Contradictions raise important questions about students’ rights
Regardless of your gender, interest in social media or stance on the limits of free speech, there is good reason every Dalhousie student should be paying close attention to the dentistry scandal.
The first reason every Dal student should be vocal and ask questions about the dentistry scandal is that from day one, university administration said “all parties involved” in the restorative justice process would like the time and space to complete their process. However, students who were asked to participate in the process have since revealed they don’t want the process and they feel silenced by Dal.
If you were ever caught up on any side of a similar conflict, would you want university administration speaking on your behalf without consulting you? After they speak on your behalf, how would you feel about the national media repeating their words?
If we don’t speak up for those who have been silenced throughout this situation, we’re setting a bleak precedent for students’ rights at Dal and nationwide.
Few, if any, Dalhousie students have the time to closely study the publicly available information surrounding the dentistry scandal that has come out since Dec. 15 and compare the differing narratives that have come out of the situation. Most will have to be satisfied with the newest media stories, of which so many are posted each day.
These stories often contain important and relevant information, but when new stories are published every day this creates the effect that a coherent narrative is being created out of this situation. That’s far from the truth.
A close reading of how this situation has unfolded from day one reveals it is still impossible to draw a cohesive narrative of events occurring in the dentistry scandal. Dal administration’s communication of the scandal is still rife with contradictions and misleading statements that prevent any accurate understanding of how they have handled this situation.
The existence of the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen group was only made public because an affected student brought evidence of the group to the media. We don’t know how many similar harassment complaints reach Dalhousie without being made public – but this situation has gone public, and the way it has been handled by university administration offers key insights into the state of students’ rights at Dal.
A close analysis of the publicly available information currently available regarding this situation shows how many unanswered questions still exist when trying to understand Dal’s handling of the dentistry scandal. Here are 14.
- A list of everyone in the core of the DDS4 class was publicly available online until last week. It was taken down after the Dalhousie Gazette asked the administrators of the website hosting the list if they knew it could be found. In trying to protect the privacy and reputations of Dal dentistry students, did university administration do any research into whether such a list could be found by the public?
- Why did Dal first say that the original women who complained about the DDS Gentlemen group came to them, then change their story to say they had reached out to the women themselves?
- One of the 13 men Dal is disciplining for participation in the DDS Gentlemen group has said he never agreed to the restorative justice process and that he did not have a chance to tell his side of the story to Dal until mid-January. However, Dalhousie president Richard Florizone said on Dec. 17 that all 13 men had met with the women who had come forward with complaints about the group and restorative justice was proceeding with everyone. How can these two stories be reconciled?
- Why did Dal send a questionnaire to all women in the DDS4 class asking how they were affected by the group, before some women had been given the opportunity to see any of the posts from the group?
- Why are different narratives coming out of Dal administration as to what screenshots of the Gentlemen group were shown to the DDS4 class?
- When Florizone gave a press conference on Dec. 17 he said that many women from the DDS4 class had come forward and that a number of women had elected for a restorative justice process. Why did he not mention the one woman who complained but did not elect for a restorative justice process?
- Why did Florizone say on Dec. 17 that women affected by the Gentlemen group had opted to not have an investigation occur in tandem with the restorative justice process, when in January we’ve heard from anonymous women in the class that they believe were silenced and they do want an investigation, and Dal’s official Q&A on the situation says all women knew from the start that there may be other processes happening simultaneously with restorative justice?
- A lawyer representing one of the 13 men Dal is disciplining for being a member of the Gentlemen group has alleged Dal is creating new policies and procedures at its own will to deal with this situation. If this is the case, what precedent does this set for discipline at Dal?
- Why did the chair of Dal’s Board of Governors tell media the board unanimously approved Florizone’s handling of the dentistry situation when such a unanimous decision could have only occurred through a confidential vote?
- Why did Florizone say that “many” of the women in the class had come forward to complain about the Gentlemen group between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17 when less than a quarter of the total women in the class had come forward?
- Why did Florizone speak on behalf of all students in the DDS4 class before they had all been properly consulted?
- Media reports have said there were at least 20 members of the DDS Gentlemen group at varying times since the group’s inception in 2011, and at least one of the 13 men being disciplined has allegedly been found to have violated standards of professionalism because of a post (that he alleges he had never previously seen) from December 2011. Will Dal confirm whether the screenshots in their possession show the possibility that more than 13 students were members of the group at different points in time, and/or explain why they are not/whether they are pursuing discipline for these students?
- Will Dal confirm whether a surreptitious picture was taken of the naked rear end of a Dalhousie clinic patient and posted in the DDS Gentlemen group?
- Why has at least one question been removed from Dal’s official Q&A on the situation?
- When considering the privacy of students in the faculty of dentistry, did Dalhousie or the CBC ever consider that a public list of everyone in the DDS program was available for over a month after the Gentlemen group was made public?
While a recurring theme in Dalhousie’s communication regarding the dentistry scandal emphasizes their commitment to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of all parties involved, there are 13 men in the DDS4 class who were deemed to not be members of the Gentlemen group at the time it was closed, and their reputations are at stake.
Great suspicion is being cast over all men in the DDS4 class, even those who may have never been involved with the group. Dental licensing boards have demanded the names of the 13 men who were members of the group, while Dalhousie has refused to cooperate, citing privacy reasons.
