

d) When will the task force complete its report? Will it be made public?

The task force’s reports are to be delivered to President Florizone no later than June 30, 2015 and will be made public.


4. Strategic Initiative on diversity and inclusiveness

Read the Belong report.

a) What is the scope of Dal’s strategic initiative on diversity and inclusiveness?

Approved by the Board and Senate in mid-2014, Inspiration and Impact: Dalhousie Strategic Direction 2014-2018 includes a commitment to foster a culture of inclusiveness and diversity. 
 
Working in partnership with Senate, the strategic initiative will both proactively support an inclusive environment and focus on how we can better respond when members of our community experience the impact of misogyny, sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, socio-economic disadvantage, colonialism, ethnocentrism, sexualized violence, harassment and discrimination.

In January 2015, a phase one committee was formed to advance this aspect of Dalhousie’s Strategic Direction. The committee published its action report, titled “Belong” on March 5, 2015. Read the report.

b) How will the strategic initiative conduct its work?

In Phase 1, a committee of students, faculty and staff reached out to groups who have been engaged in diversity and inclusion work, solicited input from individuals, and reviewed reports and research produced at Dalhousie and at other Canadian universities. Its action plan, the “Belong” report, was published on March 5, 2015.


Phase Two is well underway. The initiative will focus on implementing short (within one year), mid (1-3 years) and long-term (3-5 years) recommendations as noted in the Belong report. Project plans and teams are currently being identified. Progress will be tracked and shared with the Dal community through monthly updates.

c) Who is leading the strategic initiative?

The executive sponsors for Charter 5.2 (“Foster a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness”) are Provost and Vice-President Academic Carolyn Watters and Vice-President Finance and Administration Ian Nason.

Phase one was led by Dean of Law Kim Brooks, together with a committee of students, faculty and staff. Phase two will be led by Assistant Vice-President Human Resources Katherine Frank. The initiative is currently recruiting members for its phase two leadership committee, which will consist of both some representatives from the phase one committee as well as new members.


5. Culture of change

a) How is the Faculty of Dentistry working to address concerns that have come out of this process?

The Faculty of Dentistry is taking comprehensive action to strengthen culture, policies and curriculum around professionalism, diversity and inclusiveness. There is a lot of work already underway, and there’s a lot more still to be done. Some of the specific work includes updating the Dentistry Student Code of Professional Conduct, Academic Policy Manual, Clinic Policy Manual, and reviewing Orientation Week and other activities to address concerns and foster a safe and inclusive environment.. This work will be further informed by recommendations from the Restorative Justice participants and the forthcoming report from the external task force chaired by Constance Backhouse. Read more on the Faculty of Dentistry website.