Trigger Warning: Discussion of sexual violence

Celia Wandio, an arts & science at-large director candidate in the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) election, has left the Change UofT slate to run as an independent.

According to Wandio, she came to the decision because of the way the team handled concerns surrounding a Change UofT campaign flyer. The flyer featured a word search of ways to change U of T and included “sexual assault” as a searchable phrase, alongside “OHIP” and “shuttlebus”.

When news of the flyer spread, Wandio said she “received an incredible amount of support from so many people” who believed she “did not support [the material].”

“They all had so much faith that I had nothing to do with the incident… but I felt like I was betraying people’s trust by not doing more to distance myself from this situation which was causing survivours pain,” Wandio said.

Wandio, who is a founder of U of T Students against Sexual Violence, felt that she “cannot continue to do anti-sexual violence work if survivors don’t feel like [she] can create a safe space for them.”

“I need survivors — and students in general — to know that if they tell me they are offended or triggered, my first response will be to apologize,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Change UofT posted a defence of the flyer on Wednesday, in which they said: “to omit sexual assault from the list of words to find would only serve to reinforce the stigma and the silence around a public conversation about sexual violence and rape culture on our campuses.

Wandio said she found the choice to leave the team and run independently difficult, saying that she “[holds] no animosity towards [the team].”

“I care about and support so many of them, and I recognize that they made an effort to take my opinions into account in their actions. However, it got to a point where I felt a pretty big divide in how we felt we should respond to this situation, and I could not see a scenario in which we could negotiate this to come to a solution we all felt comfortable with,” Wandio said.

Wandio was clear that her decision to run independently should not be seen as an endorsement or condemnation of either team.

“I am so happy to see so many people on both sides committed to addressing sexual violence, and there are so many qualified candidates on both teams. I want to move forward as an independent because I know I would be able to do a lot of good work on the board, including furthering anti-sexual violence work,” she said.

Cameron Wathey, Change UofT presidential candidate, said his team supports Wandio’s decision to run independently.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Celia throughout this year, and throughout the campaign so far. I appreciate her commitment and dedication to make UofT better for all students, especially survivors of sexual violence. The whole team supports her decision and we will continue our friendship and our work together regardless of the outcome of the election,” Wathey said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to “U of T Students against Sexual Violence” as Students against Sexual Violence U of T.”