Large crowd gathers at Dalhousie, insisting on proper punishment for “Gentlemen’s club” members
A crowd of roughly 200 gathered today at Dalhousie’s Dentistry Building, demanding that the university take action against a group of 4th year dentistry students who posted sexually violent comments about their female classmates on a Facebook group.
Many at the rally wore black masks and expressed their solidarity with the victims targeted in the posts.
After a speech by Jackie Stevens, executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, and a spoken word piece in front of the School of Dentistry, the group marched towards the Henry Hicks building and the office of Dalhousie president Richard Florizone.
Organizers asked the group to march in silence. Many participants wore black and sported blue armbands from Avalon.
As the crowd quietly marched to the beat of a large drum symbolizing a human heartbeat, many waved large signs, the most common message being “#DalhousieHatesWomen”. Thousands of tweets bearing this hashtag have been posted since Wednesday evening.
At the steps of the Henry Hicks building, several people addressed the crowd gathered below.
Jude Ashburn, Outreach Coordinator at the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre, insisted on the expulsion of the 12 male dentistry students.
“Ignoring this in the hope that it goes away sets a dangerous standard,” said Ashburn.
Ashburn insisted that the university not expelling the students “is about Dalhousie valuing tuition more than victims of sexual violence,” followed by cries of “shame!” from the crowd.
Jordan Roberts, Outreach & Administrative Coordinator of the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group, spoke alongside Ashburn.
Roberts said she served on Dalhousie Senate for a year, where the disciplinary committee saw that first-year students who misappropriated quotes on essays “were served larger academic sanctions than these men who threatened to rape their classmates.”
One of the final presenters at the rally was El Jones, Poet Laureate for the Halifax Regional Municipality, performing a spoken word piece titled “Cover Up”.
“Consent and rape, no one’s ever explained it.
We don’t know how to name it, so we cover up.
We say girls shouldn’t change their minds and then complain.
And maybe the boys just got a little carried away, but smart girls don’t get themselves in that situation.
And we defend the boys in all our conversations.
We’re taught our value comes from men, we cover up.”
Dalhousie administration is proceeding with restorative justice to deal with the members of the “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” Facebook group, but the overarching message of the rally was for a much harsher punishment for these students.
As Halifax becomes embroiled once again in a case of sexual violence and misogyny, Jones’ words seemed to capture the spirit of the crowd:
“You’d think we’d have learned something from Rehtaeh.
And these are grown men, not teenagers.
‘Boys will be boys,’ don’t tolerate it.”