On Dec. 15, the CBC said “at least a dozen” of the men in the DDS4 class were in the Gentlemen group. Florizone confirmed the exact number as 13 on Dec. 17. Additionally, Dal confirmed in question 21 their Culture of Respect Q&A page on Jan. 7 that there are 26 male students in the class.
According to The Coast, the fourth-year DDS class is comprised of seven men and two women in a foreign-trained Qualifying Program class as well as 19 men and 19 women in the core of the class.
Until last week, the names of all 19 men in the core fourth-year DDS class have been public information the entire time this story has been in the media – this, while hundreds of commenters nationwide say they will never see a male Dalhousie dentist who graduates in 2015 as long as the names of the 13 men from the Gentlemen group aren’t published.
In late December, the Dalhousie Gazette used Google to perform a directory search of the website of the Dalhousie Dentistry Student Society (DDSS). This search showed all pages of the DDSS’ website that had been indexed by Google, including the pages not linked to from other pages on the website.
One of the pages that could only be found through a directory search showed a “Buddy Tree” – a current list of all students in Dalhousie’s DDS program, organized by year.
Students in different years of the DDS program work with each other in the dental clinic and through the DDSS. The buddy tree shows which students from different years are paired with each other.
Assuming each person in the group with a name that usually corresponds with a particular gender indeed identifies as the gender that name is usually associated with, many of the men in the fourth-year dentistry class have been working closely with women in earlier years.
On the evening of Dec. 26, 2014, the Dalhousie Gazette emailed members of the executive council of the DDSS asking if they were aware this list was public. They did not respond, but the list was taken offline within minutes.
Because Google stores every page it indexes for a certain length of time, this buddy tree page could still be found through Google’s cache until last week.
So until last week, anyone who wanted to could have found the names of all men in the DDS4 class and circulated a list of them widely, saying, “avoid any dentist who has a name on this list”. Anyone could have used this list to try and find more personal information on anyone in the class, for whatever reason they desire.
Before Dalhousie decided on a process that would make the names of the men in the group and their individual involvement in the group confidential, and before the CBC published an editorial note saying why they would not publish the names of the men, did either of these organizations consider that a couple basic Google searches may easily lead to a list of the names of everyone in the core DDS program?
Here is the answer Dalhousie gives on their Q&A, published on Jan. 5, for how the reputation of the other 13 men will be protected:
“11. What is the university doing to protect the reputations of those students in the Class of 2015 who were not involved in these offensive comments (including other male students)?
We are mindful of the impact of this situation on all our students, faculty and staff in the Faculty of Dentistry, and especially those in the Dentistry Class of 2015. The restorative justice process, currently underway, along with other options being considered, are intended to repair the harm caused by this offensive behavior. We will do whatever is reasonable and within our abilities to support those students as they start their careers. They are an integral part of the Dalhousie community.”
This sounds like there is currently nothing in place to protect the reputations of these men. On Jan. 6, the Dalhousie Gazette sought clarification on this point in an interview with Florizone:
“Gazette: Have you had the chance to speak with any of the men from the fourth-year dentistry class who weren’t members of the group? How are they feeling right now?
Florizone: I would simply say that I think all of our students have found this, in that class, have found it a very stressful time. And it gets at, again, why we have to take a very careful, deliberate and just process through this. And why we have to address the broader harm. Because a lot had been affected, right? So we have to deal, again, I come back to it – we have this unacceptable behaviour. We know there has to be significant consequences. And we have to go back to that just process to determine now what happens with these specific men. But we also have to have this broader conversation, and address the broader harm. Talk about the culture at Dal, in dentistry, and more broadly.
Gazette: Definitely. But there are many people saying, if you look at the petition for example that’s calling for an independent investigation, there are many people saying that unless the names of the 13 men who were in the group would be published somehow, they will either never see a male Dalhousie dentist or they will never see one who graduates in 2015. What could Dalhousie do at this point, while there are so many people expressing this sentiment –
Florizone: Well this is exactly what we have to resolve. And so, clearly, releasing names violates confidentiality. It violates the principles of the just process that I’ve set out. So we aren’t in the position to do that. So then the question becomes, how do you mitigate this? And that’s where we’re really, I’m hoping we’ll get some insight from the restorative justice process, but also principally on this matter, we’re principally looking to the academic standards class committee on how do you, can you, mitigate that professional, those concerns about professionalism? So remember what we’ve done here. Right now, these men can’t graduate until the concerns are satisfied, right? So safety concerns are dealt with. They’re not in the clinic. In terms of them ultimately being in the public, right now, they aren’t going to graduate until we figure out an answer to this very question.”
This answer does not instil confidence that Dalhousie has a plan to save the other 13 men’s professional reputations. It’s completely possible they do have a plan that must be kept confidential, but the answers we’ve received so far have not given any hints that this is the case.
In the same interview, Florizone announced a commitment to letting the public know when any of the 13 men currently undergoing a professional standards review by the Academic Standards Class Committee (ASCC), a committee within the faculty of dentistry, may have their suspensions lifted.
“Gazette: If this suspension clears up, will the public hear of that? The suspension from the clinic.
Florizone: I would say – absolutely. And so we’d be, again, within the constraints of confidentiality and a just process, we will try to be as transparent as possible. But I’ll commit that if they are back in the clinic, we would communicate that.”
But we have still not received any confirmation as to whether Dalhousie will ever release the names of any of the 13 men or what their involvement was with the group.
