Ohio University’s LGBT Center soon will relocate to a larger space within Baker Center. However, some on campus and in Athens are unhappy with the move because they say it will take away space from the university’s Multicultural Center.
According to an OU news release distributed on Tuesday, the LGBT Center’s move is needed in order to “accommodate the needs of the Center’s growing footprint on campus.”
Currently located in an 800-square-foot space on the third floor of Baker, the center will move to a renovated space on the second floor of Baker next to the Multicultural Center. That space currently is occupied by a gallery space used by the Multicultural Center. With 1,200 square feet, the release said, the new space will better serve the needs of the ever-growing LGBT center, the release said.
Carla Triana, an OU senior studying international business who frequents the Multicultural Center regularly, said in a brief interview Wednesday that she and some other students of color are upset about the decision.
“I strongly feel that the LGBT Center needs more space, and they should have all the space that they need, but not by taking over (space) at the Multicultural Center,” Triana said.
The Multicultural Center is one of the few places on OU’s majority-white campus that feels like it belongs to students of color, Triana said, a place where these students regularly host events, hold discussions and hang out.
Triana argued that the move will subtract the gallery space as well as storage space, a kitchenette and other meeting spaces inside the Multicultural Center.
“We already have limited space for storage for our events,” Triana said.
OU in the release, however, said that the move will benefit both centers, and the Multicultural Center’s director is quoted in the release as saying she supports it.
“Both centers have growing footprints, so to find a space that fits both their needs can be a challenge,” Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, director of the Multicultural Center, said in the release. “I think what works about this particular space is that in looking at the big picture, this allows both groups to own their individual identities while still being housed in a location that allows for collaborations with people different from them.”
The decision came from the OU administration, including Gigi Secuban, vice president for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Triana said, although she said she felt that Secuban and others had not spoken with enough students before making this decision.
In the news release, Secuban explained, “We are actively finding ways to provide increased resources to our centers within the Division for Diversity and Inclusion to better allow for growth and expansion across the institution. Taking these steps to relocate the LGBT Center is one way (we) can help expand the Center’s reach on our campus. By providing a bigger space and one that is more accessible for students to visit, we hope the center will foster increased engagement across the campus community.”
Justice Hill, an assistant professor of journalism and a regular critic of Secuban, charged that the move only serves to pit two groups “that are already marginalized” at OU against each other. He said he’s a big supporter of the LGBT Center, and of former Director delfin bautista (who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name), but said that this isn’t the best way to go about supporting LGBT students or students of color. He added that the LGBT Center does need a new space because the current space is not in a sufficiently prominent location.
“We’ll take something away from you so that we can give this other group some space,” Hill said, characterizing the move.
Hill also hotly contested the idea that the OU administration is committed to diversity and inclusion, and said that that lack of support is one of the reasons he’s planning to quit his job at the university.
“They say diversity is a core value but it is not; it’s a dream, it’s a hope, but it’s got no value when you put a woman like her (Secuban) in charge of Diversity and Inclusion and (she) has no clue about life in southeast Ohio,” Hill charged.
Jasmyn Pearl, an OU senior studying community leadership, said that she’s glad OU is finding more space for the LGBT Center, but said this move takes away from the already meager support resources that students of color have available to them at OU. She added that she knows members of the LGBT Community who are “not happy” with the move either.
“Why not try to find an alternative that makes at least them happy?” she said. “I understand you can’t make everyone happy but they (LGBT students) aren’t even happy with it.”
The new space, designed by University Planning, according to the release, will renovate a portion of the Gallery space on the second floor of Baker to provide open space for the LGBT Center. The university will provide “many additional opportunities” across campus for augmented community art spaces that embrace and celebrate diversity, including the new art installation on the second floor of Baker Center, as well as space in Trisolini Gallery, the release said.
When looking at the best space to relocate the LGBT Center, according to the news release, “many factors were taken into consideration, such as being located at a core part of campus for both an active presence and welcoming space, having the opportunity to have a private entranceway, and assuring that the Center’s needs were met related to space allocation.”