When posts in a Facebook group joking about having “hate-sex” and chloroforming women were made public, the anonymous members of “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” were instantly infamous. As calls for a response from Dalhousie grew, however, the university equivocated, mired in a controversy for which it seemed to have no response. As of January 12, the 13 students, though suspended from clinical duties, will return to study in courses taught separately from their classmates.
In a year rife with well-publicized cases of misogyny — including a frosh week “rape chant” at another Halifax university — it was clear that even in institutions of higher learning, education on how to address gendered violence and harassment is sorely needed. As the controversy over the Dalhousie Dentistry students continues, difficult questions arise: how do we address the complicated causes of gendered violence, and what role do universities play in instituting this change?
On January 9, the Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs responded to the developing crisis, convening a Panel in Halifax titled “Sexualized Violence On Our Campuses.” Moderated by Dr. Susan Sherwin, research professor Emerita in Philosophy, Gender and Women’s Studies at Dalhousie University, the Panel consisted of: Dr. Jayne Wark Professor Art History and Critical Studies, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; Dr. Jody Clarke, Academic Dean, Atlantic School of Theology; Dr. Francoise Baylis, Professor, Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, Dalhousie University and one of five authors of a statement demanding an independent inquiry into sexualized violence on campus; Dr. Rylan Higgins Professor, Anthropology, Saint Mary’s University; Dr. Marnina Gonick Canada Research Chair in Gender, Mount Saint Vincent University.
Drawing on questions from the capacity crowd at Halifax’s Central Library, the panel discussed the underlying causes of misogyny and “the colonization of our sexuality by malignant, profit-driven forces,” its effect on the socialization and sexuality of young women and men and the responsibility individuals and institutions alike have in addressing cases of gendered violence.