So if even one man undergoing the ASCC review has his suspension lifted and his name is not published, the graduating class of 2015 will contain at least one of the DDS Gentlemen, and the public will have no idea which man it is, unless he identifies himself.
If even one of the 13 men has his clinical suspension lifted but this doesn’t happen until next year, then it will be men from the DDS Class of 2016 or 2017 or whenever that will come under scrutiny from licensing boards and some potential patients, unless the men who have their suspensions lifted identify themselves.
This is all unless Florizone reverses his commitment to announce when any of the clinical suspensions are lifted.
- Why did Dalhousie first say that women came to them with complaints, then later change their account of the narrative to say that they had come forward to women first?
We have heard two alternate accounts from Dalhousie as to how women from the DDS4 class came forward with complaints about the Gentlemen group.
At his Dec. 17 press conference, Florizone said:
“Now, since [Dec. 15], many of the women who were the subject of the comments, so there was the initial complaint last week, but since then, many of the women who were the subject of the comments, as well as the men, who were members of the Facebook group, have since come forward.”
This makes it sound like the women came forward by themselves.
In a Dec. 18 interview with Steve Murphy on CTV, Florizone said women came forward after the situation went public:
“Murphy: If this had not been reported by the media on the Monday of this week, would you have dealt with this privately, covertly?
Florizone: So, our – the matter was underway when it became public. And what changed is, once it became public, what did change is more women came forward and elected this process and that’s where we moved to.”
But Dal’s most recent explanation of this scenario, published on their Q&A website on Jan. 9, tells a completely different story.
“The work to consider an appropriate process was already underway when the material was made public via the media on Monday, December 15. Given the understandable concern from our communities, the university committed to publicly communicating next steps for addressing the allegations within the next 48 hours.
During that period, university administrators focused on contacting those women who were identified in the most recent of the Facebook posts available to the university. Five female students were identified in those posts and the university contacted all of them. After discussing the different options available to them, four of the five students elected to proceed with a restorative justice process under the Sexual Harassment Policy’s informal resolution procedures. All five had seen the Facebook posts in question before making any decision.”
On Dec. 17 and Dec. 18, Florizone said the women came forward of their own volition. The Q&A currently says that not only did the university administration reach out to five female students, but these women had seen “the Facebook posts in question before making any decision”.
It’s unclear which specific Facebook posts this answer is referring to, or what this answer means by “the most recent of the Facebook posts available to the university”. Regardless, this is not what we heard earlier.
Was Florizone aware that one of the five women did not want restorative justice when he gave his press conference? If not, why wasn’t he briefed on this fact beforehand?
If Florizone was not operating with all of the facts in December, and he first said that the women had come forward but it’s actually the case that Dal administration had reached out to the women – these new facts have been introduced to us without any explanation as to why the narrative coming out of Dalhousie has changed. This makes any attempt to accurately understand the narrative impossible.
- Did all 13 men being disciplined for being part of the DDS Gentlemen group meet with the women who came forward with complaints between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, as Florizone said?
When Ryan Millet, one of the 13 men who Dalhousie administration deemed to be part of the DDS Gentlemen group at the time it was closed, spoke with the Chronicle Herald on Jan. 18, he said he chose to not participate in the restorative justice process.
The Chronicle Herald reports that Millet says “he felt the university tried to pressure him into joining, and says administration gave him the impression that his classmates were all on board — something that was later disputed by at least four of the female students.
“But he was worried that participating in the process would somehow be an admission of guilt that he was not prepared to make. He was also concerned that he wouldn’t have an opportunity to fully explain his role in the group.”
Millet also told the Herald that a Jan. 19 hearing in front of the Academic Class Standards Committee would be “the first time Dalhousie will have given him the opportunity to tell his story”.
However, on Dec. 17 Florizone said that all 13 men had met with the women that Dalhousie had consulted with so far, and that the restorative justice had already been ongoing for two days.
When a reporter asked, “Did they meet with the women, the men, directly?” Florizone responded, “Yes. And they have already, the process has been underway for two days.”
Given the context of this exchange, it’s difficult to tell whether Florizone understood “the women” in this context referring to “the women who had been consulted so far”, “the four out of five women who had been consulted so far that opted for restorative justice” or “all the women in the DDS4 class”.
But even if Florizone only meant to confirm that the four out of five women who came forward so far and opted for restorative justice had met with all 13 men, wouldn’t this have been an opportunity for Millet to see that only four women so far had agreed to restorative justice?
The most liberal interpretation possible of Florizone’s response to the reporter’s question about whether the women had met with the men would be, “He meant they had all met at some point because they’re in the same class,” but that is an obvious fact, and likely not what Florizone intended to communicate.
- Why did Dalhousie send out a questionnaire to the women in the class asking how they were affected by the group before every woman had a chance to see whether they were mentioned in the group?
One question asked by the survey was, “How have you been impacted or harmed by the group?”
“Please provide as many harms as you can identify, these may include harms to yourself or others around you,” it says, and asks students if they have “a sense of the remedies needed for the harms [they’ve] expressed.”
The deadline for returning the completed questionnaire was Jan. 2.
But according to Dalhousie’s Q&A, not all women in the class were shown the screenshots that directly pertain to them until Jan. 5:
“On January 5, when all had returned to campus, the facilitators briefed the fourth-year class on the restorative justice process. They provided the opportunity for all women identified in the Facebook group to see the posts made about them individually, and offered the balance of the class the opportunity to see all posts in the Facebook group (with women identifiers redacted).”
