Opinion: The Dalhousie Dilemma

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It seems that every time we take a step forward in eliminating rape culture, another university appears in the news in accordance with suspicious, abusive, or malicious actions that prove rape culture is alive and well within Canada and its institutions.

Dalhousie University has been in the news recently, as a result of  their  upper-year male dental students having been caught writing derogatory and inappropriate comments on a shared Facebook group titled “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.” Not only were the comments suggestive, they condoned rape and the use of dental drugs (those used to put patients under) as a tool to put under specific female students, as stated by CBC on Jan. 5th, “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” (CBC, 2015).


The “rapey” comments, geared toward specific female colleagues in their program, are at some level a real threat, as the posts include commentary on the use of drugs and tools from their program/intended future profession as a means of taking advantage of women.

Currently, “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” (CBC), but no students have been permanently removed from the program and their names have not been released to other programs and schools who are hoping to avoid hiring the aforementioned students.

In the Jan. 5th article, the CBC states that, “In a statement posted online, the professors say sexualized violence is a problem at universities across the country” (CBC). Unfortunately for students at UNB, we hear very little of universities outside of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, limiting our awareness to the Maritime provinces. This is unfortunate, because we are not getting a clear look into the real amount of sexualized violence going on across our country. The Dalhousie controversy at present is all-the-more upsetting, as it is close to home.

On Jan. 9th, CTV News posted an article stating that, “the 13 dentistry students […] will no longer attend classes with the rest of their classmates” and that Dal’s president, Richard Florizone, will be launching an external investigation of the dentistry faculty that “will be made public.”

Some believe, however, that “Those asking for an independent inquiry say it could probe wider issues and establish the role of each of the students in the private Facebook group” (The Globe and Mail, 2015).

It is clear there is much controversy surrounding this case, and the question of whether the names of the men in the dental program implicated in the Facebook gentleman’s group should be made public remains.

It is also clear that despite our best efforts as Canadian students, we still cannot end the violent and malicious comments made toward women within university culture—nor the rest of Canadian society—however well-intended our institutions appear and aim to be.

Emily is in her fourth year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's a stern black coffee drinker and is a proud Acadienne. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find Emily listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation. If you ask her about parliamentary institutions, she won't stop talking.