Nearly 60 people gathered outside Cutler Hall to protest the removal of LGBT Center Director delfin bautista.
Members of the group, which included Ohio University students, faculty and Athens residents, spoke about bautista’s impact and criticized the university’s unexpected and hasty decision to remove bautista from their position.
Amoriya, an Athens resident and organizer of the protest, said she has known bautista for a number of years and was impressed by “their inclusiveness, their love, their tactfulness and all of it.”
“I see so many faces that are just so sad,” Amoriya said. “It is just horrible to think that the protection that delfin fought so hard for could be in jeopardy. People’s lives depended on them.”
Amoriya also demanded the university provide answers for bautista’s abrupt removal.
“The facts are very slim and that’s partly the reason I called for this flash uprising,” she said.
Although bautista was officially removed from their position on Thursday, Carolyn Hunter, outreach coordinator for the LGBT Center, said the university excluded bautista from recent talks about expanding the center.
“delfin was cut out of the search for assistant director and administrative assistant for the LGBT center as part of our expansion as well as cut out of information from the university to expand the space and find a new space because we have outgrown the (current) space,” Hunter said.
Jane Balbo, professor in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, criticized OU President Duane Nellis and Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban for setting a bad precedent for other professors.
“Even if someone is taking something in a different direction, you don’t just fire someone because of that,” Balbo said. “You work together. That’s what dialogue is about. It makes me feel very unsafe to be here at Ohio University as an employee of Ohio University knowing that this could easily happen to me. This is really scary.”
Around 1:20 p.m., protesters entered Cutler Hall through a door on the west side of the building, demanding to speak with Nellis, who was participating in a scheduled media availability event. The group remained inside Cutler Hall until 1:30 p.m., but left after Ohio University Police Department officers arrived. The group left before getting a chance to speak with Nellis directly.
Nellis said at the roundtable he can’t speak for Secuban, but spoke about the need to support the LGBT community.
“I’ve asked for that question as to how we plan to work on an interim basis because we need to make sure that we have robust support for the LGBT community,” Nellis said. “They’re important part of the university community, and we want to be there for them and supportive of them so I know she’s working on that.”
Jess Umbarger and Sarah Penix also contributed to this article.
delfin baustista uses they/them pronouns and does not capitalize letters in their name.