When Madison Bailey transferred to Ohio University’s main campus Fall Semester, she said one of the most important things for her mental health was finding a community where she felt she belonged.
delfin bautista’s removal from their position as LGBT Center director jeopardizes that, she said.
“Now it's all in shambles,” Bailey, a sophomore studying outdoor recreation, said. “There's not going to be anyone to replace (delfin) because delfin was a theologian and a person of color and a social worker and all those intersections are intersections that queer people experience. No one is going to be able to fill all three of those roles.”
The removal of bautista, who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name, has caused outcry among students, faculty and Athens locals who believe it signals carelessness toward LGBT students by the university.
Students close to the LGBT Center said they have had conflicts with Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban. They also said the removal has created administrative problems.
bautista plans to continue appealing their removal. The appeal process for them isn’t so much about getting their job back as it is about holding the university accountable.
“It's not that we're picketing in front of Cutler,” bautista said. “It's, ‘My supervisor wants me to do something and (if) I challenge it … will that lead to (me) being terminated?’ And so right now there is a lot of fear and what I don't see is the fear being addressed. It just seems like the fear is festering.”
Trouble within the center
Some students associated with the LGBT Center believe that both an OU audit and detailing the audit results mischaracterize bautista’s spending. The audit found that bautista spent $6,380 in violation of university policy, making personal purchases and buying excessive meals for staff.
Destiniee Jaram, a sophomore studying journalism and a columnist for The Post, pointed out that all of bautista’s spending had previously been approved by Cutler Business Services. If their spending violated university policy, someone should have spotted it a long time ago, she said.
“I think for people to treat delfin the way that people are treating delfin, literally going on a witch hunt and trying to find something some excuse to make this situation logical ... it's just not there,” Jaram said. “(There’s) just not gonna be a reason that delfin got fired because there is no reason (they) got fired.”
Jaram believes that bautista’s removal was more due to personal dislike or discrimination than any wrongdoing on bautista’s behalf.
Students also disagree with the audit’s findings that $2,105 in “self care meals” for staff violated university policy. They said those meals served purposes for the LGBT Center and fed students who couldn’t otherwise afford food.
“It's honestly such a luxury to get served and get hot food and to go out to eat,” Jaram said. “I really cannot afford that as a first generation student ... it's really a despicable thing that delfin is being made to look bad because if it's about food, it shouldn't even be a discussion.”
bautista’s removal has resulted in other difficulties at the center. LGBT students have had trouble accessing the emergency fund bautista established for LGBT students in financial need because administrators failed to quickly return emails, Bailey said.
Tyrone Carr, the special assistant to the vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, is now the . Although the students appreciate Carr’s work, the fact that he must split his time between two jobs is unfair and puts a strain on the center, students said.
LGBT Center staff have also seen fewer people in the center since bautista’s removal, Bailey said. She called bautista’s removal “devastating” for the center.
“It was like a bomb went off,” she said.
The work ahead
In the future, bautista said they want the university to be more transparent in its removal of employees. They think the removal process needs more humanity — bautista said they did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to their colleagues and could not return to the center to retrieve their things.
They also want the university to make a better effort to allow employees to improve themselves before they are removed. bautista said they were never notified that their spending raised concerns before their removal and weren’t notified of the results of an audit into their spending until after their removal.
The university should have to make documented attempts to rectify employee behavior before firing them, bautista said. Secuban has said bautista’s removal was a termination of contract, so the university did not need to find cause to remove bautista.
bautista considers it part of the LGBT Center director’s job to sometimes challenge the university for the good of LGBT people. They hope the next director continues to do that, but they hope the next director is more careful to navigate the internal politics at OU.
“I thought I was navigating them effectively but apparently not,” bautista said. “That is not unique to Ohio University ... like any institution, there are politics and there are systems ... it's complicated and messy and confusing and can also be very isolating.”
One of bautista’s greatest successes, according to both themself and the students who worked with them, was expanding the center to make it intersectional. They acknowledged that LGBT people could have different needs depending on race, ethnicity, faith and ability. bautista believes there’s still work to be done in that area.
“I think the university as well as the city I think do a good job with folks who fit a certain mold of LGBT-ness,” bautista said. “From a trans perspective, Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, we sort of know what to do with them. Folks who are genderqueer or genderfluid, folks who don't fit on a binary, folks who choose not to pass or who cannot pass, I think that is where our growing edge is in terms of policy (and) programming.”
bautista has started updating their resume. They and their partner have found a community in Athens, and they now may have to decide to move on.
bautista has considered a variety of career moves. They said that when they applied to become LGBT Center director in the first place, they were a “wild card” candidate. They didn’t have a PhD, which they believe the university would have preferred but stood out in their own way.
“I tend to be a wild card,” bautista said. “Where I am now is trying to re-embrace that wild card and sort of embrace myself and say, ‘What can I learn from this?’... Let's embrace that. Let’s tap into that again.”