Lessons to be learned from Canadian dental school scandal

FacebookRecent scandal has unfortunately emerged out of a Canadian dental school, Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thirteen fourth-year male students were part of an online Facebook group entitled “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen.” Within the private group, misogynistic posts were allegedly made describing female classmates, “hate sex,” and the use of chloroform, among other degrading, misogynistic comments. Screenshots of the posts were brought to administrators’ attention on Dec. 8, 2014, and on Jan. 5, 2015 the 13 involved students were suspended from clinic. On Jan. 9, the university also announced that an external third-party task force would investigate the situation. The university, along with the female students affected, has decided to pursue a restorative justice process, which is more victim-centered and will give the affected students a say in working toward a resolution. However, a formal complaint brought to the university by four faculty members in late December was rejected. The 13 students have returned to class, but are currently being taught separately from the rest of their classmates, as the restorative justice process is ongoing.

What can we learn from this situation?

The decision to create the Facebook group and make such vulgar, inappropriate posts was obviously a poor one, to say the least. Basic human dignity and self-worth should have deterred the 13 individuals from their actions. Beyond that, as dental students, we are all held to a certain level of professionalism and integrity that must be shown to our classmates, patients, instructors and beyond. Members of ASDA, which include international students, many of whom are Canadian, are also held to a standard set by ASDA’s Code of Ethics. Other groups, such as the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association in Dentistry (SPEA), serve to promote professionalism and ethics in the profession.

Many do not think the punishment thus far has been severe enough, while others think the reaction has been over-dramatic for what they claim was simply a juvenile Facebook group. What do you think? Did the university and college administration handle the situation appropriately? Was the restorative justice process the right way to proceed? Is this part of a larger problem of an “old boys’ club” mentality in dentistry? Should the students have been immediately expelled?

Regardless, the backlash, media coverage and consequences will likely have lasting effects for these 13 students extending well into their careers, should they graduate from the program. This situation can also serve as a reminder that anything and everything we post online, no matter how seemingly private, can possibly turn public. It is important to remember that our actions can have drastic consequences and it is imperative that we think before we act.

For the latest news on this situation, click here.

-Tony Besse, Ohio State ’16, chair, Council on Professional Issues

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About Anthony Besse

Tony Besse is a third year dental student at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. Prior to dental school, he received his masters degree in public health at Saint Louis University. He served as the 2013-14 council associate and 2014-15 council chair for ASDA’s Council on Professional Issues.

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