Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Does Dalhousie Graduate Professionals or Merely High-Income Earners?

The misogynous Facebook group of Dalhousie University dental students has remained seemingly unresolved as the 2014-15 academic year winds to its conclusion.  At this point the students who were suspended from participating in their clinic practice have been reinstated and the whistleblower who revealed the group remains suspended.  Since the Facebook group was revealed and the students were suspended in December, it has seemed that the students have been treated with their well-being of the primary concern, taking priority over the reputation of the entire class, the university and perhaps the dental profession as well.

As the end of the school year approaches and the students proceed to complete their clinical work and lectures, the impression is left that Dalhousie University administration has been focused on allowing the members of the Class of DDS 2015 Gentleman every opportunity to ensure they retain their right to earn the commensurate income their degree would defer them rather than upholding the standards and the Code of Ethics that professionals ought to live up to.  Perhaps there has been something constructive that came of Dalhousie's application of restorative justice in dealing with these men.  The use of restorative justice may be an appropriate option to a swifter, more retributive response such as that by Oklahoma University President David Boren this week when dealing with the racist leaders of the campus fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

My feeling though is that the retributive justice option may been employed to circle the wagons and ensure that the Gentlemen have the opportunity to hold onto the income earning potential they hold so dear, attribute their behaviour to a dose of mob mentality and others rather than taking or bearing any true responsibility for their actions.  One may accuse me of wanted a more public response to this out of my own sense of retribution.  However, the whistleblower's disproportionate time in the spotlight during this affair and the conditions with which he is required to comply certain suggest that an old boy's club is calling the shots and protecting the Facebook group and perhaps the university faculty as well rather than the profession that these young men aspire to belong to.  Given the lack of standards that these young men seem capable of rising to, Dalhousie University's actions indicate a lack of understanding that they are responsible for training these students to join a profession rather than merely get a job.

All of the stick-handling that has been done since the Dalhousie University scandal began in December seems to have been aimed at ensuring that as many of the students as possible manage to graduate and perhaps, not coincidentally, narrow the university's mandate to getting its students into the workforce as efficiently as possible.  The options to this are to graduate humane, sensitive, civil professionals who demonstrate compassion for others that goes well beyond complying with the code of conduct or code of ethics of the professional college or association that will confer upon them their right to practice as dentists.  Dalhousie University ought to aspire to do more than merely train its students to -- as Dal alum Hugh MacLennan stated in his 1960 essay, "The Classical Tradition and Education" -- "qualify for the higher income brackets."  In this sense, the leadership at Dalhousie University has best succeeded in avoiding the task of setting a standard that they would want their graduates to maintain when they enter this profession.