Dalhousie Chronology: Some Public Statements, Policy Questions, and Key Revelations regarding the Dentistry Facebook Group

This began as a facebook post in late December to explain, for a few friends, the sequence of events that were causing concern at Dalhousie, far beyond the revelations about some posts in one facebook group. This narrative was, and is, intended to offer a rough sketch of the timeline along with a sampling of links to media and university sources. Its sole purpose is to provide some starting points for those interested in the subject. This post therefore does not include the dozens of opinion pieces that have been posted, nor does it trace the ongoing debate in social media, nor does it include rumours circulating on campus. It draws entirely on public information via the university website and the media. Please note: the University is updating its pages (as it does normally) and this means that pdfs posted one week are gone the next, or webpages are substantially revised. Media reports are much more stable.

This post does not take a position on whether or how any or all of the DDS2015 facebook group members should be disciplined. My personal position is this: I would have preferred that the matter had been referred to the Senate Discipline Committee, either in December via the faculty complaint or in January as a recommendation from Dentistry’s ASCC on the grounds, e.g., that it is similar to “a common allegation” under “Academic Dishonesty” regulations (“two or more students facing allegations arising from the same fact situation“) and that the investigation of the Faculty for similar reasons puts any disciplinary process handled within Dentistry under a cloud.  (See also my notes on Policy & Governance, including links to relevant policies: https://www.facebook.com/julia.m.wright.94/posts/10152795445060528 .)

As this story has developed, shifted, been redirected by new revelations, a number of questions and concerns remain unaddressed. Some of these are marked with a pair of asterisks (**) below.

December 15th:
The CBC publishes a story on the facebook posts, and quotes President Florizone saying “Over the next 48 hours the university will consider the full range of options available to us to address these serious allegations,” from his official statement.

December 16th:
Change.org petition started urging “a transparent and independent investigation in which those that are found guilty of having broken the code of conduct will be held responsible for their actions.”

December 17th:
The President gives a press conference, repeating content of his statement earlier that day.

During the press conference, #dalhousiehateswomen starts trending on twitter. the President indicates “many of the women who were the subject of the comments, as well as members of the Facebook group, have come forward” and, later, “The women who have come forward have done so under the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy, which provides two options to proceed: an informal resolution procedure and a formal complaint procedure. A number of the women in this case have elected to proceed with a restorative justice process under the policy’s informal resolution procedure, and this process is already underway.” Restorative justice is stressed as the basis for this “informal resolution procedure.”

A related story emerges of a Dentistry class being shown a video of scantily dressed women to “wake up” the male students. Dalhousie Student Union issues statement.

December 18th:
One of the women DDS 2015 students is quoted in a CBC report saying she did not agree to this process, and a letter had been sent to the President indicating this on Wednesday (December 17th).

A VP of the Dalhousie Student Union is interviewed about the press conference, noting, “Our students are not safer today than they were yesterday.” Restorative justice is debated in the media, widely, including here.

December 19th:
University begins to promote restorative justice as a good process (even though many critical of RJ in this instance are otherwise supportive of the process). Link posted on website, e-mail sent out by Communications giving university community the link, etc. Restorative justice in contexts such as the Dentistry class debated further in the media.

Large protest marches from Dentistry building to the Hicks building where the President’s office is located. A group of Dalhousie faculty publish an online Statement against Misogyny and Gendered Violence. President e-mails the entire university, and publishes an op-ed in the Chronicle Herald.

**Both statements make this point (the wording in the e-mail is slightly different–the quotation is from the op-ed): “Let me very clear: no student in the faculty of dentistry will have to go back to classes if they do not feel safe, and no staff member, faculty member or patient in the faculty will be put in a situation where they do not feel safe.” This proves especially controversial, as it seems to suggest that suspending the 13 students is considered more difficult than asking everyone else to suspend their educations, careers, or care for an indefinite period.

Dentistry faculty issues pdf statement on its main page, not tweeted or picked up by DalNews; it appears to have been taken down soon afterward, likely because of an updated statement on December 22nd.

December 20th:
The Statement against Misogyny and Gendered Violence now has about 100 signatures, including over 1/3 of the Law faculty and university members from most other faculties on campus.  The Change.org petition calling for “a transparent and independent investigation” reaches 10,000 signatures.

December 21st:
The DalGazette publishes a detailed overview and analysis of the University response to DDS facebook posts, including a list of “unanswered” “questions.”

**The Globe & Mail publishes an article reporting “Dalhousie University has distributed a questionnaire to the fourth-year women dentistry students targeted in the misogynist Facebook comments made by 13 male colleagues.”