Why would Dalhousie have asked women to answer how they were affected by the group before they had the chance to even see whether they were mentioned in the group? Wouldn’t they need to know more about the contents of the group than what had been made publicly available through the media before they could answer these questions accurately?
- Why is Dalhousie giving different narratives for DDS4 students being able to see screenshots from the Gentlemen group?
We have heard two different stories as to when students within the DDS4 class were shown screenshots from the Facebook group.
On Jan. 9, Dal announced that all women in the DDS4 class were given the opportunity to see all of the posts from the Gentlemen group that included them, and that the rest of the class was allowed to see all the posts from the group but with identifying details of the women removed.
A different story came out on Jan. 12 when a member of Dal’s legal counsel said that the only people shown any screenshots were the women who had had posts made about them, and that the posts they were shown blocked identifying details of others in the picture.
Question five on Dal’s Culture of Respect Q&A, published on Jan. 9, says the five women who consulted with Dal between Dec. 15 and 17 “had seen the Facebook posts in question before making any decision” as to how they would proceed with complaints, but it does not specify whether these screenshots were obscured to any degree. This answer also does not explain what posts are referred to by “the Facebook posts in question”.
The answer goes on to say, “On January 5, when all had returned to campus, the facilitators briefed the fourth-year class on the restorative justice process. They provided the opportunity for all women identified in the Facebook group to see the posts made about them individually, and offered the balance of the class the opportunity to see all posts in the Facebook group (with women identifiers redacted).”
However, at the Jan. 12 meeting of Dal Senate, a senator asked Florizone whether women in the DDS4 class had yet been shown any screenshots they may appear in.
Florizone referred the question to Karen Crombie, a member of Dal’s legal counsel.
Crombie said the women directly identified in the Facebook pages that were provided to the university were provided “excerpts pertaining to them but nobody else.”
She said the other women in the class had an obligation to have their privacy protected, so all women got to see the screenshots where they were identified, but no one else’s. She also said that faces, names and other identifying characteristics were obscured in these screenshots.
It is unclear which, if either, of these narratives is correct.
Complicating the situation is an anonymous letter penned by four women within the DDS4 class where they express the opinion that restorative justice is an inappropriate solution to the situation.
The letter, first circulated by the CBC and dated Jan. 6, acknowledges that Dalhousie held “an information session led by Melissa MacKay and Jennifer Llewellyn on January 5, 2015 about the restorative justice process that Dalhousie has elected to pursue to address complaints brought to the University regarding posts on the Facebook group “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen”.
The letter also says the women in the class were not given the opportunity to see full screenshots:
“The University has also declined to disclose to us (“those most directly affected”) the full extent of what it does know. We have not been provided with a full copy of the Facebook posts that affect us, despite the fact that the men, and the media, have them.”
Who was shown which screenshots? When were they shown the screenshots? To what extent was each screenshot censored? How could any of the women in the class appropriately decide how they would like to respond to this situation unless they had the opportunity to see the full package of uncensored screenshots?
For an outsider to judge how this situation has been handled it is necessary to have definitive answers to these questions from Dal, instead of two contradictory answers.
- Why didn’t Florizone mention at his Dec. 17 press conference that the university already knew at least one woman didn’t want restorative justice?
At his Dec. 17 press conference, a reporter asked Florizone, “Did you decide there was no actual need for punishment?” Florizone responded:
“So the path we’ve chosen, as I said in principle, is we were guided by this principle of victim-centred justice. So, of the policy options, we wanted to pursue the option that best understood and addressed the needs of the women who were most affected by this. And so the route that we’ve taken is the route that the women have selected.”
Why did he say this is the route “that the women have selected” when only four out of five women had selected restorative justice? It’s not the route that all the women selected. Why would this one woman be ignored throughout the entire address?
When a reporter asked what other remedies or policy options Dalhousie could pursue the complaints under, Florizone responded:
“Well, as I said, you could potentially, we could go the formal complaint route on the student code of conduct and that contemplates a whole range of outcomes. I wouldn’t want to speculate on every one of them, because I’m at this point, again, guided by the women and the choice they’ve made.”
Here he said he’s guided by “the women and the choice they’ve made”, but we now understand that he’s only referring to four out of the five women who had been consulted with out of a class that has 21 women in it.
In a CTV interview on Dec. 18, Florizone repeatedly stated again it was “the women” who opted for restorative justice, while we now know it would have been more accurate to say “some of the women”.
“Steve Murphy: But you didn’t have to agree with [restorative justice], Dr. Florizone. You could have opted to expel or suspend these students.
Florizone: What I would have had to do was to take a different process than the women elected to. And we could take a different process to seek expulsion. What I want to do is follow the process that they’ve outlined, and that may lead to other considerations or other processes, I don’t rule any of that out.”
Why would the wishes of the woman who did not want restorative justice be ignored? It wasn’t for another 22 days after this interview that Dalhousie made it public that one of the five who initially came forward did not want this process. Dalhousie neglected to include this fact in all their statements made until Jan. 9.
In a Jan. 6 interview with the Dalhousie Gazette, Florizone continued to say it was “the women that came forward” that opted for restorative justice.
