The 29 Dalhousie University students participating in a restorative justice process published an open letter on Sunday as a public update amidst the ongoing controversy.
The letter was released by 12 members of the private Facebook group, six women named in the Facebook posts and 11 women and men from the dentistry class DDS2015.
Thirteen of Dalhousie’s male fourth-year dentistry students first drew ire from the public when a series of misogynistic posts from a private “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” Facebook group went public. Posts included a poll on which female classmates they would have “hate” sex with and mention of chloroforming their female classmates.
In the open letter, members of the original Facebook group expressed regret for their actions.
“Since December we have been engaged in the intensive and difficult self-reflection and development required to start the process of earning back the trust of our colleagues, families, professors, the university community, the profession and the public,” members of the DDS 2015 Facebook group wrote in the open letter.
“This will take time but we will work each day to model the personal and professional core values to which we are committed and that will guide us now and in the future. We hope one day to regain the trust of those we have harmed and impacted.”
King’s political science professor Dr. Lindsay Scorgie-Porter teaches within Western’s Centre for Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction expressed concern about the way Dalhousie is handling the controversy.
“I believe there's a time and place for restorative justice — and this is not it,” Scorgie-Porter said.
“As it stands right now, I don't think the gravity of the Facebook group's crime is being adequately recognized. I worry that this response essentially equates to impunity for sexual violence.”
She continued to take issue with keeping the men’s identities private, asserting that she is unsure how justice can be achieved while the public doesn’t know who the perpetrators are.
The women named who were targeted in the private Facebook group also published a section of the letter expressing distaste for media coverage on the scandal.
“Many people (some with good intentions) have spoken about us and in the process often attempted to speak for us in ways that we have experienced as harmful, silencing and re-traumatizing,” they wrote.
“We are strong, well-educated professional women with words of our own to explain what we are going through and how we want to proceed.”
The participants have been taking part in the restorative justice process since late December and ask the public for privacy as they go forward.
“We will engage with the broader communities and issues involved through the restorative process, but first need to continue to work to understand and address the immediate harms involved.”
“We hope that through this process our voices and experiences will make significant contributions to the important public discussions about sexism, misogyny, inclusion and professionalism.”