Editor’s Note: The subject of this story, delfin bautista, uses they/them/their pronouns and does not capitalize their name. This story appears in the Sunday, Jan. 13 newspaper on Page A1. 

One by one, the supporters of delfin bautista told their stories.

There were plenty about bautista’s involvement with the LGBT Center at Ohio University. Others described the countless efforts to provide guidance to students. There were thoughtful gestures big and small, from meeting with members of the Harry Potter Alliance on campus to sitting all night with students who were in the hospital. After years of roundtables, panels, meetings and rallies, OU decided Thursday that bautista would be removed as director of the LGBT Center.

“Isn’t it weird that delfin isn’t here?,” someone noted at a protest against the decision held a day later. “They’re at everything!”

Indeed, bautista was not present while dozens of students, faculty and alumni voiced their public objections outside Cutler Hall. By the time protesters had gathered, bautista had already cleared out their office.

* * *

Speaking to reporters in his office Friday, OU President M. Duane Nellis provided some details of bautista’s removal, but few specifics. He said the personnel decision was made by Gigi Secuban, the university’s vice president of diversity and inclusion.

Secuban’s hiring in May 2018 marked one of the first structural changes Nellis made to the OU administrative team in his first year as president. The role of vice president of diversity and inclusion was created upon Secuban’s hiring, with her tasked with leading the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The office oversees on-campus entities like the LGBT Center, Multicultural Center and Women’s Center.

The LGBT Center will remain open and operating as normal when OU students arrive for the upcoming 2019 Spring Semester, a campus spokesperson said. Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, an associate director of the Multicultural Center, was to take over through Monday, and other staff from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will fill in until an interim director is named.

Nellis said OU will conduct a “national search” to find a new LGBT Center director.

“In the context of our efforts to be a national leader in diversity and inclusion, we are making key strategic investments in that area, and we want to recognize the importance of that area,” Nellis said on Friday. He did not specify what those investments would be.

“I don’t think this decision in any way, in my opinion, lessens our strong commitment to the LGBT community and to our overall efforts in diversity and inclusion,” Nellis said.

In a post to Facebook, though, bautista described “the lack of professionalism and humiliation in which I was treated today” as being “disheartening.”

bautista had been locked out of their email on Thursday and other staff members received an automated message stating bautista was no longer with the university, WOUB News reported. It was only then that Secuban informed bautista of the dismissal.

An OU spokesperson confirmed Friday that bautista is on paid administrative leave until their contract ends in June 2019.

* * *

Outside of Cutler Hall, supporters expressed shock and outrage at the reported treatment of a longtime employee and advocate for Ohio University.

Those present described delfin bautista as having had a widespread influence at the university, far beyond the role as LGBT Center director. Speakers encouraged those who knew bautista to write letters and send messages to Nellis, Secuban and others to describe the impact this decision will have on OU and the LGBT community. Groups like Showing Up for Racial Justice, which organized Friday’s demonstration, planned letter-writing campaigns of their own.

A statement was read on behalf of Rev. Evan Young, executive director for United Campus Ministry, who could not attend the rally in person.

“In all the time that I have known delfin, and indeed for many years before that, delfin has been a tireless, energetic, perceptive and compassionate advocate for equal justice, inclusive community and honest open engagement ...,” the letter read.

“Particularly in this historical and political moment,” it continued, “leadership like delfin’s is sorely needed.”

One professor described bautista’s involvement with the OU College of Fine Arts. bautista would often help students and faculty when theatre productions dealt with LGBT topics, or would participate in post-production discussions to help students better understand those issues.

Another example included bautista’s connection with Upward Bound, a program in which high school students throughout rural Ohio get to visit OU for a summer. The program is geared toward potential first-generation college students to let them experience classes and on-campus life. A speaker noted that bautista trained Upward Bound staff members on how best to mentor young students who identify as LGBT. Most of all, bautista wanted the participants to view OU as a welcoming, inclusive place — in the hopes they might enroll there after graduating high school.

The speeches over, protesters marched up to the Cutler Hall doors and chanted. Then a few decided to head inside, where Nellis would be able to hear them from his office.

This prompted a call to the OU Police Department. A few officers escorted the remaining protesters out of the building, threatening to arrest those who stayed.

Nearby, early arrivers to campus could be seen heading across the College Green. The former LGBT Center director sat a quarter-mile down the road at Union Street Diner and sipped from a milkshake, while other faculty and staff prepared for a new semester just three days away.

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