June 29 update to community

Re: Report from the external Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry

On January 9, as part of our response to the Facebook incident in the Faculty of Dentistry, I appointed the external Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry, chaired by Professor Constance Backhouse.

This morning, the external Task Force released its report, now available for the Dalhousie community and the general public.

I would like to thank Task Force members Professor Backhouse, Professor Don McRae and human rights lawyer Ms. Nitya Iyer for their thorough, thoughtful and important work. This significant report will be crucial in assisting the Faculty of Dentistry — and Dalhousie as a whole — in building a more diverse and inclusive culture. I am also grateful to the many students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community who gave input to the Task Force.

Like the Restorative Justice report, the Task Force report provides an important perspective on this very serious incident. I fully accept its recommendations. Building a more diverse and inclusive culture will require the engagement and talent of the full Dalhousie community, and I am committed to working with all faculty, staff, students and our external partners to achieve this shared goal.

One year ago we committed in our Strategic Direction to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusiveness at Dalhousie. The past six months have strengthened our resolve to achieve that meaningful change.

Richard Florizone

May 22 update to community

Re: Final Report from the Restorative Justice Process at the Faculty of Dentistry

I am pleased to announce to the Dalhousie community that the Final Report from the Restorative Justice Process at the Faculty of Dentistry was released this morning.  I want to thank everyone who participated in this process— specifically the female and male Dentistry students, our Restorative Justice facilitators and their advisers, the Faculty of Dentistry, the Nova Scotia Dental Association and members of the community.

This has been a difficult time for Dalhousie. This incident was particularly discouraging because we had committed, in our Strategic Direction, to creating a diverse and inclusive environment at Dalhousie. These past five months have both tested our aspirations and strengthened our resolve to achieve them.

From the outset, we sought neither to rush to judgment nor to sweep this incident under the rug. Instead, we knew that as a university we had an obligation to learn and to educate.

The Restorative Justice process has been intense and difficult, and it has also been a success.  The men 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 to investigate the origins of the Facebook group, address the harms caused and examine the climate and culture within the Faculty of Dentistry. Informed by outcomes of this process, the Dentistry Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC) concluded that the 12 former Facebook group members participating in Restorative Justice successfully remediated their behaviour and met the professionalism standard required for graduation. Subject to completion of their clinical requirements, all members of the Facebook group are eligible to graduate.

Based on the insights from Restorative Justice, the Faculty of Dentistry is already taking comprehensive action to strengthen its culture and practices, including reviewing and updating their Student Code of Professional Conduct, Academic Policy Manual, Clinic Policy Manual, and Orientation Week activities.

Along with the Belong report and the upcoming Backhouse Report, the outcomes of Restorative Justice provide us with a powerful foundation to move forward.  Together we can create a stronger Dalhousie free from exclusion and discrimination—a university that embraces and inspires all of us.

Dr. Richard Florizone, President
Dalhousie University

Response to Howe Hall/Instagram Incident

Response to Howe Hall/Instagram Incident

Statement – March 28

Dalhousie can confirm that concerns regarding possible inappropriate content on an Instagram account were brought to the university’s attention on November 1, 2014. This behaviour is offensive and not acceptable at Dalhousie.  As always, our actions are guided by the law and university policy.

In response to this incident, Dalhousie took the following actions:

  • The university took immediate and appropriate action under the Residence Life Code of Conduct.
  • The university completed a full investigation within two weeks of the matter coming to our attention.
  • The matter was referred to Halifax Regional Police on November 13, 2014. Police have confirmed that there are no grounds for a police investigation.
  • Dalhousie also reported the account to Instagram and the account was deactivated shortly thereafter.
  • We can confirm that a number of students were evicted from residence as a result of this incident.

We take the safety, security and well-being of our students very seriously. The students in this particular case were offered a variety of supports, including opportunities to meet with their Residence Life Manager, as well as referrals to Counselling & Psychological Services, Dalhousie Security, and the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Prevention.

We are committed to ensuring a safe and supportive environment for all students in our residences. We are also committed to ensuring an inclusive and respectful community for everyone at the university.

We recognize that this type of incident is not isolated to Dalhousie University. It is part of complex societal issues in which we have fully engaged. We take our responsibility seriously to take action in addressing the harms that have been caused.

