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The Dalhousie University dentistry building is seen in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Dalhousie University dentistry building is seen in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Dalhousie professors frustrated ahead of dentistry school update on addressing sexism Add to ...

A Dalhousie University senator says a lack of information received ahead of a presentation Monday from the Dentistry school stifles the chance of meaningful conversation about whether there has been progress in addressing misogyny and sexism.

Members of the Dentistry school in Halifax, which was rocked by a scandal early last year that saw 13 fourth-year male dentistry students suspended for being members of a Facebook page that contained sexually violent content about their female classmates, were scheduled to make a 20-minute presentation at a senate meeting.

But senator and professor Francoise Baylis said it’s not clear what exactly the presentation will address. She said senators did not receive any material to review prior to the meeting, noting they had more than 500 pages of documents to review for other items on Monday’s agenda.

“My own view is that it’s disrespectful not to provide us with supporting documentation so we can be prepared to have a meaningful conversation,” said Baylis in a recent phone interview, adding that she and others had requested the material but never received it.

“In the context of a very charged agenda, a very full agenda with lots of important stuff, I don’t understand why you would take up our time to present something to us, reducing the time available to us to ask questions and engage. I’m frustrated by that.”

Baylis said it’s also not clear whether the presentation will be addressing the 39 recommendations outlined in a university-commissioned independent report on misogyny, sexism and homophobia at the Dentistry school, or an internal report written by Dalhousie faculty members based on the restorative justice experience of 29 dentistry students.

“When you combine the two documents together, you’ve got over 170 pages. I don’t know what of those 170 pages has been cherry picked as the recommendations that they’re going to respond to,” said Baylis.

Brian Noble, a Dalhousie senator and professor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, echoed Baylis’ concerns, saying it points to “a pattern of limiting information” in the roughly nine months since the internal and external reports were released.

“I’m really kind of flummoxed,” said Noble. “In order for us to make decisions and be accountable as a governing body, you have to have information.”

In an email statement, Dalhousie spokesman Brian Leadbetter said the Dentistry school will “provide a update on progress made in enhancing communication, curriculum renewal, community outreach initiatives, reducing isolation and current accreditation processes within the faculty.”

“Many important changes have already been made within the Faculty of Dentistry to change the culture and climate. Key among these are enhanced professionalism training, a new approach to orientation week and social events and a wider range of health and wellness services for faculty, staff, and students.”

Leadbetter also pointed to a 33-page report released in November outlining progress on implementing the recommendations in both the internal and external reports as well as two other reports.

Both Baylis and Noble said they hope the presentation Monday includes further updates on how the Dentistry school is adopting the recommendations outlined in the external investigation led by Constance Backhouse, a professor at the University of Ottawa.

Baylis said that report was thorough, included concrete recommendations and its independence creates less of a risk of conflict of interest.

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