The Dalhousie Faculty Statement against Misogyny and Gender Violence: about 140 signatures.
Change.org petition: 16,470 signed before 5:30pm; over 29,300 less than five hours later.

No new response from President or other university officials.

December 22nd:
Change.org petition has almost 37,000 signatures by noon; Statement against Misogyny has around 160 signatures from Faculties of Arts & Social Sciences, Computer Science, Health Professions, Law, Management, Medicine, Science.

2:00pm: The Coast reports “breaking news” that “Four faculty members at Dalhousie have formally filed a complaint against the ‘Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen’ Facebook group”; an article is published soon afterwards, and also suggests that a formal complaint was filed on December 8th as well (“According to Dalhousie, they first became aware of the problem on Monday, December 8. Faculty were told a formal code of conduct complaint had been lodged. A week later, university president Richard Florizone told the media Dalhousie hadn’t received any formal complaints yet.”)

The CBC also confirms the report, as the university President breaks his social media silence with eleven tweets. Dentistry announces its clinic will remain closed another week, until January 12th, in an updated statement—a pdf that also seems to be missing now from the website.

Change.org petition is approaching 40,000 signatures; the DalGazette tweets key questions and asks President for interview.

December 23rd:
The University confirms it has received a formal complaint but says it is anonymous in an e-mail quoted by Global News: “Dalhousie University has now received, and is reviewing, an anonymous formal complaint in relation to recently publicized activity of some students within the Faculty of Dentistry.” This is important because there appears to be no explicit mechanism for anonymous complaints under Dalhousie’s Sexual Harrassment or Code of Conduct policies—and because it is later revealed that it was not an anonymous complaint.

Change.org petition: over 42,500 signatures
Statement against Misogyny: over 200 signatures, representing all Faculties at Dalhousie, as well as growing list of external signatures.

Anonymous weighs in, and demands, among other things, referral of the matter to the Senate Discipline Committee and sets a deadline of January 5th. Plans announced for a second protest on campus, also January 5th: https://www.facebook.com/events/1516156095314435/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

**The editor of The Coast is interviewed on CTV, and suggests that students who agreed to informal resolution were under the impression that other options might interfere with their studies and even delay their graduation.

December 24th, noon:
University now closed until January 2nd.
Statement against misogyny: over 225 signatures, representing all Faculties at Dalhousie, as well as non-Dal signatures from most Canadian provinces and the US
Change.org petition: nearing 44,000

28 December:
The DalGazette publishes a comprehensive and detailed article on the unanswered questions and apparent contradictions based on “cross-referencing all public information.” (Quick footnote re: #1: the usual language in university policies is to term an initial report an “allegation,” which can lead to an informal resolution or to a formal complaint that launches a formal process.)

2015:
January 2nd:
The university re-opens after the holidays. <admin. silence>

January 3rd:
The four faculty who filed a complaint under the Code of Conduct on December 22nd go public because of the lack of a university response and concern that 4th-year dentistry students would be back in classes on January 5th. The story quickly appears on most major news media outlets, including here.  We later learn that Dentistry classes start later than others at Dalhousie–on January 12th.

January 4th:
There are dozens of news reports of the four faculty going public, but this one includes both the faculty members’ original complaint and their statement when they went public.

**This original complaint adds more confusion because it was clearly not, in fact, anonymous (see Director of Communications Brian Leadbetter’s statement as quoted by Global News).

January 5th:
8:30am announcement that there will be a 9:30 announcement and an 11am press conference. Rally Against Misogyny scheduled for noon. The university also encourages everyone to tweet at @DalRespect instead of @DalPres (the former is the little-used account of the Dalhousie Office of Human Rights, Equity, and Harrassment Prevention–before Jan 5th, its last tweet was December 9th.)

9:30am or so, the University issues a new statement and launches a new website:
Statement re: suspensions of the thirteen members of the facebook group from clinical practice
Culture of Respect website, includes a FAQ, the above statement, and a paragraph on the new Presidential Task Force (for comparison, see cultureofrespect.org)

11am, press conference with Dean of Dentistry and President. Acting Vice-Provost Student Affairs (a recent position created to replace the Vice-President Student Services) is not at the podium though that figure is named in the relevant policies as, in broad terms, the point person for sexual harassment allegations against students (B.27) and Code of Conduct allegations (D.1): recording available via CBC. Highlights include: decision was made to suspend students on December 22nd, but was not announced until today because of concerns about those students and self-harm (note: the announcement that the clinic would be closed until January 12th was made late on December 22nd); the university is considering segregated classes when they resume in Dentistry on January 12th.

