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Canada Dalhousie urged to move probe outside dentistry faculty

Dalhousie University says the 13 dentistry students who were allegedly members of a Facebook page sharing sexually violent content will no longer attend classes with the rest of their classmates.

ANDREW VAUGHAN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Members of Dalhousie University's senate argued Monday that the disciplinary process facing male dentistry students alleged to have posted sexually violent comments on Facebook about their female classmates should be conducted outside the faculty of dentistry.

Philosophy professor Letitia Meynell, a member of the senate, presented a motion calling on the academic governing body to take over the investigation of whether the 13 men in the Facebook group violated academic and professional standards.

"There's a real question of perception in the general public and whether it [the faculty investigation] will be enough to restore confidence," she said during the meeting.

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Dr. Meynell's motion was not considered because the meeting ran out of time. A majority of the senate voted against extending the meeting for 15 minutes.

Steven Baur, a professor of music and another member of the senate, said he will call for a special meeting to consider the motion. Dr. Baur also said he has lost confidence in the ability of the faculty's academic standards committee to handle the complaints against the 13 male students.

He also questioned how university president Richard Florizone would be able to receive a thorough review of facts in the case, including whether only 13 people were involved.

"I'm uncomfortable the disciplinary proceedings are happening within the faculty of dentistry and I'm upset we didn't get to discuss more thoroughly today means by which the senate can oversee the disciplinary process," he said after the meeting ended.

Dr. Florizone said an independent task force and a restorative justice process will look into what happened.

He also said he welcomed the senate's input on the disciplinary process, but didn't indicate if he would support a motion to move it out of the faculty of dentistry.

He repeatedly told the senate meeting the university had to follow a process, warning that to do otherwise risked legal consequences in the future.

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"We won't rush to judgment," he said. "We'll follow a just process … and we won't sweep this under the rug."

The senate meeting took place hours after the university's dentistry students resumed classes. Students wearing blue scrubs refused to comment .

Dalhousie delayed classes by a week as it dealt with the controversy. The male dentistry students alleged to be part of the Facebook group have been ordered to attend classes remotely.

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