U changes preferred name policy

Students’ preferred names will be included on all databases after a software upgrade in 2015.

by Anne Millerbernd

Beginning February 2015, a technology upgrade will change University of Minnesota procedure so that class rosters include the preferred name of each student enrolled.

Students and employees who prefer to be addressed by a name other than their legal one have struggled with inconsistencies in the University’s naming procedure.

Currently, a student’s change in preferred name on One Stop isn’t recorded in some University databases. But as the University upgrades its websites during the Enterprise Systems Upgrade Program, changes will be registered across all systems.

Some transgender students have faced special difficulties in getting their preferred name and gender pronouns changed on class rosters.

Mira McDonald knows firsthand how important the resolution is to the LGBT community.

When she was in a class last fall, the instructor called her by her birth name. Upon realizing her name change wasn’t registered on class lists, she had to tell each of her instructors individually that she identifies as transgender.

Though McDonald changed her preferred name on One Stop, she said, University faculty and staff used it inconsistently. Next year’s change is a step in the right direction, she said.

“It’s definitely going to [prevent] a lot of awkward situations for a lot of people in the future,” she said. “I think this is going to help out the LGBT community a lot.”

In addition to the database change, class lists will show only preferred names, so instructors cannot see students’ legal names when taking attendance, said Ross Anderson, equality task force leader for the University’s Minnesota Public Interest Research Group chapter.

MPIRG worked with the Minnesota Student Association and the Queer Student Cultural Center in pushing University officials to amend the institution’s name change procedure.

The change was also encouraged by an MSA resolution drafted in February, calling for students’ preferred names to appear on class lists and for University employees to address students by those names, said MSA intern and resolution author Abeer Syedah.

Originally, the upgrade to University websites was slated for completion in October 2014. But because the finish date was pushed back to February 2015, administrators had the time necessary to adapt the name change process, Anderson said.