Dentistry

Sexist, racist graffiti removed from Dalhousie dentistry lounge

Graffiti from the “Cavity” painted over following scandal

The Dalhousie Dentistry building at 5981 University Avenue. The Cavity is located on the third floor.
The Dalhousie Dentistry building at 5981 University Avenue. The Cavity is located on the third floor.   Zoe Demarco

Dalhousie dentistry’s Cavity has been filled.

The student lounge in Dalhousie University’s dentistry department, aptly named the Cavity, has been painted over: a crisp, clean, Crest White Strips white.

The space was found to have a wall scrawled with sexist, racist and homophobic graffiti almost a year ago.

The graffiti, including some elements dating from the 1990s, came to light during the dentistry scandal last year. The university’s May 2015 report on the restorative justice process, which was led in the wake of the incident, identified the wall as “significant” in the culture of the department. The wall, the report stated, was “in plain view from the student lounge” and represented a tradition. Students scribbled derogatory and defamatory musings as a “rite of passage,” frequently aiming to have “one-upped” the offensive comments of their predecessors.

The report put forth by the June 2015 Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism, and Homophobia, the university administration’s independent review of the incident, stated that there had been previous requests for the graffiti to be removed, but those fell on deaf ears. The task force also reported that once the existence of the graffiti came to light, many dentistry professors denied knowledge of it.

Now, months later, the university says it has dealt with the wall itself.

“It came to the university’s attention that there was a ‘graffiti wall,’ managed by students in the dentistry student lounge, which contained inappropriate comments. Photographs of the wall were taken and access to the wall was immediately locked,” Janet Bryson, senior communications adviser at Dalhousie, stated in an email. “The lounge wall was painted over after the task force had a chance to see it.”

Located on the third floor of the dentistry building at 5981 University Avenue, the Cavity is only open to students in the faculty and requires a password to enter.

The “dentistry scandal” occurred late last year when it was discovered that 13 men from the 38-person graduating dentistry class were part of a Facebook group that contained violent and sexist posts about their female classmates and women in general.

Today, current students say they have moved on from the events of last year, but still won’t agree to publication of their names, for fear of backlash from their peers.

“I don’t think it was that big of a deal. People will get offended by anything,” said a male third-year student. “I guess some of it was kind of bad, but it had been there for so long that it’s like, who cares at this point?”

A second-year female student in the doctor in dental surgery program said she hadn’t seen any graffiti in the lounge this year.

“I think that we obviously all kind of learned from last year,” she said. “I find that they kind of make more of an emphasis on professionalism [this year]. It’s not a tense environment or anything, everyone is comfortable and learning.”