March 2 update to community

Update on ongoing response to Dentistry Facebook posts

To Dalhousie students, faculty and staff,

I am writing to share with you the latest developments in our ongoing response to the offensive Facebook posts by some members of the Dentistry (DDS) Class of 2015. The university’s response continues to consist of four initiatives, aimed at addressing both the specific incident and its broader implications:

  1. The Restorative Justice (RJ) process, which is proceeding under Dalhousie’s Sexual Harassment Policy. In this process, the men work directly with their classmates and others to understand the harms caused, to accept responsibility and to repair the damage.
  2. The Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC), which has responsibility and authority for determining when each student has met the academic and professional standards for graduation. They are also the committee that suspended the male students from clinic, and have the authority to determine the conditions under which the suspension is lifted.
  3. The Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry, led by Professor Constance Backhouse of the University of Ottawa. The Task Force is conducting an independent investigation into the culture in the faculty of Dentistry, and is reviewing Dalhousie’s existing policies which address misogyny, sexism and homophobia.
  4. Dalhousie’s Strategic Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness, an existing Strategic Priority at Dalhousie that was given new urgency by this incident.  Led by Dean Kim Brooks, a preliminary report based on extensive community consultation is expected this week.

1. Restorative Justice

The Restorative Justice (RJ) process has now been underway for over two months. Twenty-nine members of the DDS Class of 2015 (including 14 women, 12 members of the Facebook group, and three other men) are participating. Under the guidance of Dalhousie’s RJ leaders and their local and international advisers, the Facebook group members have been working on understanding the harms caused, accepting responsibility and making amends.

This morning all twenty-nine students participating in RJ released a public statement. In that statement, the 14 women participating have reiterated their choice and commitment to RJ. They stated their respect for anyone impacted by this situation to proceed in a way they are most comfortable. They asked for the same respect.

Also in that statement, the 12 Facebook group members taking part in RJ have expressed remorse, taken ownership of what they have done, and recognized that they have harmed a broad range of people.  Within the RJ process, the men have apologized to some of those most directly harmed and their public statement recognizes that they have much more to do.

As part of the Restorative Justice process each of the men has now attended expert-led workshops on misogyny and rape culture; bystander intervention; sexualized and gendered violence; public safety and security, and other topics. Together this represents more than one thousand hours of collective work by the participants, with more to come.

Together, all of the RJ participants ask that we continue to respect their right to pursue this restorative justice process off the public stage.

2. The Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC)

The ASCC is the committee with the responsibility and authority for determining when each student has met the academic requirements and professional standards for graduation.  They are also the committee that suspended the male students from clinic, and have the authority to determine the conditions under which the suspension is lifted.

Over the last two months, the work of the ASCC has included reviewing the Facebook material; receiving submissions from the students; meeting individually with each of the thirteen members of the Facebook group; receiving legal submissions; receiving reports from RJ; and extensive deliberations within the committee.

As part of their procedures, the ASCC is required to review the suspension from clinic. The ASCC has carefully considered whether a conditional return to clinic for the 12 men taking part in RJ would create any risk to students, staff and the public.

Based on this review, the ASCC has determined that each of the men may return to clinic under a number of conditions, which include: close supervision; ongoing participation in RJ; attendance at refresher training; participation in a series of classes on communication and professionalism; and ongoing demonstration of high standards of professionalism. A student may be removed from clinic if any of these conditions are violated. ASCC consideration of the 13th student is ongoing.

Safety remains our priority. Before making this decision, every woman in the class was individually consulted by an Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Dentistry.  Each woman supported the conditional return to clinic.  Additionally, no member of the public will receive treatment from any of the men if they choose not to.

The ASCC now continues its work assessing whether the 13 men will be able to meet the professional standards of their program, in light of both their participation within the Facebook group but also considering, where appropriate, their contributions to the RJ process. A summary of these procedures is available on the Culture of Respect website.

We do know, at this point, that due to missed clinic time some of the men will not graduate this spring. No one will graduate until the ASCC determines that they have met the high professional and academic standards we set for our Dentistry graduates.

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

On January 9, as part of Dalhousie’s response to this incident, I announced a Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Dentistry.  Led by Professor Constance Backhouse of the University of Ottawa, that Task Force is now underway.

Professor Backhouse and her colleagues on the Task Force — Law professor Don McRae and human rights lawyer Nitya Iyer — made their first visit to campus last week, with several more scheduled over the coming months. The Task Force will examine the facts surrounding the Facebook posts and review the broader culture, practices and policies within the Faculty of Dentistry. Additionally, the Task Force will consider existing policies at Dalhousie and make recommendations for how they could be improved, including policies and practices that could be put in place to investigate anonymous complaints of harassment and discrimination.

