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Should Dal's whistleblowing dental student be suspended or thanked?

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Photo: GmanViz/flickr

The irony is we might not know to be outraged if not for a man many of us are outraged at. We have a complicated relationship with those who blow whistles on bad behaviour: think Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning… and, now, Ryan Millet.

Millet, a 29-year-old fourth-year Dalhousie University dental student, was one of 13 members of the infamous Facebook group, "Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen." Millet claims someone added his name when he began dentistry in 2011, and he was more lurker and occasional "liker" than active participant.

Some posts were a "little over the top," he conceded in a Jan. 17 interview with the Halifax Chronicle Herald. But, except for one offensive post (which he successfully asked Facebook to delete), he says most conversations -- from taunts about favourite football teams to links to YouTube videos -- were standard social-media fare.

That changed on Dec. 6, 2014, when one member posted a poll inviting the others to vote on which of two female classmates they'd prefer to "hate fuck." Several voted.

Shocked, Millet showed the post to one of the women and eventually gave her his Facebook login so she could document what he calls a "targeted, hateful, sexualized, violent attack," and complain to the university.

Three days later -- on Dec. 15 -- the story went public, then viral.

More than 50,000 people signed an online petition demanding Dalhousie expel all the "Gentlemen," including Millet (who had left the group and deleted his Facebook account after providing the login information).

The university has since segregated all 13 from their peers. They're indefinitely suspended from performing clinical work, which they must complete to graduate.

Millet appealed, pleading his case before the dental school's academic standards committee. (That hearing will resume this week.)

Should Millet be suspended?

Or thanked?

His social-media and newspaper-comment-section critics -- and they're legion -- argue he should never have joined the group... quit sooner... spoken up earlier... not "lawyered up…" and is only coming forward now to save his professional future.

Maybe.

But, based on what we know -- it's worth noting that so far comes mainly from Millet's lawyer -- I believe Millet deserves our gratitude.

He could have looked the other way in the face of the offensive posts, or quietly left the group without sharing what he knew.

Instead, he provided one of the victims with information that allowed her to choose how to respond.

And ultimately forced the rest of us to confront important, difficult issues. Including how we see those who blow whistles.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: GmanViz/flickr

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