“Gazette: So the [Dec. 17] conference started with you defining “those most directly impacted” as the women in the fourth-year dentistry class who were the subject of the deeply offensive posts from that group. And later in the conference, you said that out of Dalhousie’s available policy options, for your response, you wanted to pursue the option that best understood and addressed the needs of the women who were most affected by the situation. So, I took that to imply you meant you wanted to pursue the policy option that best understood and addressed the needs of the women in the fourth-year dentistry class who were the subject of the deeply offensive comments made in the Gentlemen group. The next thing you said, at your conference, was: “And so, the route that we’ve taken is the route the women had selected.” But you hadn’t yet spoken with all –
Florizone: That’s correct.
Gazette: – the women who had appeared in the posts that were offensive. So, how were you comfortable saying that restore justice was what the women in the fourth-year dentistry class who appeared in the offensive posts in the group wanted, when at this point, you hadn’t been able to consult with every woman in the class who appeared in the posts?
Florizone: Right. So let me try to clarify. The women who came forward, so there were a number of women who came forward and elected the restorative justice option. What I’m saying is that that is their right under university policy, that is an option available to them. And I fully support the right those women chose. Now, that didn’t, I wasn’t trying to imply all the women in the class. Because we hadn’t, at that point, connected with all of them.
Gazette: Right. But when you’re saying it’s what the women who were most affected wanted, but you’re also saying it’s all women who were most affected, can it really stand up that all the women in the class wanted restorative justice?
Florizone: So let me go back to – it’s, the women who came forward elected this. [Emphasis ours. – ed] And that is their right and obligation. Or, that’s their right, and it was my obligation to support their right. We also felt that it was an appropriate way to move forward. Now, others, and others as I’ve said publicly, others may come forward and elect another option. And we’ll support that right as well. But we have to support the rights of the women who did choose to come forward, and choose to elect this option under policy. They have that right, we have the obligation to support it.”
Here, Florizone said “it’s the women who came forward” that elected for the restorative justice process. But Dalhousie’s own Q&A says that one of the five women who the university had spoken with by Dec. 17 had decided to not proceed with restorative justice.
Compounding the strangeness, on Dec. 17 Florizone said there may be women in the class who would elect for a formal complaint process:
“Now, I want to be clear as well, we have a number of women who’ve come forward who’ve elected the restorative justice process. There may be other women affected who may pursue, and that is their right, to pursue the formal complaint procedure from the outset. We haven’t received a formal complaint to proceed under this model, but again, I would encourage anyone with knowledge or concerns regarding this case to come forward to us, to our Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Office.”
He said a number of women had come forward who elected for the restorative justice process, and that Dalhousie hadn’t “received a formal complaint to proceed under this model”. While he said this, there was one woman who had not opted for restorative justice or for a formal complaint, but she was not mentioned. The fact he said no women had yet come forward with a formal complaint obscured the fact there was a woman who did not file a formal complaint but also did not want restorative justice.
The anonymous open letter written by four women in the DDS4 class outlines the reasons these women both did not want restorative justice or to file a formal complaint:
“Telling us that we can either participate in restorative justice or file a formal complaint is presenting us with a false choice. We have serious concerns about the impact of filing formal complaints on our chances of academic success at the Faculty of Dentistry, and believe that doing so would jeopardize our futures. The reason we have not filed formal complaints is also the reason we have not signed our names to this letter.”
- Why did Dalhousie first say the women who initially came forward didn’t want an independent investigation, while later saying the women understood from the start that such an investigation may occur? (And this, while only five out of 21 women had been consulted, and one of the five said they didn’t want restorative justice.)
When Frances Willick of the Chronicle Herald asked Florizone at his Dec. 17 press conference why the university wouldn’t start an investigation in tandem with the restorative justice process, Florizone responded:
“Well, the students, again, I come back to the process here that the students have elected. I articulated that principle of victim-centred justice. The students have elected to go this route, and so we need to respect and to support that. There will be resources, there will be university personnel engaged in the process, that may involve gathering information. I think the issue becomes, do you launch a parallel process over top of it against the wishes of the women students who were harmed by this? And that’s what we’ve chosen not to do at this time.”
Here, Florizone said that launching a parallel process on top of the restorative justice process would be “against the wishes of the women students who were harmed”. But in question four of Dalhousie’s Culture of Respect Q&A, published on Jan. 9, it’s stated that the women involved knew from the start that independent processes may coincide with restorative justice:
“The students who came forward and wished to pursue action under the Sexual Harassment Policy chose to proceed with restorative justice, understanding this is a complex, evolving process and there are other potential parallel processes which could occur simultaneously or in conjunction with restorative justice. could occur simultaneously or in conjunction with restorative justice. [[sic] – ed]”
Additionally, we now know one woman out of the five who Dal had consulted with at this pointed had opted to not proceed with restorative justice. If this woman didn’t want restorative justice, did she also say she didn’t want any parallel processes to happen in tandem with the process the other women had agreed to?
Unless she explicitly said so, it’s simply not true that an investigation of the situation would have been against the wishes of the women students who were harmed by the group – or even all of the five women who Dalhousie had identified as most recently posted about in the Gentlemen group.
It must also be accounted for that Dal had only consulted with four out of 21 women students in the class before Florizone said an investigation would have been “against the wishes of the women students who were harmed”.
In a Jan. 6 interview with Florizone, the Dalhousie Gazette sought clarification on this point.
“Gazette: […] When you spoke with some of the women who appeared in the offensive Facebook posts, either in person or through other correspondence, by the time you gave your press conference, had any of them explicitly told you they didn’t want a parallel investigation running alongside the restorative justice process? I know you’ve been really busy over the last few weeks, I’m not sure if you’d recall a piece of information like that.