Input for consideration can be made in writing to: dentistrytaskforce@dal.ca or submitted anonymously through the Task Force’s online portal. Professor Backhouse has committed to completing the report by June 30, and I look forward to taking meaningful action based on the Task Force’s recommendations.

4. Strategic Priority on Diversity and Inclusiveness

Strengthening diversity and inclusiveness at Dalhousie is a personal and institutional priority.  Indeed, this emerged as a theme in 100 Days of Listening and became a stated institutional priority in our Strategic Direction. The actions of the 13 men in the DDS 2015 Facebook group only reinforce the importance of this commitment, and the need for it to have university-wide reach and impact.

Over the last two months a diverse committee of students, faculty and staff, chaired by Dean of Law Kim Brooks, has conducted extensive consultation on the culture of inclusiveness across Dalhousie. The committee has conducted 60 outreach meetings and interviews with the Dalhousie community, reviewed publications from peer universities, and reviewed hundreds of comments to inform their recommendations. This work supports our broad aim of ensuring that faculty, staff, students and alumni of our university all play an active role in supporting a more diverse and inclusive campus where all members of the university community belong.

I expect the committee’s report to be published within the next several days. The report focuses around six themes — Understand, Learn, Reflect, Account, Support, and Heal — and addresses not only the institutional mechanisms required to support an inclusive and diverse university, but the ways in which each member of the Dalhousie community must take responsibility for supporting inclusion and diversity. I look forward to continuing this crucial conversation in the coming days and weeks, and to working together to lead lasting change within our community.


As we have said from the outset, the behavior of the Facebook group was offensive and completely unacceptable. Dalhousie made a commitment to a just process with significant consequences. We also made a commitment to ensuring the safety of our students, faculty, staff and patients. These commitments continue, and we have made meaningful progress in addressing this disturbing behavior. 

As a result of these ongoing processes, the men were separated from regular classes, were temporarily suspended from clinic, and we know that some of the men will not graduate in May. And none will graduate until the ASCC determines that the high professional and academic standards we set for our graduates have been met. 

This incident and the broader issues have led many of us to reflect deeply on our values and our commitments as a community. The question it asks all of us is: “How can we do better?” Through restorative justice, 12 male students who took part in the Facebook group are learning about how they need to change, as part of accepting responsibility and the consequences for their actions. The ASCC will ensure that standards of professionalism are met. The Task Force will consider what measures our Faculty of Dentistry can undertake to build a more supportive community. And through the Strategic Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness, all of us will be engaged in considering how we move closer to the goal of a university in which everyone feels welcome, supported and included.

The journey towards a society that is rid of misogyny, homophobia and sexism is a long one, but it is a journey we are all on together. As an institution of higher learning, one that values the transformative power of education, Dalhousie has a particularly important role: to teach, to learn, to listen, to lead. Together we can help lead the journey towards lasting change.

Richard Florizone, President
Dalhousie University

January 9 update to community

President Launches External Investigation

To Dalhousie students, faculty and staff,

This past month has been especially challenging for our university and our community. All of us continue to be shaken by the misogynistic and completely unacceptable comments made by male members of our fourth-year Dentistry class.

We also realize that this issue on our own campus is part of a larger societal issue that has touched our community to its core and stimulated important conversation and debate that must continue. I want to specifically acknowledge that for people who are survivors of sexualized violence across our country, this year has been incredibly hard.

From the outset we stated that this behavior is completely unacceptable and there must be consequences. The consequences must be based on a just process that complies with the law, university policy and the rights of those involved. We also stated the need to look at issues of sexism and misogyny on campus more deeply.

We won’t rush to judgment nor will we sweep this under the rug.

So how will we move forward? Today I have three announcements:

1. The Restorative Justice Process continues.

The DDS Class of 2015 has demonstrated strong support for proceeding, with 28 members of the class, including 14 women and 12 of the 13 Facebook page members electing to proceed with Restorative Justice. The process will therefore continue, consistent with university policy.

Restorative Justice isn’t a process that can satisfy a desire for swift resolution. I understand that can be frustrating. However, its focus on reconciliation, reflection and understanding is a powerful tool for change and reflects the values of our institution.   

2. The 13 Facebook members will no longer attend classes with the rest of their classmates.

As announced on Monday, the Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC) in the Faculty of Dentistry suspended the 13 Facebook members from clinical practice. Yesterday, the ASCC decided in addition that the Facebook members would not attend classes with the rest of their classmates.

