Despite increasing calls for their expulsion from the Dalhousie University dentistry program, the 13 male students involved in the misogynist Facebook scandal will meet their female colleagues on the first day of classes in January, beginning a process of restorative justice that could take more than six months – and is not mandatory.
Dalhousie president Richard Florizone is under intense pressure to act immediately to discipline the young men: A petition calling for their expulsion that started when the controversy broke last week has already gathered 42,000 signatures.
Four faculty members, who do not want to be identified, have also launched a formal complaint against the "Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen," the Facebook group on which the members joked about chloroforming their female classmates to have sex with them and voted on which women they would most like to have "hate" sex with.
The four are behind a statement, "Misogyny and Gendered Violence," that calls for an independent inquiry into the incident, acknowledges a "problem of sexualized violence on Dalhousie campuses," and apologizes for their failure to respond to the problem. More than 150 others, including faculty, students and alumni, are supporting the call.
The formal complaint was initiated under Dalhousie's Code of Student Conduct, which lays out specific procedures to follow, as well as sanctions, including suspension or expulsion. The restorative justice process, meanwhile, is long, complicated and not driven by a set of formal rules.
The president sent out 11 tweets Monday, defending his decision to take the restorative justice route. "We respect those seeking immediate action, but we are committed to ensuring a just process. There will be significant consequences," he wrote in one tweet.
Dalhousie law professor Jennifer Llewellyn is an expert on restorative justice; it has been used in Nova Scotia since the late 1990s. She is critical of the formal complaint process, and believes the one launched by the faculty members is not "helpful."
"A formal complaint-driven process that is only designed to deal with individual complaints against individual people cannot connect the dots …" Prof. Llewellyn says.
She says the restorative justice process takes a broad approach, dealing with any harm experienced by the targeted women and their female colleagues, as well as the male students and the university itself.
The students – 19 men and 19 women form the core of the fourth-year program – are to gather on the morning of Jan. 5 at the Dentistry Building, where they will learn about the process. Prof. Llewellyn says officials are planning "how they will do that in a safe way," including the choice to be in a different room.
That afternoon, they hope to begin speaking in small groups, and "those who do not wish to participate will not be required to attend," according to the e-mail sent to students. But Prof. Llewellyn believes there will be a "great pull for the men to participate." They need to seriously be able to confront and deal with what their actions have done, she says. "If [they] are not capable of doing that, they need to make some other choices about whether they are suitable for the health profession in the next several months," she says.