The Holiday season is rife with small talk and debates on the hot topics read in newspapers and watched on the evening news. This year was no different, following the misogynistic, inappropriate and threatening remarks about female students made by 13 male Dalhousie Dentistry students. Through all of the conversations and debates that I listened to and took part in within the last month, the most debated issue comes down to the outcome of the scandal and the penalty for the students involved in the so-called “gentlemen’s club.”
This argument can largely be reduced to debating whether or not the students involved should be expelled and thus be made unable to practice their desired profession, or whether this punishment is too harsh and another penalty should be chosen. Both sides of this argument have strong and reasonable points. Those who believe expulsion is the answer would likely believe that patients would like to place their trust in their dentist, knowing that this professional would never use anesthetics to engage in unwanted, and perhaps violent, sexual acts. I think, as many who support the expulsion of these students would believe, a trusting relationship between dentist and patient could not be formed with someone who made such comments as found on the Facebook page.
On the other hand, some argue that expulsion could be too harsh a punishment in response to posts on social media. They shouldn’t be taken as seriously because everyone puts on a different persona when they’re behind a keyboard, right? However, I think that any threats of rape or sexual assault should be taken seriously, no matter the medium. The dilemma shouldn’t be a matter of where, or by what means these comments were made, but rather that such comments were made in the first place.
In this case, expulsion would be an appropriate punishment for this group of students. It is easy to say “yes, I think that these men should be expelled” after first hearing the story and I think this reaction may be based out of anger and shock that groups like this one exist. However, when you delve deeper into this scandal, expulsion is the most appropriate outcome.
One would have to be very naïve to think that the formation of a “gentlemen’s club” is a phenomenon that only occurs specifically at Dalhousie. Groups such as that among the dentistry students probably exist within other faculties at Dalhousie, as well as other schools. Since this story has gone viral and because this “gentlemen’s club” is certainly the first, if not one of the first of its kind to receive this kind of attention, university administrators should understand that a precedent for dealing with situations like the current scandal needs to be set. I also think that because many people are following this story closely, the decisions made in this case could affect the penalty policies of other post-secondary institutions.
In the same way that Justin Trudeau exiled two Liberal MPs amongst allegations of sexual assault, Dalhousie University must send a strong message asserting that making comments involving rape and sexual assault toward other students is beyond unacceptable.