Preferred Name Policy for Students

October 13, 2016

Questioner: Anonymous

Posed to: Megan Kuehner, Registrar, Registrar’s Office

On 9/22 we received an email from the registrar informing us that a policy is under development regarding preferred name use. I already find it challenging to learn the names of 100+ students each semester. Is there much of a need for this new policy, or are we furthering students’ sense of entitlement?

Response: 

The preferred name policy is designed to make it easier for faculty members to use the appropriate name for students. That means faculty members will have to learn only one name for the student (the designated preferred name) instead of two (the student’s preferred name and their legal name).The preferred name will appear on the roster instead of the legal name. One instance where preferred name is helpful is in the case of a transgender student who has not yet legally changed their name. The policy will ensure that faculty members are confident that they are addressing a transgender student by the appropriate name. The use of preferred name is also relevant to those staff and faculty members who choose to use a more “Americanized” name for social purposes or the name under which a faculty member publishes. In fact the use of the Preferred Name field in Banner is currently utilized by over 200 employees.

The intent of the proposed policy is to formalize the process and provide the parameters for use of a preferred name and to create an environment that is both safe and efficient for all involved. Many of our transgender students who are transitioning from one sex to another (male-to-female or female-to-male) have not yet legally changed their name. That means someone who looks female may have a legal name that is male (or vice versa). Using the incorrect name could “out” the person as transgender to their classmates and violate their privacy. However, we do realize the practicalities of managing more than one name and the importance of accurately recording academic progress. For these reasons we have drafted the policy with controls on how and when a preferred name can be used. The same thought was given to staff and faculty updates.

This new policy has been proposed because the university has a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the campus community. Moreover, we have an obligation to see that the policy is fully vetted by all stakeholders. I encourage you, and any interested party, to fully review and respond when the policy is sent for comment.

I hope you understand and support us in this endeavor. I realize that any change can bring additional responsibilities but, as you well know, we are here to educate students both in and out of the classroom. Fostering tolerance and acceptance of all is fundamental in the development of our students and creating a welcoming campus that embraces the challenge of change is a time honored tradition in higher education.