By Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Halifax: Dalhousie University in Halifax has decided to allow 12 male students to return to clinical practice less than two months after they were suspended for allegedly participating in a Facebook page that contained sexually violent content about female classmates.
In a statement released late Monday, university president Richard Florizone said the school’s academic standards class committee made the decision after reviewing the online posts, meeting each of the students and receiving reports and legal submissions.
Florizone said the students must adhere to several conditions, including close supervision, ongoing participation in a restorative justice program and participation in classes on communication and professionalism.
“The (committee) has carefully considered whether a conditional return to clinic for the 12 men … would create any risk to students, staff and the public,” Florizone said in the statement posted on the university’s website.
“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 statement goes on to say the committee will now assess whether the men will be able to meet the professional standards of their program.
“We do know, at this point, that due to missed clinic time some of the men will not graduate this spring,” the statement says. “No one will graduate until the (committee) determines that they have met the high professional and academic standards we set for our dentistry graduates.”
Earlier in the day, the 12 students expressed remorse in an open letter to the community.
The university posted a joint statement dated Sunday by 29 members of the fourth-year dentistry class on its website, with the unidentified students who wrote what is described as an open letter saying they wanted to comment before an academic standards committee rules on what discipline will be applied.
The members of the class who agreed to the statement are participating in a restorative justice process the university started after the Facebook site’s contents became public.
The letter says 12 male students believe their actions were “hurtful, painful and wrong,” and that they harmed their classmates, patients, the university, their profession and the public.
“Through the restorative justice process we are doing the work required to be sorry _ to confront the harms we have caused, to accept our responsibility, to figure out what is needed of us to make things right, and to gain the knowledge, skills and capacities to be trusted health-care professionals,” the men say in the letter.
“The need for change in ourselves became very clear through deep reflection on our failures and harmful actions.”
According to the CBC, members of the Facebook group voted on which woman they’d like to have “hate” sex with and joked about using chloroform on women. The CBC said in another post, a woman is shown in a bikini with a caption that says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”
There are three parts to the letter posted on the university website. One is written by the men in the class, a second section by the women and a third written by all the participants in the restorative justice process.
The response from six women who were the target of the posts on Facebook says what was said was harmful and reflected “a broader culture” within the university and society.
But the six women say they don’t agree with a university decision to segregate the men from their classmates and keep them out of clinical practice.
That decision fragmented and alienated the class at a time when they were particularly in need of support from their classmates, the women say, adding that they feel safe with the 12 members of the Facebook group.
“Many have asserted that all women feel unsafe, but this is not the case for us _ we feel safe with the members of the Facebook group involved in this restorative process,” the women say in the letter.
They describe themselves as strong and professional women who are capable of speaking for themselves in the case.
“The restorative process has provided a very important space for us to engage safely and respectfully with our colleagues and others to convey our perspectives and needs.”
The men say they have participated in a series of workshops to consider what they wrote and how to repair the damage since the restorative justice process started in December.
© 2015 The Canadian Press