The DalGazette posts a partial transcript regarding ongoing ambiguity on the number of women contacted and number of complaints, and tweets other sections.

Noon: Rally, of approx. 300 people.

The University publishes an update indicating they’ll respond to the faculty allegation under the code of conduct “this week”: webpage later revised to indicate its rejection.

Other developments:  The body that licenses dentists in Ontario reports that it has demanded the names of the 13 and that “If the university doesn’t provide a full list of names, then all students graduating this year from Dalhousie can expect a grilling if they hope to get a license to work in Ontario.”  Anonymous: @opexpelmisogyny releases a new statement, again asserting that they will release the 13 names if demands are not met.

January 6th:
Four 4th-year Dentistry women students publish an open letter to President Florizone expressing their concerns about the administration’s handling of the matter (their full letter is embedded in the CBC article linked here).

January 7th:
The Acting Vice-Provost writes a letter rejecting the Faculty complaint and determining that the matter will be addressed by a committee in the Faculty of Dentistry as a question of professional ethics; it isn’t sent to the four professors who signed the complaint until Saturday, January 10th. There are numerous reports–here’s one.

In the meantime…

January 9th:
The President holds another press conference and releases the Terms of Reference for his Task Force.  The Task Force document orders an investigation of the entire Faculty of Dentistry, and specifically its policies and procedures. See above: on January 7th, the determination was made to have Dentistry review the DDS2015 Facebook group case.

The President does not indicate the January 7th decision in his press conference, but says they’re still working on it. Later he indicates that the matter was reviewed by legal counsel and that work was ongoing on the 9th.

The President also announces that the 13 students the university identifies with the DDS2015 Facebook group will return to classes but not with their peers—instead either via tech or separate rooms. There are no apparent constraints on access to university buildings, e.g. library and study spaces, Faculty of Dentistry offices, public areas, Dalplex, etc. The President also indicates that only 12 of the 13 known members of the Facebook group are in the Restorative Justice process.

January 12th:
First senate meeting since the story broke takes place (Agenda here). The Dentistry motion, from December, suggested an external investigation similar to the President’s Task Force, with a key difference: it would be a Senate process. The President at the Senate meeting declines invitation to make his Task Force a joint President-Senate Task Force. Again, there is a lot of coverage–here’s one article.

Item of note from the Senate meeting: University legal counsel indicates that screenshots have not been forwarded to the police because of a university determination that they do not indicate criminal activity.

January 13th:
Police request the screenshots; only they can determine whether evidence warrants criminal investigation or not. Dalhousie apparently turns down the request on privacy grounds. Much public outcry throughout the land. Police ask DDS 2015 students to come forward if they wish to make a complaint. Dalhousie indicates there was a “misunderstanding” and offers to meet with police on January 14th: reported here and here. (See February 2nd, below, for the text of the e-mails between the Halifax Regional Police and Dalhousie’s Communications office.)

January 14th:
Dalhousie turns the material over to police. The Dalhousie Student Union debates and passes motion related to Dentistry debate; proposed mandatory ethics course gets media attention.

January 15th:
**The Coast reports it has evidence that two students in the Facebook group until recently are not among the 13 suspended from clinical practice and taking classes separately.

The police announce that they are not pursuing a criminal investigation in relation to the screenshots provided by Dalhousie.

Forum on Misogyny (organized by the Dalhousie Student Union and the Gender and Women’s Studies program in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at Dalhousie) draws hundreds: recording available at dsu.ca/forumlive

January 18th:
The Chronicle Herald publishes an article based on an interview with Ryan Millet, a DDS 2015 student (including video). He was among the 13 in the facebook group when the matter came to light but has a much more complicated story, including past incidents and his part in bringing the group to the attention of others in Dentistry. He also identifies himself as the one of the 13 who did not agree to participate in the RJ process.

January 19th:
An entire senate meeting is held “in camera” (only senators–but also presumably key staff–allowed to attend what is normally a public meeting), despite reported objections from senators. It was also never publicly announced, as is normal practice for all senate meetings–even though it was widely known when it would take place. The DalGazette publishes an article that cogently addresses the matter and includes the unpublished agenda.

Only one agenda item is addressed by a public statement. Again, multiple media reports, including this one, reporting that “Florizone was asked after the meeting if the university policy addresses when a faculty that’s being investigated can also at the same time investigate a faculty.”

January 20th:
Ryan Millet has a 4.5hr hearing with the Dentistry ASCC, and a 9am press conference is announced for January 21st.

