Report into sexism at Dalhousie dentistry school released today

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.

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.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.

 

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