Report into sexism at Dalhousie dentistry school released today

WATCH: It is a damning independent review of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry. It’s the result of the way Dalhousie responded to dentistry students who posted sexually violent comments on Facebook. The report says the culture in the faculty of Dentistry permitted incidents of sexism and misogyny for years and makes 39 recommendations. Global’s Natasha Pace reports.

HALIFAX – A much anticipated report into sexism, misogyny and homophobia at the Dalhousie School of dentistry was released Monday morning and there are several recommendations for the university.

The recommendations are directed to the Faculty of Dentistry, the university administration and the university as a whole and the report states that “these are complex problems with no easy solutions”.

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After meeting with 150 students, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the university board, and the public community over a three month period, the report identified five major themes:

  1. The culture within the Faculty of Dentistry permits incidents of sexism, misogyny, homophobia and racism. The incidents were described as anything from isolated to rampant and as affecting both staff and students. Given the number, the duration and the range of people who members of task force about them, they cannot be dismissed as isolated. One alumnus said dentistry lived in a time warp, oblivious to social progress.
  2. There is a distrust and suspicious attitude about the university’s response to reports of discrimination. “Swept under the rug” is a phrase that was heard over and over again, according to the task force. The Faculty of Dentistry has no formal complaints and report system, and most people seem afraid to complain informally for fear of retaliation.
  3. On a whole, the report finds the university’s policies and processes for dealing with equity issues are as good or better than other Canadian universities. IT says “we do not see a need to redraft them”. Instead it suggests making the university more familiar with how and when complaints need more support and protection from retaliation. The report makes suggestions on how the university might handle cases like the Facebook incident in the future.
  4. The best route for the future is to focus on systematic change. Recognizing the connections between the group of complaints holds more promise than dealing with each incident in isolation.
  5. Education and research is the key to significant and lasting change.

READ MORE: Dalhousie professor on dentistry report: ‘I’m not totally satisfied’

WATCH ABOVE: Dalhousie’s Florizone hopes changes made within 2 years

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President Richard Florizone appointed three members to the task force. Their objective was to examine the events of the Dalhousie dentistry Facebook scandal independently. The review was led by Constance Backhouse, a professor at the University of Ottawa who is recognized for work on sex discrimination.

The group assigned to the task force were to see what they could learn to help in the efforts to dismantle discrimination and harassment in the future.

The “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” was brought to the attention of the university in December 2014. However the realities of the Facebook group’s contents didn’t come to light until students and faculty members returned from Christmas holiday.

WATCH: The 100-page task force report paints a disturbing picture of the inappropriate culture at the Dalhousie dentistry school. Julia Wong digs through the documents for details.

The report says that several members in the  “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” Facebook group created a poll about which of their female classmates they would like to “hate f—” and “sport f—“. The page also featured jokes about using chloroform on women. The report says that several students voted in the poll, and one tried to put a stop to it.

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READ MORE: Dal dentistry student lounge covered with racist, misogynistic, sexist graffiti

The poll, however, was only the tip of the iceberg, and that there were posts going back to 2011 on the page.

The report recommends that the university:

– Make clear how codes of conduct apply to social media

– Ensure all its policies are in written format

– Increase its dissemination of information about how to raise concerns and lodge complaints about sexual harassment

Reports of the offensive posts and the university’s initial response prompted rallies, calls for expulsion and a demand by some faculty members for an independent inquiry into how the school handled the incident.

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– With files from The Canadian Press

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