OU President Comments As Protesters Decry Removal Of LGBT Center Director

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ATHENS — Ohio University’s president reiterated the school’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community Friday as a group of people protested the removal of the LGBT Center’s director.

Dr. Duane Nellis, during a meeting with reporters at Cutler Hall, repeated earlier statements by the university that the decision to remove delfin bautista (who uses they/them pronouns and doesn’t capitalize their name) was not made lightly.

“I certainly want to thank [bautista] for the service they have provided to Ohio University,” Nellis said. “We will be transition toward a national search [for a new director].”

A group of protesters gathered outside of Cutler Hall during the meeting hoping to get answers to why bautista was removed in the manner they were. Some in the crowd who work with the LGBT Center, who did not wish to be identified, wondered what the move means for the future of LGBT Center resources.

Mrs. Amoriya (who prefers to be identified by her last name only) speaks at a demonstration outside of Cutler Hall in Athens, Ohio, on Jan. 11, 2019. The demonstration was held after the removal of the LGBT Center director, delfin Bautista, who has been in this position since 2013. (Wangyuxuan Xu | WOUB)
Protestors chant while standing outside Cutler Hall as Ohio University President Duane Nellis met with reporters inside. (Jordan Kelley/WOUB)
Bee Irwin (right) and their partner, Bailey Stein, lean on each other at a demonstration against the university's desicion of removing the LGBT Center director at Athens, Ohio, on Jan. 11, 2019. (Wangyuxuan Xu | WOUB)
Jason Hernández, husband of former LGBT Center director delfin bautista, sheds a tear while speaking briefly to supporters following a protest of bautista’s dismissal outside Cutler Hall. (Jordan Kelley/WOUB)
Susan Westenbarger holds a protest sign while Mrs. Amoriya are giving a speech at a demonstration against the university's desicion of removing the LGBT Center director at Athens, Ohio, on Jan. 11, 2019. Susan thinks that the removal of bautista as the LGBTQ center director is "unacceptable." (Wangyuxuan Xu | WOUB)
Jenna Hanifan hugs Jason Hernández, delfin bautista's husband, after Jason's speech at the demonstration outside of the Cutler Hall on Jan.11, 2019. Jenna and her mom got a great help from delfin when she came out. (Wangyuxuan Xu | WOUB)
A LGBTQ flag with a big hole on it at the demonstration on Jan.11, 2019. (Wangyuxuan Xu | WOUB)
Amoriya, organizer of the protest, is escorted out of Cutler Hall by Ohio University Police. (Jordan Kelley/WOUB)

Nellis did not share the specifics of why Gigi Secuban, VP of Diversity and Inclusion, made the decision to remove bautista. But he did offer the university’s continued support and resources for diversity.

“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.”

He highlighted steps the university has taken to show a commitment to diversity that including the hiring of Secuban in May 2018 and allocating more funds for Diversity and Inclusion programs, which includes funds for additional staff at the LGBT Center.

As reported by WOUB News, bautista learned they no longer would be working at OU Thursday afternoon. They remain on paid administrative leave until the end of their contract which ends on June 30, 2019.  This leaves the LGBT Center without a director, assistant director, and office administrator ahead of a new semester beginning on Monday.

“I’ve asked [Secuban] 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 an important part of our university family and we want to be there for them.”

A university representative said an interim director is in place for the first few days. The plan for interim leadership beyond that is still being worked out.

(Video by Jordan Kelly | WOUB)

A group of people who participated in the protest came inside Cutler Hall to speak with Nellis about midway through his meeting with reporters and could be heard chanting outside the room after being asked to leave by a receptionist.

Campus police were called on the protesters and officers threatened to arrest the protesters if they did not leave the building. The group returned outside and there were no arrests.

Correction: In the fifth paragraph, the word “know” has been changed to “share.” When asked about the timing of bautista’s removal and the “new direction” reportedly mentioned by Secuban (and not by Nellis), he said that he “could not speak” for Secuban and referred questions on specifics to her as she “would be the one to talk to.” But that does not mean Nellis does not know the specifics as to why bautista was removed.