Florizone: So, unfortunately those conversations are confidential with each of the women.
Gazette: Ok. I was asking that because when one reporter had asked you at that conference, why wouldn’t the university run a parallel investigation with the restorative justice process, your answer had been that – you spoke about the restorative justice process for a moment, and then you said, “I think the issue becomes, do you launch a parallel process over top of it against the wishes of the women students who were harmed by this?”
Florizone: So let me go back to the principle again. It’s, we had women who had come forward and had elected to go forward under the informal option under the sexual harassment policy for restorative justice. So then the question becomes, well, what other steps should you take? And that’s where we went back to. We went back to our policy. We went back to legal counsel. And we considered all of the options available to us, to say, what is the most just process that will lead to a significant outcome? And that’s the decision we made at that point, that this was the best way to proceed.”
Neither Florizone, any of Dalhousie’s communications staff nor the online Q&A page had said at the time of this Jan. 6 interview that one of the five women who had consulted with the university by Dec. 17 had rejected restorative justice as an appropriate option.
Yet, in this interview Florizone only said that “we had women who had come forward and had elected to go forward under the informal option under the sexual harassment policy for restorative justice.”
- Has Dalhousie been creating new policies at its own discretion to deal with this situation?
At a Jan. 19 press conference Bruce MacIntosh, one of the lawyers representing Ryan Millet, alleged that Dalhousie has been creating new policies at a whim to deal with the dentistry situation. Describing Millet’s hearing by the ASCC, MacIntosh described alleged unfairness in Dal’s processes:
“[…] So one of the suggestions we made, particularly given all the questions raised about the unfairness or the alleged fairness, and who’s sitting in judgment, we said, “Well, we’d recommend, would you please get independent legal counsel to sit and advise the committee?”
So that when the committee meets in the absence of lawyers, and the parties, they – because they’re not trained in it, to the best of my knowledge this is the first time any of them have gone through something like this – give them the benefit of independent legal counsel who can guide them and tell them about procedural fairness and everything else.
Guess what? Again, no. Guess what? The initial decision maker, the assistant dean, who was really the closest equivalent to a prosecutor, he’s not really a prosecutor, but that’s the closest equivalent – he was given a senior litigation partner from Stewart McKelvey downtown?
And the committee? Who were they given? They were given the in-house Dalhousie council who has been involved in this matter from the beginning. Who has been writing, for example, the rules of procedure that were written after Ryan was suspended. It’s every day, every week, the sands keep shifting. You’re supposed to have your rules in place so that a student knows what the rules are.
You don’t write them. And when they wrote them? We spent more time in the last ten days trying to get them to reconsider, and in some they did. For example, in those rules they wrote, Ryan didn’t have the right to go and testify. He only had the right to make written submissions or give documents.
Well, that’s not the right to be heard. They eventually recognized that, and they said “Ok, you’re right, we’ll do it.” I don’t think they changed the procedures, they just said “uncle” and allowed us to have Ryan testify last night. So, you’ve got the original decision maker with very competent and experienced legal counsel. You’ve got the committee who is being advised by the president’s lawyer, who’s been in it all along, and you’ve got the poor student caught in the midst of all of this and not even an offer of legal aid. Not a fair way of treating your students.
I hope the other students are receiving, the other 12 students are receiving some independent legal advice. Because we’ve advised Ryan, you better read those procedures pretty carefully. These newly-created procedures. […]”
If university administration is creating entirely new procedures to deal with this specific situation, what kind of a precedent does that set for discipline at Dalhousie?
- Why would the chair of Dalhousie’s Board of Governors tell media the board unanimously approved Florizone’s handling of the dentistry situation when such a unanimous decision could have only occurred through a confidential vote?
On Jan. 9, the Dalhousie Board of Governors had an emergency private meeting to discuss the handling of the dentistry situation.
Members of the media waiting outside the closed doors of University Hall to speak with board members were told by the board’s chair, Laurence Stordy, that the board “unanimously approved” Florizone’s handling of the dentistry situation.
The idea that the board “unanimously” voted in this way was reported by many media outlets, but it seemingly has no ground to stand on.
Larry Stordy, Chair of Dalhousie’s board of governors, says the board unanimously approves the university’s handling pic.twitter.com/KZs6n4bcIB
— Mayya Assouad (@Mayya_Global) January 9, 2015
Clause 6.13.1 of the by-laws of the Board of Governors explicitly states that, unless the board gives approval in advance, board members must keep resolutions made during in camera meetings private:
“Where confidential matters of the University are being considered, that part of the meeting may be held in camera. Where matters of a personal nature concerning an individual may be disclosed at a meeting, that part of the meeting shall be held in camera. The Board may at any time, in its sole discretion, determine that a meeting or any part thereof be held in camera, in which event, only persons authorized by the Board to be present may remain at the meeting. Unless otherwise determined by the Board, all Members and any person entitled by the Board to attend an in camera part of a meeting of the Board shall respect the privacy of matters discussed in confidence and shall not disclose such matters without the prior approval of the Board”
Unless a vote was held for a motion to support Florizone’s handling of the situation, and every board member voted in support, and the board passed another motion to let it be public that their first motion passed, Stordy’s recollection of the meeting should not have been reported the way it was. And why would he have said the vote passed unanimously?
One board member the Gazette spoke with, when asked if such votes were held, simply said they were not permitted to discuss the results of the in camera meeting.
