The coerced confession of Ryan Millet

Dalhousie didn’t strap Ryan Millet to a board and pour water over his mouth and nose to simulate the terror of drowning. But surely Millet must have felt as if he were drowning over the last four months.

All Dal did was say to this married, 29-year-old father of three—a non-citizen of Canada who has racked up nearly half a million dollars in debt pursuing a dental degree—that he will not graduate or receive a diploma unless he participates in a “remediation program” of public and private events contrived to humiliate him for his passive membership in the Facebook Group whose abuses he took repeated steps to correct and expose.

  • He must undergo counselling by a psychologist chosen by Dalhousie, even though there is no evidence Millet suffers from any psychiatric illness or psychological disorder. This genteel Halifax version of the Soviet psychiatric gulag ought to disquiet all citizens of this province.
  • He must produce written essays and undertake public lectures satisfactory to the Dal’s Orwellianly titled “Academic Standards Committee.”
  • Most seriously, the committee has found Millet guilty of “blatant unprofessionalism,” a finding that may prevent Millet’s certification by licensing bodies in the two states where he has received job offers, even after he completes the committee’s so-called “remediation” program.

Dalhousie insisted on trying Millet in secret, despite his lawyer’s repeated pleas for a public hearing. The committee denied permission to record the proceedings, or for a court reporter to create a transcript.

Secrecy had obvious appeal for Dal. Millet is the only male student who took pro-active steps to tip off the female colleague who was the target of the most abusive comments on the notorious Facebook group, and to assist her in gathering the evidence that touched off the Dalhousie Dental scandal. Those actions embarrassed Dalhousie, and put the entire dental faculty under critical scrutiny for its possible role in fostering an atmosphere of misogyny. (The committee that investigated, prosecuted, tried, judged, and sentenced Millet is made up, in whole or in part, of those impugned faculty members.)

There is nothing in the record examined by the committee that could conceivably lead a fair-minded adjudicator to a finding of blatant unprofessionalism. A Canadian appellate court has already rejected the notion that mere passive membership in a Facebook group can justify a finding of guilt. Of the six images Dal says Millet should have reported to the school administration, he had never seen two, he had taken no active participation on three, and he had clicked “like” on one, a sophomoric bit of sexual double-entendre available on numerous internet humour sites.

To those defenders of Dal who speculate—without evidence—that Millet may have scrubbed the Facebook site of his own participation before turning over the keys to its primary female victim, the committee heard no such evidence and made no such claim. This counterfactual hypothetical formed no part of the case against him. Civilized societies do not require accused persons to prove their innocence.

Dal’s treatment of Millet would be repugnant for any public institution, let alone a university. Equally shameful is the silence of Nova Scotia’s robust feminist community, understandably vociferous in its criticism of Dal when the scandal broke, for remaining silent as Dal frog-marched an obviously innocent student through a secret trial that flouted due process and common decency. This moral failure is stark in a group that so frequently directs moral exhortations at others.

In a statement emailed to selected media yesterday, Millet said he would attempt to complete the steps ordered by the committee in the interests of saving his chosen career and protecting his family’s livelihood. Here is the full text.

After thoughtful consideration, I will be completing the remediation as ordered.

The ASC Committee’s basis of my two month suspension and prescribed remediation program was my membership and limited participation in the private Facebook Group displaying at times, elements of sexism, misogyny and homophobia. I tried to address issues within the group, however imperfectly. I did so both before and after the controversial Facebook entries became public. I attempted to do so in a balanced and respectful manner, without pushing my own religious morals and values upon others. The Committee has concluded that I had a proactive duty to report and subsequently disassociate myself from the Facebook Group, which I did do, but not in the timetable they desired.

However, my unsuccessful defense of my actions is secondary to more important things. I have three children under the age of four. My wife is a very busy fulltime Mom. I am too far invested in my chosen career to discontinue. My wife and others know I am not misogynist, sexist or homophobic. I must be content with that support, regardless of any contrary opinions of the Committee.

I am willingly engaging in the remediation training sessions with an open mind to further my education in this subject. I recognize that everyone can learn further and accept more responsibility in addressing these important societal issues.

I acknowledge we live in a society, which too often condones these types of attitudes. While I regret that the ASC Committee concluded that my solo efforts in confronting those issues were not enough, I do share the Committee’s desire to highlight the hurt and consequences of such attitudes.

I have decided to concentrate all my efforts on completing my degree and supporting my Family. I hope the media and public will understand my need to focus on what is presently most important in my life.

I wish to offer my thanks to all who have assisted my Family throughout this overwhelmingly difficult time. I recognize and am grateful for all the instructors and students who have gone out of their way to welcome me back into the clinic. I offer special gratitude to all my patients who have expressed faith in my work and continue to stand behind me. Your love and support has meant more to me than you can ever imagine. I look forward to conclude my excellent dental education with a strong finish.

Some in the media may construe this as an admission of guilt. I feel dirty just reading it.

(The YouTube video above is a short excerpt from lawyer Joseph Welch’s famous denunciation of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings, after McCarthy attempted to destroy the career of a young lawyer in Welch’s firm. Fred Fisher, ironically a Young Republican, had once briefly belonged to the National Lawyers’ Guild, a left-wing organization that defended accused Communist Party members. Welch’s controlled rage marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy’s reign of anti-Communist terror. Of course, this only worked because the hearings were public, unlike Dal’s. You can see the whole stirring exchange in two parts, here and here.)