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President launches external investigation

Posted by Media Centre on January 9, 2015 in News

Statement by Dr. Richard Florizone

President Launches External Investigation

I want to share with you what I sent to our Dalhousie community this afternoon.

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 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.


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