I am writing this letter about my concerns regarding Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Gigi Secuban’s behavior as a supervisor in her work with former LGBT Center Director, delfin bautista.
It is only fair that I recognize the important contributions bautista made towards practicing intersectionality in the Athens community by laying out my intersecting identities that affect what I express in this letter. I am an Ohio University alum, who came out as a bisexual woman in college. I was never very involved in the LGBT Center, but when I needed help, advising and dialogue on an academic project, I was welcomed by bautista and my community with open arms there. I am now a music therapist currently working on a certificate in trauma-responsive care. Most importantly, my privileges as a white middle-class individual allow me to speak this firmly and clearly without fear of repercussion, with my own identity and reputation attached. The lack of University response to the issue of bautista firing by Secuban makes one thing clear: Ohio University is complicit in permitting abusive behavior on campus.
Personally, I believe fully in the account bautista has given of the situation; however, I know that my own perspective shapes this opinion. I also know that many will not see this as I do. Regardless, this issue is bigger than the situation with bautista. We must discuss the university structures in place that allow incidents like this to occur. University spokespeople, OU president and Chief Audit Executive Jefferey Davis have all been quoted in The Post to support Secuban’s decision. Only bautista themself and unattributed past work-evaluations have been quoted to support bautista’s account. The Post has released much information on what bautista did and didn’t do correctly in their position as director. What purchases they’ve made and how it conflicts with university policy, what language bautista uses for their own identity and how that doesn’t fit with Secuban’s vision and how their own personal financial status was a concern to the university. After all of this, what questions have we asked and had answered regarding Secuban’s behavior? What questions have we asked to find out why a university employee is under such financial strain that they are forced to charge groceries as a business expense, until they are able to reimburse the university? What questions have we asked to find out why Secuban is in charge of approving or denying an appeal that questions her very actions?
Was Secuban’s behavior as vice president ever even investigated? bautista recounted one email sent by Secuban which included important changes to policy and scheduling, but also included an unrelated comment about showing up to work showered. Is it okay with Ohio University for a boss to make demeaning comments in a discussion of important changes to employee policies? The Post reported that bautista submitted a complaint to the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance regarding to express concerns about Secuban. Is it okay with Ohio University that when their own employees follow policy, they do so “with much fear and worry about ramifications,” to the very office safeguarding against unsafe campus environments? An employee directly expressed lack of safety following university policy, yet there has been no evidence thus far that Ohio University even bothered to investigate the issue. It has been over two weeks and the University and Secuban have not made a cohesive, comprehensive explanation of their decision. It is clear that Ohio University lacks accountability and when this intersects with a misuse of power, the result is that nothing protects employees from workplace harassment, discrimination and abuse. I’m sure bautista will not be the last employee to be dismissed in these circumstances unless Ohio University is willing to take a critical eye towards itself.
In closing, let us examine what tactics and language abusers use to maintain power. Abusers use gaslighting to make victims second guess their own memory and sanity by lying and denying. “I certainly did not laugh at you. 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,” says Secuban. Abusers use propaganda, to maintain an agenda through selective presentation of information. “In truth, the narrative of your second grievance illustrates, in part, why non-renewal was the correct decision,” says Secuban. Abusers set up their victims to fail, shifting goal posts without communication. “We are going in a different direction,” says Secuban. Abusers attempt to rationalize and normalize their behavior. Secuban was “well within (her) authority,” says OU Civil Rights Investigator G. Antonio Anaya. Abusers isolate their victims from their community and prevent them from acting together. Protestors demanding answers for delfin’s removal were removed from the unveiling of Ellis Hall by the Ohio University Police Department.
So, Secuban, OU President, The Post, Ohio University – where is our open dialogue?
Alexandra Wilson is a graduate of Ohio University.