10. Does 5/21 = many?
Because of Dal’s Q&A, we now know that Dal had only spoken with four women who wanted restorative justice between Dec. 15 and Dec. 17. But at his Dec. 17 press conference, Florizone said “many of the women who were subject of the comments” had come forward:
“Following media reports on Monday December 15th that made material associated with this case public, and that of course raised valid concerns with the public, I then made that commitment to communicating to the public on what we were doing, on communicating the steps and the allegations within the next 48 hours, while of course maintaining the confidentiality of the individuals involved.
Now, since then, many of the women who were the subject of the comments, so there was the initial complaint last week, but since then, many of the women who were the subject of the comments, as well as the men, who were members of the Facebook group, have since come forward.”
Five out of 21 is only about 23 per cent of all women in the class. Even if you only count women in the core of the class, five out of 19 is just 26 per cent.
Florizone continued to say “a number of the women” had elected to proceed with a restorative justice process.
Later on in the press conference when a reporter asked Florizone how many women had come forward to the university, Florizone said he was not legally permitted to answer. A member of Dal’s legal counsel said at the time that saying how many women had come forward would make it too easy to identify them, given what had already been made public by the media.
Dalhousie did not announce that only five women had come forward at that point, or that one didn’t want restorative justice, until Jan. 19. But if the media had known on Dec. 17 that only four women in the class of 21 women had agreed to restorative justice, none of these headlines would have appeared within the day:
“Dalhousie dentistry students face restorative justice for Facebook posts” – The Globe and Mail
That all of these respectable media outlets ran with headlines making it seem like at least a majority, if not all, students in the class had decided on restorative justice together, shows how obfuscated the facts of the situation were at the press conference that led to the first news reports most people read about this situation.
Even the “experts” to whom the media turned when looking for answers had the wrong facts.
On the December 21, 2014 episode of the CBC Radio One program Maritime Connection, a clip was aired of Wayne Mackay, the Dalhousie law professor who is also chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Cyberbullying, speaking about the dentistry situation.
“I think at this juncture, given the victims have asked for that, it is the right process at this time,” said MacKay of the restorative justice process.
“It will have to be watched closely to see if it works out, and whether everyone cooperates, and so I think it’s the right process now. Is it the right process at the end? We’ll have to see.”
The public would have good reason to trust MacKay’s take – he chaired the President’s Council tasked with drafting a report on a culture of sexual violence at Saint Mary’s University after their notorious freshman rape chant was brought to light in Sept. 2013.
MacKay was under the impression that “the victims” in the situation had asked for restorative justice when just four out of 21 women in the class had said yes to restorative justice so far, and one out of the 21 explicitly hadn’t.
We’ve seen screenshots of posts in the Gentlemen group that are sexist towards all women in the DDS4 class – for example, the post implying all women in the class are “damn honey traps” – meaning all women in the DDS4 class were targeted.
Because of how Dalhousie administration initially presented its information, the media reports on this situation that came out forthwith, while impressions were still being formed, illustrated a scenario that was far from reality.
11. Why did Florizone speak on behalf of all students in the DDS4 class before all of them had been consulted?
At his Dec. 17 press conference Florizone said, “Now, respecting the wishes of all the parties involved, and I met with some of the women today, what I’d ask is for our community is to give our students and university administrators the time and space to complete their work through this restorative process, and to forge the right outcome.”
Since then we’ve seen an anonymous letter from four women in the DDS4 class who say they feel they have been silenced by university administration, and Ryan Millet has come forward saying he was suspended from clinical activity without ever having the opportunity to explain his side of the story to Dalhousie.
Where those four women and Ryan Millet came forward to the media because they were concerned with how this situation has been handled by university administration, how was Florizone able to suggest in good conscience that the public should respect the wishes of “all parties involved” by letting the restorative justice proceed in silence?
Being concerned about this may seem nitpicky, but consider the implications. Many women were not shown the screenshots that as far as they knew may have shown their classmates discussing scenarios of sexually assaulting them, thirteen men are suspended from the work they must complete to finish their degrees, 46 students in the final semester of a high-stress program are being held under a national microscope of scrutiny – with a huge amount at stake in this precedent-setting situation, the voice of each student in the DDS4 class must have an opportunity to be heard before they can be spoken for.
To accept the president of the university speaking on behalf of all these students before they were consulted sets a frightening precedent.
12. How did Dalhousie decide only the 13 men who were members of the Gentlemen group when it was closed should face discipline?
Various reports by media outlets in possession of the package of 45+ screenshots of the DDS Gentlemen group have said that over 13 men had been members of the group at various points since its inception in 2011.
On Jan. 15, The Coast published a story saying they had received confirmation from two different sources that the Gentlemen group had at least 15 members at one point. After asking Dalhousie’s communications staff for clarification, Jacob Boon reported the following:
“This afternoon I received a response from Brian Leadbetter about questions I had on additional members of the Facebook group. I was curious if Dalhousie had investigated to find other members, or if there will be attempts within the current disciplinary measures to isolate those most responsible for the hateful posts. Leadbetter’s email reads:
“The information available to us has revealed the number of 13. Should more evidence lead to the determination that there are others, then that will be considered. We understand how frustrating this situation is for everyone, given the offensiveness of the Facebook comments in question and the tremendous affinity we all feel for Dalhousie and the faculty of dentistry. This is a very complex matter, and we are taking the time necessary to gather information, follow a just process and to make informed decisions.” ”
Additionally, the Globe and Mail published a story on Jan. 6 saying at one point, a post in the group had received “20 likes”:
“The first post in the documents is from 2011. Conversations from before the group was discovered contain complaints about exam stress, faculty standards, and sexual and medical jokes that sometimes refer to female classmates by name. At one point, one person says female students are “damn honey traps” who receive more attention from instructors than male students, even though, the post continues, they are not as well prepared as the male students. The post received 20 likes.”
