Campuses consider allowing students to choose preferred names on IDs
The nuance of identity
When students are issued their first campus card or return to the card office to receive a replacement card, they provide their name as part of the card issuance process. It’s a routine practice, yet the need to properly vet a cardholder’s identity at issuance remains crucial.
In certain preferred name cases, however, the identity vetting process can be a far more delicate matter.
“In those instances where it is more difficult to determine if the individual at our counter is the cardholder reflected in the database, we have been given access to a screen in PeopleSoft where both legal and preferred names are listed side-by-side,” explains Vonderschmidt.
“The card office has not vacated responsibility for validating the identity of the individual obtaining an ID card,” he stresses. “Proper vetting of identity is maintained by comparing the legal name in the system against the supporting photo ID presented.”
Still, there is a level of understanding, sensitivity and anonymity that must be observed – particularly in cases of gender-related name changes.
At Indiana, card office employees accomplish this using the dedicated screen with both legal and preferred names. “If an individual presents at our counter and there is a question regarding their identity, our staff have been trained to view both names, vet the identity, then address the cardholder by the preferred name,” he says.
For other universities moving toward preferred names, this level of understanding and customer service on the part of card office staff will be crucial. As Vonderschmidt explains, the vetting process at Indiana was the result of a joint effort between the university and the campus LBGTQ group.
“LGBTQ services on campus were extremely accommodating, providing training to card office staff,” says Vonderschmidt. “We held a session where LGBTQ advocates helped our staff understand some of the issues facing the population. They provided invaluable insight into how we might best achieve positive outcomes during interactions at our service counters.”
Making it work for everyone
The worry for many administrators will likely be the difficulty in organizing and implementing a preferred name program that works for all stakeholders. The good news, however, is that this isn’t an impossible feat.
At Indiana, there was a comprehensive planning process that took place prior to implementing the preferred name program. This planning was made even more crucial given an aggressive timeline.
“From the highest levels of the university it was made clear that whatever would be needed for this initiative to move forward, it was to be provided,” says Vonderschmidt. “Initiating the process were the Registrars from the Indiana University system of campuses who then brought in the CIO of the university to insure that data was made available to the units requiring it.”
University counsel, public safety, Provost senior staff, communications staff, Dean of Students, health services, and the LGBTQ support offices also participated.
As Vonderschmidt sees it, the program would have been nearly impossible to implement, especially within the timeline, without the collaboration demonstrated by these stakeholders. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen as swift an implementation,” he adds.
For universities in process or considering a preferred name program, Vonderschmidt stresses the importance of giving all stakeholders a seat at the table. “It would seem that inclusion of as many stakeholders as possible, along with active engagement from senior administration, is crucial to a well thought out strategy and successful implementation,” he says.