GSC names new director

Students active in Oakland University’s Gender and Sexuality Center were wondering if they were ever going to find a comparable replacement for beloved director Joann Bautti-Roche.

They think they may have found one in Melissa Pope, who began her service as GSC director Monday, Aug. 31.

Jean Ann Miller, director of the Center for Student Activities, said Pope stood out among the pool of four candidates, because of her enthusiasm and knowledge of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered issues.

“Her resume is just impeccable,” Miller said. “She just had a really good rapport with the students. She is very outgoing and connects with them very well … A lot of people were wondering, ‘How can we ever find another Joann?’ I think we’ve found one.”

Pope comes to the GSC with a lofty resume from the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-based service organization for the LGBT community, where she served as victim services director.

Pope said she has always been interested in LGBT issues but decided she wanted to get more involved during a student organization fair at Thomas Cooley Law School in Lansing.

According to Pope, she had expressed interest in joining an LGBT organization but said she was told by others at Cooley that, as a straight person, other members in the group might not feel comfortable with her around.

“It did not bother me that I, as a straight person, was not welcome in that space. What bothered me was that they were so afraid to be who they were, to be out in the law school,” Pope said. “It made me realize that there were a lot of things that needed to be done to make this a safer place for everyone to be who they were.”

Chris Darin, president of the student organization Gay Straight Alliance, said Pope was an easy choice to succeed Bauti-Roche.

“She definitely stuck with us right off the bat. It was a unanimous decision,” Darin said. “She is ridiculously overqualified for the position … in a good way. She is involved in a lot of things, and that tells us that she is not only capable of doing the work but doing well beyond the work.”

Pope said that her sexual orientation does not hinder her ability to counsel people of minority orientations. She claims that being straight allows her to offer a valuable point of view, which was evident during her time at Triangle.

“People who are straight were willing to say things in front of me that they weren’t willing to say in front of someone who was L, G, B or T,” Pope said. “I think it gave me a little more perspective and sometimes the ability to find a personal part of them to bring them to an understanding of personal equality.”

Pope said she hadn’t yet had time to develop specific plans to improve the GSC. However, both Miller and Darin said they had ideas of how the GSC could better serve the student body.

Miller said she would like to see the center tackle more women’s issues, while Darin would like to see a more prominent peer mentoring program.

“I would to see GSC’s peer mentoring program be considered a part of the first-year student experience, like the [Center for Multicultural Initiatives] is,” Darin said. “The campus has its targeted programs for freshmen, and I’d like to see us right up there with them.”