Fresh from a trip to Saigon, I got a text the other night from a friend, and it included news that made me shake my head. While the news didn’t altogether surprise me, I thought it spoke to my feelings about Ohio University and its peculiar commitment to diversity, gender and inclusion.
The news was about delfin bautista, director of the popular LGBT Center. Well, I should say “former” director, because Gigi Secuban, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion, told bautista to get lost. She planned to move in another direction, whatever that unclear direction happens to be.
This firing, however, is less about bautista and more about Secuban, who came here in June and is taking a wrecking ball to everything she didn’t add a brick to. She was going to build diversity her way – or no way at all.
It looks like the latter. On an issue as divisive as diversity can be on an Appalachia campus, she needs allies to help her succeed. She has few now.
Even her decision to fire bautista wasn’t something Dr. M. Duane Nellis, Secuban’s clueless, feckless boss, could explain to people. Speaking Friday to reporters inside Cutler Hall, Nellis thanked bautista – isn’t that obligatory for a college president? – and said Ohio will launch a nationwide search.
I’m not confident that will produce much, for it was a nationwide search that brought Secuban here. She is a woman who, on her best day, has displayed about as much class as a circus clown, although I guess I demean Bozo to compare her to him.
Just look at the ham-handed way she fired bautista. By all accounts, she gave bautista not a hint she was dissatisfied with the direction the center was headed. If anything, the place has been the shining light of diversity on this “liberal” campus. Under bautista, the center has produced stellar programs, the kind that befit an institution that calls diversity one of its core values.
I’ve said often that for Ohio University to mention diversity as a core value is beyond laughable. It’s cool to include it in the mission statement on the university website, but if diversity means nothing, stop the charade.
That’s the belief of people now. They think Ohio University has brought in an administrator whose task is to dismantle what people like bautista have built. They have put sweat equity behind their efforts, which is something the new kid on the block can’t claim.
Since her arrival, Secuban hasn’t played a leading role in anything public, so trying to figure out where things are headed under her stewardship is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with a billion pieces. You can try, but why bother?
I understand that an administrator wants her people beside her. I can see that, yet she can go about doing so in a way more consistent with the image of Ohio University as a place of intellectual enlightenment.
It might be such a place, but it’s also a place absent class, as bautista pointed out in a Facebook post.
“The lack of professionalism and humiliation in which I was treated was disheartening and a blow to my confidence both professionally and personally,” bautista told Facebook friends.
While Secuban has her reasons for firing bautista, she needs to learn to lead publicly, not in secrecy. In firing bautista, she just rewrote the script to “The Blind Side.”
Justice B. Hill, a former sportswriter and editor, is an assistant professor of journalism at the Scripps School.