Over the last 6 weeks, we have witnessed the Dalhousie Dentistry scandal. When it broke, I with many others reacted with emotion and disdain which I feel is still valid. However, for myself as the weeks have brought us into January I have had much time to consider and reflect as new information was added to the public domain.
First to be clear, I do not believe what those young men allegedly said is a joke or something to be brushed aside as a notion of ‘boys will be boys’. I believe some of those alleged comments made are rooted in attitudes of subjugation namely misogyny and homophobia- whether they realize that or not.
Presently in Nova Scotia, we have a heightened sensitivity to misogynistic statements and white male privilege because in part I believe of what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons. I believe we need to be vigilant and challenge institutions and groups that attempt to subjugate other individuals.
I question the actions of Dalhousie’s administration and how they are handling this matter. But, I feel we must all pause and be thoughtful. I am not part of this dentistry class of 2015, and I can’t begin to imagine how this has impacted the learning environment of these students –especially the female students that the comments were directed towards. I do not support the argument that what the male students supposedly said on the Facebook group are just words. Words have deep meaning, and they can and do inflict much pain whether in written or spoken form.
In that lens however, ethically it is no fair of me to impose how I would want this situation handled if I were the victims. I have my own set of personal life experiences and philosophies that would influence that decision and so too do the female students –I feel that we as a city need to respect those who feel that restorative justice is their preferred route. Equally as a community, I feel we lend our support to the faculty who has laid compliant with the administration and the 4 female students who wrote an open letter expressing that restorative justice was not how they wished to proceed.
Life has consequences, and it is a fundamental law of the universe that every action has an equal but opposite reaction. I do feel whoever of those men supposedly made those comments on the Facebook group do need a consequence. However, how do we as a society balance our need for justice against the belief that people can be rehabilitated. As broken as some people may feel it is, even our criminal justice system is built on the premise that offenders can be rehabilitated and once again be positive members of society.
While, I too am frustrated daily by the level of racism, misogyny, homophobia/transphobia, xenophobia and ableism I see in our province. The reality is that these problems are much bigger than the Dal scandal. They are rooted in our social narrative, and how we are socialized in our cultural context. Our province via our institutions and governing philosophies are dripping in white privilege. Until all of us truly own that, and work to change our social narratives things like the Dal scandal will sadly continue to happen. I do not suggest that we accept events like those as the norm or acceptable, we are right to sing out and challenge them. However, we must challenge the subjugation daily consistent promotion of equality is a positive way we can proceed.
Countering the prevailing subjugation we see in our social narrative starts in our home, with how we raise our children. How we choose to communicate to each other as adults, and how we celebrate both our beautiful diversity and similarities. Our province is I feel in many ways so divided, often we operate as silos. If we can make our communities hubs, where we all come together and support diversity in ideas, in celebration and in leadership then I believe we can make our home an even better place.
The Dalhousie Dentistry scandal is but a symptom of our larger issue of oppression that happens in Nova Scotia. If we truly want to change that it will take hope and hard work but we can do it together.