HALIFAX – After Global News broke the story that Dalhousie University had rejected a request from Halifax police to share information about the 13 male dentistry students alleged to have posted sexually violent comments on Facebook about their female classmates, the university has changed its position.
Dalhousie spokesperson Brian Leadbetter confirmed that senior Dalhousie security officials will meet with Halifax police officials Wednesday to discuss the requested material.
When asked late Tuesday night if the university had softened its stance regarding releasing the material “…in compliance with the law,” Leadbetter told Global News he expects the material will be given to Halifax police “shortly” and “as quickly as possible”.
The 13 students tied to the “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” Facebook group were suspended from clinical activities and later ordered to attend classes remotely after its existence and the nature of its postings were publicized in December. The university delayed the opening of its dental clinic in January by a week as it dealt with the ongoing controversy.
Dalhousie had originally said it rejected the police request based on student privacy concerns.
“Really, these reasons should come from Dalhousie themselves,” Const. Pierre Bourdages said.
Bourdages confirmed that police have not yet seen any of the posts in question. Without that evidence, he said any assessment of criminal wrongdoing cannot be made.
Dalhousie spokesperson Brian Leadbetter said the university arrived at its decision after examining the case.
“In our assessment, the Facebook material we were provided did not reflect criminal wrongdoing,” he said.
In Nova Scotia, only police officers and Crown attorneys are able to make the determination of criminal wrongdoing.
Bourdages said the only way for police to legally obtain the postings now is through judicial authorization.
He said police can decide how to proceed after they’ve gathered all the information and spoken to the alleged targets of the group’s comments.
“We want to be able to speak with them to understand exactly what they’ve been through, what they’ve seen and if there is a need for a criminal investigation,” he said.
On Monday, members of Dalhousie’s senate argued that the disciplinary process facing the students should be conducted outside the faculty of dentistry.
University president Richard Florizone has said an independent task force and a restorative justice process will look into what happened.
He also said he welcomed the senate’s input on the disciplinary process, but didn’t indicate if he would support a motion to move it out of the faculty of dentistry.
Late last week, the university rejected a formal complaint filed by four professors about the Facebook group because it said the matter is already being dealt with under an academic standards committee within the dental school.
With files from The Canadian Press