Ohio University’s vice president for Diversity and Inclusion denied an appeal Friday by a former LGBT director, who filed a grievance Jan. 21 over their removal.
In the grievance letter addressed to Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban, OU President Duane Nellis and other administrators, delfin bautista, who uses they/them pronouns and does not capitalize their name, expressed concerns over Secuban and Amanda Graham, her assistant, as well as concerns over the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
“The lack of transparency and professionalism demonstrated by both Dr. Secuban and Ms. Graham is concerning,” bautista said in the letter. “Their actions towards me and inactions towards the wider LGBT community reflect a lack of commitment on their part.”
Secuban denied the grievance. In her response, she said she was professional during bautista’s removal and said bautista undermined her leadership.
bautista was of the LGBT Center on Jan. 10. In the grievance letter, bautista said Secuban “giggled and laughed” while informing them of her decision to not renew their contract as director of the center. When delfin asked why, Secuban told them the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was moving in a different direction and could not share details.
In Secuban’s response, she said she and others at the meeting remember the events “far differently.”
“I certainly did not laugh at you,” Secuban said in her letter. “To the contrary, I did, and still do, have compassion for you and desired to mitigate the impact of my necessary, but difficult decision, to not renew your contract.”
She said she put them on paid leave until June 30 to allow them to find a different job while still earning an income and teaching a course for women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the university during the Spring Semester.
In bautista’s grievances, they said they felt Secuban never took the time to get to know them, the center’s work or staff and students of the center. bautista said they were left out of decisions about hiring employees and discussions about the center’s expansion.
bautista said they initially received a positive response from Secuban in their evaluations and goals with no indication the Office of Diversity and Inclusion would be moving in another direction.
bautista also argued they were treated as “automatically guilty” regarding their behavior on three different occasions.
On National Coming Out Day, the LGBT Center hosted an event outside Baker Center when three preachers arrived and and started shouting anti-LGBT messages at the group. bautista told the staff to ignore the preachers. Other people not a part of the group shouted profanities at the preachers and one person threw red paint at a preacher’s poster.
bautista said staff announced by bullhorn the individual was not affiliated with the center and the center does not condone violate acts. bautista said that Secuban said in a meeting bautista instigated the paint-throwing. bautista said they explained their side, and she accepted it but still appeared to believe they were still connected to the incident.
At a Start By Believing event, participants said bautista was making disruptive noises as people were speaking. Bautista explained to Secuban they come from a culture of “call and response” — as a Latin American person, they make vocal affirmations when they agree with what someone is saying. bautista apologized for their actions and said they would be mindful in how they participated in future events.
In the last incident, bautista said Secuban said they could not use the word “queer” when referring to themself because the word is an insult. According to the grievance, Secuban said bautista could not claim it was harassment if someone else used it against them.
“She asked that I removed it from my signature block, refrain from using it, and also requested that I refrain from calling myself ‘head queer’ a title given to me by the campus and wider community out of both respect and affection for my work and the work of the center,” bautista said in the letter. “I agreed to her request despite the discomfort it caused me.”
In September 2018, bautista filed a against Secuban, expressing fears of retaliation. OU Civil Rights Investigator G. Antonio Anaya said the situation did not meet Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance standards for harassment or discrimination.
As of August, bautista’s yearly salary was $72,746.
Secuban said in her response letter bautista had generally criticized and undermined her leadership of the university.
“In truth, the narrative of your second grievance illustrates, in part, why non-renewal was the correct decision,” Secuban said in the letter.
She said she is qualified for her position and works with Nellis to make diversity and inclusion a top priority for the university. She also acknowledged the university can do better.
Secuban said she plans to make the center more “robust and inclusive” based on the 2017 diversity and inclusion audit, her listening tour of OU and regional campuses and the feedback of students, faculty and staff.
Going forward, the center will focus on expanding programming that is inclusive of all members of the LGBT community. The center was primarily student-focused in the past.
She also said she is invested in prioritizing the needs of the LGBT Center, which includes investing in a larger space within Baker Center along with expanded programming and collaboration.
“The institution's commitment to the LGBT Center, as well as to all members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies remains strong,” Secuban said in her letter. “And it is my hope that the Center will continue to evolve under new leadership to become nationally recognized through innovative and inclusive programming.”