January 21st:
Millet’s lawyers hold press conference, again raising significant concerns about process. Three key points of general significance (i.e., not just with reference to Millet’s case): a) reports that the committee indicated it was affected by the upcoming Task Force investigation of the Faculty of Dentistry; b) an “observer,” the vice-chair of Senate, was present (the President had indicated after the in camera senate meeting on the 19th that such a measure was being considered, but there has been no information re: terms of reference or reporting); c) for the first time, there was an indication of a picture being posted on the facebook group of a patient, framed as a breach of confidentiality but it is unclear where the picture was taken and the patient is not identifiable from it. Watch a clip or the full webcast of the press conference.

Again, numerous reports appear in the news media, including Metronews and UNews.

January 22nd:
<admin. silence> The University makes no statements today–no clarification on observer, no response to lawyers’ request for a revision of the process (transfer of the matter to senate and an individual with relevant legal expertise), no comment on the possibility that patient confidentiality was breached.

January 23rd:
<admin. silence> The Coast (which also has the screenshots) publishes an analysis of the six facebook posts (including the one that appears to be of a medical patient) that, according to Millet’s lawyers, were the sole focus of the hearing.

One of the four faculty to submit a formal complaint is interviewed by Flare, and adds further clarification to the December timeline.

January 25th:
A Dalhousie senator speaks out about process.

January 26th:
Third Senate meeting at which time is spent on the Dentistry matter, but in discussion rather than motions or action, including indication that the Senate observer on ASCC was invited as an “independent observer,” but no official university statement is available to clarify or confirm.

Millet’s lawyer sends letter to Senate, reiterating concerns about process–letter not apparently raised at Senate.

January 27th:
Snow day. University closed. But not the DalGazette: the student newspaper publishes “Silenced students and rewritten narratives mean we should all speak out about Dal’s dentistry scandal,” tracing out variations in administration statements on the Dentistry matter as well as pointing out that students’ names for DDS 2015 have been readily found online for a while.

January 28th:
Ryan Millet has another hearing, about 4 hrs, with the Dentistry ASCC.  That committee’s decision is expected next week.

January 29th:
The Coast publishes two articles:  one explores some of the facebook posts’ references to faculty, but without anything conclusive; the other is an op-ed that begins, “Dalhousie may be headed to court and they would probably lose” and points to apparent procedural gaps, such as not giving Millet access to student advocates and the fact that the President-ordered Task Force investigation includes the very committee that is making the decisions in Dentistry.

January 30th-February 1st:
No news from the university or media, as we head into week 7 (or 8 if you start with the possible complaint on December 8th).

February 2nd:
Global releases e-mail exchange between the Halifax Regional Police and Dalhousie Communications it obtained via a Freedom of Information request. It indicates that Communications told police “Dalhousie requires a subpoena to produce the material” for a police investigation and suggested police not tweet on the matter.  Read the report and an embedded scribd file of the e-mails.  See January 13th-14th above for related articles.

Nothing much new for a month: the Task Force began its work, with options to send an e-mail to a Dalhousie address or anonymously through a portal.

March 2nd:
Early in the morning, the university released an Open Statement from the members of the DDS class (men and women) participating in the restorative justice process and The Globe & Mail published an article about the Open Statement.  Around 6pm, the President released an Update that, among other items, refers to the Open Statement; announces the end of suspension for the 12 students in the group who are participating in restorative justice (it is a matter of public record that Ryan Millet is the only one of the group who declined to participate in RJ); and indicates that “due to missed clinic time some of the [13] will not graduate this spring.”

Points of interest:  there has been no response to The Coast article suggesting two members of the group are not among the 13, even though the question was raised in Senate on February 23rd; compare the  Open Statement of March 2nd to the Open Letter from four DDS women students in January.

March 3rd:
Millet’s lawyer confirms he is still suspended. More details here.

March 6th:
It is reported that Millet can end his suspension as well, on the condition that he admits to being “guilty of professional misconduct.”

The Globe & Mail publishes an article by Sarah Hampson:  details include reference to a student charged with sexual assault who remains unsuspended (compare the case of a Dalhousie medical student, allegedly suspended for charges that were dismissed); suggestions of silencing on various fronts; and an overview of the Dentistry facebook-group situation at Dalhousie.

March 12th:
Dalhousie issues update on Task Force, including campus visits.  It also includes a link to an “online portal” for anonymous comments.

March 13th:
Millet’s lawyer announces that Millet’s suspension has ended and “conditions are a matter of ‘ongoing discussion‘.”

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