3. We need an external investigation of the Faculty of Dentistry

Given the facts known to date, we need to have an independent third-party assessment of the environment within our Faculty of Dentistry. I am launching an investigation under my authority under the President’s Statement on Prohibited Discrimination. I am grateful that Professor Constance Backhouse of the University of Ottawa has agreed to lead a task force in the Faculty of Dentistry. The terms of reference of the task force [PDF-61kB] are attached and the final reports will be made public.

Professor Backhouse holds the positions of Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, and is internationally recognized for her work on sex discrimination and the legal history of gender and race in Canada. She is a Member of the Order of Ontario, a member of the Order of Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. She is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the SSHRC Gold Medal for Achievement in Research, the Killam Prize in Social Sciences and the Trudeau Fellowship. We are honoured to have her lend her wisdom and expertise to this task force.

I know many of you work passionately to address issues of misogyny, sexism and homophobia every day to make our communities safe and respectful. I know you put your hearts and souls into this work.  I look to you for your help and leadership.

As President, I am deeply committed to nurturing an inclusive and respectful community at Dalhousie University. Furthermore, in Dalhousie’s strategic direction we state that building a collegial culture, grounded in diversity and inclusiveness is an institutional priority.

I am pleased today to announce our Dean of Law, Kim Brooks will lead our strategic initiative on diversity and inclusiveness, in partnership with the Dalhousie University senate.

Today, I ask you to come together as a community. I ask you to help Dalhousie to be a place that everyone – and I mean everyone – feels welcome and supported.

Our work will continue in the weeks and months to come. I believe we can work together to exemplify equality, inclusivity and respect.  Moments of crisis make us stronger. They are an opportunity to test our principles and examine our values. I believe in Dalhousie, and I believe we can do better.


Richard Florizone, President
Dalhousie University

January 5 update to community

Update on ongoing response to Dentistry Facebook comments

To Dalhousie students, faculty and staff,

The start of a new term is, in many respects, a time for looking forward. However, our heads and hearts are still deeply concerned over the events of the recent past: the Facebook posts by Dalhousie Dentistry students which came to light in December that were offensive, degrading to women and completely unacceptable.

I am writing to share the latest developments in our ongoing response to this situation.

On December 17, we communicated that a number of women affected by this behaviour had come forward to the university and chosen to pursue action under the Sexual Harassment Policy, electing to proceed with a restorative justice process. That process is ongoing. At that time, we also committed to addressing the broader harm caused by this incident, as well as addressing safety concerns among students, faculty and staff, and the public.

One of the primary ways our Faculty of Dentistry ensures public safety is through professional standards: no student can receive a DDS degree from Dalhousie without meeting academic requirements, which include professional standards.

This morning, we announced that 13 fourth-year Dentistry students have been suspended from clinical activities, pending consideration of the matter by the Faculty of Dentistry’s Academic Standards Class Committee. The decision to suspend the clinical privileges of the students was made on December 22 and communicated to students this morning once they were back on campus, ensuring the appropriate supports were available to them. Fourth-year classes in the Faculty of Dentistry are scheduled to begin on January 12. A decision about fourth-year classes and the rescheduling of fourth-year exams will be made this week.

This Faculty-led review by Dentistry’s Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC) will commence this week. The restorative justice process, along with other options being considered, is intended to repair the harm caused by this offensive behaviour. Alongside this, the ASCC will assess the situation of each student involved and ensure any individuals recommended for graduation will have complied with the professionalism requirements of their academic program. No student will be permitted to graduate unless they have done so.

As we have made clear, there must be significant consequences for those that endorse and enable misogyny on campus, and we must determine those consequences through a just process — one consistent with the law and University policy, and which supports the rights of everyone involved. Both the restorative justice process and the consideration of the matter by the ASCC reflect these principles.  

Learn more

To keep our community informed about this situation and the larger issues it raises, we have launched a new website — dal.ca/cultureofrespect. There, you will find the latest news as well as answers to many of the common questions we’ve been hearing. Please continue to send us your questions through the site, as we will be updating this information regularly in the days and weeks ahead.  

While the Facebook posts in question have sparked outrage, sadness and great disappointment, they have also inspired many voices to join and amplify an important conversation about misogyny, sexism, and the importance of inclusion and respect. It is not a simple or easy conversation, but it is one in which we all have a stake, and in which we must fully engage as an institution and as a community. With this in mind, I have committed to the establishment of a Presidential Task Force, with details to be released in the coming weeks.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you as we work to ensure a healthy, safe environment for all at Dalhousie University.   


Richard Florizone, President
Dalhousie University


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