Home Letters to the Editor Letter to the Editor: The LGBT Community must have their seat back at the table following the firing of the LGBT Center’s Director

Letter to the Editor: The LGBT Community must have their seat back at the table following the firing of the LGBT Center’s Director

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Letter to the Editor

Justice B. Hill, an assistant professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism who coordinates the “90 Minutes” series at Ohio University, is speaking out about the firing of the LGBT Center’s Director.

The allies of delfin bautista, the ousted director of the LGBT Center, got a surprise on Monday when Cleveland Councilman Basheer Jones assailed Ohio University for its firing of bautista. 

Make no mistake, Jones, keynote speaker at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Brunch, was aiming his verbal howitzers at President M. Duane Nellis, who allowed the firing, and Gigi Secuban, his tone-deaf vice president of Diversity and Inclusion who did the deed.   

“Everybody deserves to have a voice; everyone deserves to have a seat at the table,” Jones said in his 30-minute speech. “I want to say to you this: that our brothers and sisters of the LGBTQ community always deserve a voice; they need to be at the table.  

“If we do not have them at the table, not only are we being untrue to ourselves, but how can we celebrate Dr. King thoroughly when everyone does not have a seat at the table?” 

Borrowing from King’s words – no, Jones didn’t plagiarize – he pointed out the time to do right is not tomorrow, not next week but now.  

At Ohio University, the time is now for the university to admit neither Nellis nor Secuban is the right person to lead a commitment to diversity. You don’t need another millennium to figure out that Nellis and Secuban don’t understand students of color or of the LGBT community, and in Secuban’s case, she squandered any hope that the latter might want to know her well. 

For you don’t fire its charismatic leader without knowing how beloved he is among people who see the LGBT Center as their haven, a space insulated from the covert hate and open bigotry they face, day after day, on this “liberal” campus and outside it.  

So real is the hate that an outsider, Jones, felt compelled to take the focus singularly off a salute to King and address what happened on this campus. He brought his message all the way from Cleveland, where surely you would think no one would know what has happened here. 

But if Nellis and Secuban expected silence, both missed their guess. Nellis heard voices speak up during the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week in Ellis Hall, where the bautista supporters – blacks, whites, Hispanics; some LGBTQ, some not — came to tell him that they would not be silenced. 

They hold no hope Secuban will rehire bautista, for she won’t. What the bautista allies want is a seat at the diversity table. They are unwilling to allow an administrator (or a university president) who doesn’t respect them to lead them. For they know if they allowed it, they would be led down the road by a different sort of devil, one who cares not a bit about their plight. 

On too many campuses in America, they will find an administrator like Secuban or Nellis, people who put speechifying ahead of real policy and legitimate programming. Anybody can talk policy, but who wants to step forward with programs that matter? 

Basheer Jones answered that question in a packed room inside Baker Center as Nellis and Secuban sat right in front of him. His words had to be uncomfortable for both of them, and they should have been.  

For Nellis and Secuban owe the LGBTQ community a seat at the table.  

Not tomorrow.  


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