U of T’s Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council faced allegations of transphobia, following a Facebook post on Saturday by Cassandra Williams, UTSU’s VP university affairs, addressing the removal of VUSAC’s finance chair.
Tagging VUSAC’s Facebook page, Williams wrote to the council for being “the most transphobic” students’ union at the university.
“VUSAC felt that, when a non-binary member of their council was hospitalized for a week for suicidality, the appropriate response was to take action aimed at forcibly removing this person from council,” wrote Williams.
VUSAC released a statement on their Facebook page a few hours after Williams’ post, addressing the removal of its finance chair.
“We deeply regret making [the finance chair] feel singled out, unsafe, and unwell—even though it was not our intention, we take full responsibility for the impact of the events on the finance chair’s health leading up to their resignation,” read the statement.
However, VUSAC denied the accusation that the finance chair was forcibly removed from office because of their hospitalization or gender identity.
Williams also accused the council of contributing to the discrimination trans students face at U of T.
“In the face of visible and increased violence on campus targeting our trans community, VUSAC decided that it would rather be complicit in this, instead of actively combating it,” she wrote. “VUSAC are not allies to the trans community, and I urge all of my peers to join me in challenging VUSAC’s deliberate acts of marginalization.”
The council further denied that any action was made due to the sexual orientation or state of health of the finance chair.
“We acknowledge that transphobia is rampant on the U of T and Victoria campuses, especially within the governing institutions at this university and its affiliated colleges; though to reiterate, VUSAC’s difficulties with the finance chair did not arise from their gender, mental illnesses, or hospitalization.”
VUSAC added that it does not stand nor promote an unsafe environment for the members of the council and the greater Victoria College.
The statement also cited issues regarding the finance chair throughout their tenure in office, including complaints over the last semester to the VUSAC’s vice-president internal, Golda Greenspoon, and the chair, Saambavi Mano, about personal and professional matters about the finance chair’s conduct.
“These [complaints] include allegations of ableist jokes, both inside and outside of the VUSAC office, speaking about self-harm and suicide in ways that are both inappropriate and triggering for those in the VUSAC office who may be dealing with the same things, and neglecting finance duties while in the office,” read the statement.
According to VUSAC’s statement, there were several attempts to contact their finance chair by email, but none were reciprocated nor addressed. VUSAC further added that a failure to communicate hampered the council operations, resulting in the removal of the finance chair.
VUSAC also wrote that the finance chair’s position could not be covered by other council members.
“If there was a way to prioritize their health and Council’s financial responsibilities to the Victoria College Union simultaneously, we’re sorry we missed it […],” the statement continued. “The role of the finance chair is demanding, and we regret that we could not intervene properly before things took a turn for the worse.”
Both statements by Williams and VUSAC did not mention the name of the finance chair.
The Medium attempted to ask Williams for comment, but she stated that the person implicated in the situation was not comfortable commenting at the time.
Williams did not respond either to The Medium’s request for comment on VUSAC’s statement, as of press time.