WARNING: The following article contains some explicit content
HALIFAX – Dalhousie University said there are no plans for the immediate dismissal of any staff in relation to the dental school Facebook scandal.
“The Task Force found that all decision-makers acted in good faith,” said spokesperson Brian Leadbetter. “They also cautioned us against a “bad apple” approach where we think the problem will be solved by removing individuals.”
“Immediate dismissal of anyone isn’t supported by the external review and the facts at this time.”
The Task Force report, released Monday, revealed disturbing information about the inner workings of the dental school and included 39 recommendations for the university to improve its culture. President Richard Florizone said he accepted all the recommendations but noted it may take two years to implement them.
Kathleen Reid, the vice-president of student life for the Dalhousie Student Union, stopped short of calling for resignations in light of the report.
“I think it’s a systemic issue. I think we should focus on the fact that this is not just a problem within dentistry. It’s a problem within our entire institution,” she said.
However, she agrees change needs to happen and is pleased by the report and its recommendations.
“The DSU was quite shocked by all the different things that came out of the report and the specifics that came out in it. It just highlights the facts this is an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Issues of racism
The report highlighted issues of racism on campus, which one activist said is epidemic.
“The n-word was written in the library multiple times and nothing has been done about it on an institutional level. We’ve known about these issues for years. There’s been repeated attempts to meet with administration or to have this paid attention to,” said El Jones, Halifax poet laureate.
“People of colour, women of colour, we’re not safe. We can’t expect protection and we can’t expect care from the university either.”
Jones said she was pleased to see the discussion of race in the 100-page report, which stated “many people told us that racism is a ‘ticking bomb’ at Dalhousie.”
“I was glad that was included because it gives us a starting point for at least saying it’s being recognized. Now what are we going to do about it?”
Jones said it will be important for the university to create deeper connections with the community to combat racism. She said public forums and panels will also help create more dialogue and discourse about the issue.
“What can we as a campus, as a community to…recognize the inequalities on campus and do more work towards making people welcome and equal?”
Little mention of LGBTQ interests
The Facebook page included homophobic comments, such as how a penis is defined as “the tool used to wean and convert lesbians and virgins into useful, productive members of society.”
There was explicit graffiti in the Cavity, a well known student lounge in the dentistry school, that depicted a sketch of a man bending over and another man approaching him with an exposed penis. The caption reads “Oh (name redacted), I’m ready for you this time.”
Jacqueline Gahagan, a health promotions professor at Dalhousie University, said she wishes the task force report included more consideration for LGBTQ interests.
“I do think the fact there is gender-based violence, and particularly violence against LGBTQ population on this campus and on most university campuses, to have a little bit more concrete recommendations on how to deal with that,” she said.
Gender and women’s studies professor Jacqueline Warwick calls the report thorough and she is relieved the report linked issues of gender with race.
“I have witnessed myself many incidents of how cultural white supremacy dictates what happens at this institution, and other institutions of course, and I think that it is something we can really no longer tolerate,” she said.
“I think there’s an emphasis on a paternalistic culture – an idea of a certain kind of masculinity that has been prized and supported. That kind of masculinity often is riddled through with misogyny, homophobia and racist attitudes.”
Warwick said she is eager to see the recommendations in place at the university and is hopeful the university will move in a positive direction.
“All eyes are on us. I think they need to stay on us to make sure we live up to what Canada expects us to do.”