March 09, 2015

Dental School Scandal Highlights Loss of Ombuds Program at Dalhousie

The graduate dentistry program at Dalhousie University has been roiled by protests after misogynistic and violent comments about female students were discovered on a Facebook group late last year.   For some, the matter highlights both the lack of options for reporting sexual misconduct and also the lack of an Ombuds office, which closed in 2012.

According to a report in the Globe & Mail:
At Dalhousie, processes for how students report sexual assault are limited. To make a formal complaint, students must report to the Human Rights Equity & Sexual Harassment Prevention Office, which is part of the school administration. Anonymity is not an option, which is a deterrent for many women. In 2012, the ombudsperson office at Dalhousie was cut, eliminating a function that is “essential” in the context of rape culture, says Lucie Allaire, president of the Association of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons (ACCUO) and currently ombudsperson at the University of Ottawa. 
“It acts as a safety net because it’s entirely confidential and independent, allowing people who are reluctant or afraid to make a formal complaint.” 
Postsecondary institutions in Canada are not obligated to have an ombuds office – and the majority do not. The executive of the Dalhousie Student Union has been advocating for the reinstatement of the office, but “our demands have been stuck in a bureaucratic rabbit hole since 2013,” says Jennifer Nowoselski, chief communications officer at the student union. “This DDS incident has given momentum to things we have been asking about for a long time. This is not an isolated event.”
(Globe & Mail.)

Related posts: Dalhousie University Ombuds Hopes to Reverse Declining CaseloadAssociation of Canadian College and University Ombudspersons Publishes Standards of PracticeACCUO Chronicles Three Decades of Ombuds in Higher Education.

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