Dear President Richard Florizone

On behalf of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, we write to you in response to the unsettling incident regarding the 12 male dentistry students at Dalhousie University and their creation and involvement in the Class of DDS 2015 Gentleman facebook group and the lack of response by the School of Dentistry until the information was made public.

As you know, these students participated in the debasement of their female classmates, and in general, promoted violence against women, in particular in the form of sexualized violence, as the primary purpose of this group. This group used social media to incite drug facilitated, homophobic and gendered sexualized violence. It is important for the response to this disturbing, violent and callous behaviour to not be taken as an individualized incident in which these actions may be brushed off as “boys being boys” or simply humour. More importantly, their entitlement and intent of their actions was clearly known by the group. Their blatant defiance of the School’s code of ethics and university policies on respect and violence should be considered as a reason for their dismissal as students from Dalhousie University.

The University has an obligation to ensure the safety of its students, to have zero tolerance for violence against women and girls and LGBT peoples, and to ensure that professionals who are granted credentials from this institution are deemed safe and fit for the communities they serve. These students, should they be allowed to graduate, would be in positions of power and authority and will be entrusted with the wellbeing and safety of individuals who may be incapacitated and unconscious. With full knowledge that these students advocate the drugging and perpetration of sexualized violence against women in their classrooms, workplaces and communities, to support their accreditation would be fearfully negligent.

It is important that the long term ramifications of their actions and behaviour also be taken into consideration. Over the past year as high profile misogynistic incidences have been in the media, people who have been sexually victimized are re-traumatized. The recent sexual terrorism of Jian Gomeshi, including threatening to hate-fuck his female co-worker is deplorable to most, and yet the DDS 2015 Gentleman facebook group normalized and glorified this type of violence with no remorse for those impacted by it. The actions of this group is a public safety issue beyond the confines of the School of Dentistry and Dalhousie University. Many victims/survivors of sexualized violence and abuse do not access health care, like going to the dentist, because it can trigger trauma responses due to insensitive healthcare clinicians. The actions of this group of professionals further increases the threat to the sense of trust and safety patients have for medical professionals and impacts the integrity of the entire dentistry profession.

We ask that Dalhousie University take the initiative to show its female students and the community it resides in, that rape and sexualized violence will not be taken lightly. That it does not think this incident is funny. That the university understands the severity of these types of groups, their impact on others, and their link to a culture where violence against women is normalized. It is important for Dalhousie University to take action to address rape culture, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, and systemic violence and oppression on campus. We ask that Dalhousie University set a standard that those who promote the degradation and perpetration of violence against women will be reprimanded appropriately to ensure the safety of others.

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre