The recent incident surrounding Dalhousie University’s dentistry program has again brought campus sexual assault policies to light — and UNB’s ongoing lack of a comprehensive policy to deal with such an occasion.
Kathleen Pye, mental health strategist and counselling therapist, hopes to have a policy in place soon should the need arise.
“I’ve been working with UNB to develop [a gender-based violence policy] over the past year and hope it can be implemented as soon as possible,” she said. “The policy will help provide ways to best handle a situation like this if, despite our best efforts, it were to occur.”
Dalhousie has been heavily criticized for its reaction to the incident revealed last month when a private Facebook group entitled “Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen” was shown to contain graphic, sexually abusive comments regarding female dentistry students.
While the male students accused have now been suspended from clinical activities and put into separate classes, the affected female students have come out against the administration’s suggestion of restorative justice.
Pye also said that the incident at Dalhousie was deplorable.
“As both an advocate and a woman I am upset over the actions taken in response to what has been brought forward,” she said.
“This situation really speaks to how rampant rape culture is on university campuses — and how crucial it is that each and every one of us do what we can to make sure this never happens here or anywhere in our community.”
Samantha Irma Sapi, a UNB student, said that the behavior of the Dentistry students is unacceptable, especially considering their trusted position as medical professionals.
“These men have worked hard to become dentists, but they are clearly not emotionally mature enough to work in a professional field,” she said.
“The ethics of these nameless men are questionable, yet they would still be allowed to work with female patients in a setting with asymmetrical power dynamics. As a woman, I have the right to know who my doctors are so I can make the decision regarding whether or not I wish to become a patient of theirs.”
Pye explained that UNB takes incidents of sexual violence extremely seriously, and gender-based violence will be dealt with quickly and appropriately. But in order to prevent such incidents, everyone at UNB must help address and fight against the culture of sexual harassment.
“The best thing we all can do is be good bystanders, “she explained. “If you hear a rape joke, sexist comment, or see something of a sexist nature — speak up and call it out.”
“If you see a friend acting in an inappropriate way, talk to them or, if it’s unsafe, tell someone. Make sure those around you are safe. Rape culture can only exist if we allow it to.”