On Facebook, any individual account can only “like” the same post once. The Coast has published a censored version of the “honey traps” post dating it to March 17, 2013. Barring any exceptional circumstances, like an individual particularly loving that “honey trap” post and making (an) additional account(s) to “like” it more than once, the Globe has thus reported that at least 20 individuals were in the group as recently as March 2013.
The Coast has published censored versions of the six screenshots that allegedly were factored into the decision to suspend Millet from clinical activity for unprofessionalism. The earliest of the screenshots is dated to Dec. 3, 2011.
Ryan Millet has told the Chronicle Herald the Gentlemen group was created “during our first week of school” in 2011.
So this offending screenshot was published only approximately two months after the group’s inception.
At a Jan. 21 press conference given by Bruce and Sarah MacIntosh, lawyers representing Ryan Millet, the lawyers said one of the six screenshots that Ryan was being suspended over may have violated patient confidentiality for the Dalhousie Dental Clinic, but that Ryan had never seen it before.
When a reporter asked the lawyers how Ryan was being “tied in” to that post, Sarah said,
“The fact that he was a member of the group and that he did not actively stand up to that post. That is one of the ones he confirmed that he had never seen at the time it was posted. He never saw that photo being posted. But they have explicitly stated the fact that he was a member of the group and failed to stand up and take the opportunity to bring that forward to someone is part of the reason why he was suspended.”
If “not reporting an offensive Facebook post you have seen in a group you are a part of” is Dalhousie’s precedent for suspending a dentistry student from clinical activities, then why isn’t Dalhousie making efforts to identify all the men who remained active members of the group after the first post whose viewing-without-reporting they have deemed to be a violation of professional conduct, and disciplining them?
It looks like the only difference between any of the former members of the group who were not disciplined and Ryan Millet is that Millet didn’t leave the group before the deadline for getting suspended kicked in.
It’s possible that Dalhousie has evidence there were more than 13 members, but the names of the other members don’t appear within the screenshots they have. Still, if this is the case, we haven’t been informed – Dalhousie is only saying the number they arrived at is 13.
13. Will Dalhousie answer whether a surreptitious photo was taken of a patient at a Dalhousie clinic and posted in the DDS Gentlemen group?
One of the six screenshots allegedly used against Ryan Millet as evidence of a breach of professional conduct by the faculty of dentistry’s Academic Class Standards Committee was alleged to be a screenshot of a patient at a Dalhousie clinic, according to Millet’s lawyers.
The Dalhousie Gazette is choosing not to publish this photo in case it indeed does depict someone who did not consent to having their photo taken while having medical work done, but it can be found on The Coast’s website.
One of Millet’s lawyers, Sarah MacIntosh, said that at Ryan’s Jan. 20 ASCC hearing, it was indicated that this picture was a patient photo. MacIntosh said that until the hearing, they weren’t aware the photo was at all related to a patient.
Millet testified that he had never previously seen the photo on Facebook.
The photo published by The Coast shows a person whose gender is unidentifiable lying on a medical table on their chest, with their face obscured. They are visibly naked and exposed from their upper back to their thighs in the picture.
The public had no knowledge of the possibility of such a picture being present in the group until this press conference. The message so far from Dalhousie administration has revolved around the misogynistic, sexist and homophobic comments made in the group – they have never mentioned breaches of patient confidentiality, though this is allegedly an offence they have deemed grounds for suspending at least one student from the dental clinic.
Additionally, after being provided with screenshots of the Gentlemen group by Dalhousie, the Halifax Regional Police determined there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing within the group.
Is it not criminal wrongdoing to take a picture of the naked rear end of a clinic patient and share that picture in a closed Facebook group? That’s a genuine question, not snark. It’s possible that this picture isn’t from a Dalhousie clinic, but we don’t yet know. Dalhousie has not yet responded to MacIntosh’s allegations.
On Jan. 26, Halifax Regional Police vaguely seemed to confirm they had seen this screenshot and still determined there was no criminal wrongdoing.
@TWEETsoSWEET888 We reviewed package of material from Dal & determined no criminal wrongdoing. Therefore, no criminal investigation.
— Halifax_Police (@HfxRegPolice) January 26, 2015
But if the picture is indeed of a Dalhousie clinic patient, and it was taken and shared non-consensually – is that not criminal wrongdoing? Did Dalhousie communicate to the police whether this photo does or does not depict a Dalhousie clinic patient?
And if the photo isn’t of a Dalhousie clinic patient, was it still used against at least one student as grounds for their suspension? Why?
14. Why has at least one question been removed from the Culture of Respect Q&A?
In the Dalhousie Gazette’s Dec. 28 investigation into questions remaining in the dentistry scandal, we made note of a question in Dal’s Culture of Respect Q&A that used circular logic to answer itself.
This question is no longer present on the Q&A. This raises the question: what other questions were on the Q&A that have since been removed, and why were they removed?
There is no disclaimer on the Q&A page saying some questions have been removed.