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Dalhousie's dentistry crisis beyond the media spotlight and PR spin

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Photo: Tom Flemming/flickr

What to make of last week's latest twists, turns, ins, outs and roundabouts in the never-ending root canal that is Dalhousie's Great Dentistry Scandal of 2014, 2015 … and counting?

Who knows? 

The better answer, perhaps, is that (slightly) fewer social media posters and media pontificators seem so keen to rush to instant pre-judgment, conviction and execution based on the latest incomplete information.

That's progress of a sort.

Or perhaps we've simply been distracted by the trending/trended/over-it colours of that blue-black/gold-white dress, or that now-you-see-it-now-we're-sorry TSN tweet about which Toronto Maple Leaf was sleeping with…

But I digress.

Last Monday, Dalhousie posted "in its full, unedited form," an open letter to the university community from the 29 members of its Dentistry Class of 2015 participating in a restorative justice process. The process was set up after December's disclosure some male students in a private Facebook group had published misogynistic posts about fellow female students.

There were mini-messages from the Facebook group ("deep regret"), some female classmates (give us "respect, time and space needed"), and collectively ("privacy… be respected").

This was regarded -- retrospectively and probably rightly -- as a university-orchestrated PR ploy in advance of a planned announcement later that day. Twelve suspended members of the Facebook group involved in the restorative justice process were being allowed to return to clinical practice, and might be able to graduate on schedule.

But the university's we're-finally-in-charge-here moment was short-lived. Before the next news cycle spun, we learned the future of the 13th member of the Facebook group -- Ryan Millet, who'd allegedly blown the whistle -- remained in limbo because he'd refused to participate in the restorative justice process, or admit his guilt.

For some inexplicable reason, Dal's crisis team had failed to get its academic standards committee to spit out a decision in Millet's separate suspension appeal in time to wrap it in the same bow as the rest. On Friday, the committee belatedly agreed to let him return, but only if he first admits guilt -- a legal, moral catch-22 he must now grapple with.

That's the bad PR news. The good news is that fewer people seemed to notice. Which may mean most of the dental students can get on with healing beyond the harsh glare of social media. Which is good.

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

Photo: Tom Flemming/flickr

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