Dalhousie suspends 13 dentistry students from clinic amid Facebook scandal

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Dalhousie suspends 13 dentistry students from clinic amid Facebook scandal

Thirteen Dalhousie University dentistry students who belonged to a controversial Facebook group have been temporarily suspended from clinical activities, pending consideration by the faculty of dentistry’s academic standards class committee.

The announcement by the Halifax university was made today as it reopened following the holiday break, but the decision to suspend the men was made Dec. 22. As well, while most students returned to classes today, the fourth-year dentistry students won't resume classes until Jan. 12.

The 13 men who belonged to the group are suspended from clinic work until further notice and it's possible they will also not return to class next week. However, Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone would not say whether suspensions would be extended to include lectures.

Florizone said Monday the announcement of suspensions was delayed because the school's administration had received "credible reports from front-line staff" that some of the men involved were at risk of self-harm.

He said the announcement was made once the students were back in Halifax and had access to counselling services. 

Florizone also said while the suspensions are in place, the men cannot graduate.

'Rocked our administration'

Many people are upset over the university’s handling of the Facebook page called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. The fourth-year male dentistry students' violent sexual comments about female classmates included a poll about having "hate" sex with female students and drugging women.

"The faculty of dentistry’s academic class standards committee's ... powers include the authority to create remediation plans where warranted, and to recommend academic dismissal," said a statement released by Florizone and Dr. Thomas Boran, dean of the faculty of dentistry.

"The committee will assess the situation of each individual and ensure that any individual recommended for graduation will have complied with the professionalism requirements of the academic program. No student will be permitted to graduate unless they have done so."

Boran said during Monday's news conference that the scandal has "totally rocked our administration."

The controversy focuses on the posting of misogynistic and degrading comments about women on a Facebook group page by some fourth-year dentistry students.

Florizone said over the next few days, the university will decide how next week's schedule will roll out for the fourth-year students in the dentistry faculty.

According to the release, decisions about when December's cancelled fourth-year exams will be rescheduled will also be made this week.

Four Dalhousie faculty members, including a Canada research chair in bioethics, have called for the school to launch an independent inquiry into sexualized violence on campus in the wake of the dentistry school scandal.

In a statement posted online, the professors say sexualized violence is a problem at universities across the country.

They urge Dalhousie to respond by looking at both the specific harm caused by the Facebook posts, and addressing underlying causes.