Campuses consider allowing students to choose preferred names on IDs
New Mexico joins the trend
Another institution that’s on the path to preferred names is the University New Mexico. An initiative at the institution hopes to raise awareness of the preferred name topic and establish best practices for other projects.
“UNM is looking at where names are used on campus and where we can offer members of the university community the option to use preferred name,” says Carolyn Hartley, manager of The University of New Mexico’s LoboCard Office. “We are in the process of working out the logistics now, with the goal of allowing maximum flexibility to students, staff and faculty, while maintaining the university’s integrity by providing oversight.”
Hartley has been an active advocate for preferred names on campus cards, organizing a lively roundtable discussion at NACCU 2015 in New Orleans, championing an on-campus working group and more recently compiling an email listserv for universities to collaborate and engage on the topic.
According to Hartley, there are a number of topics under discussion at New Mexico surrounding preferred names.
In addition to discussing whether to allow both preferred first and last names, Hartley has also considered whether to require legal names to be printed on cards along with preferred names. “We’re also looking at how much oversight is required when allowing users to submit a preferred name to prevent inappropriate or offensive language, or for inappropriate purposes such as misrepresentation,” she adds.
Hartley says the key will be to both maximize personal options and minimize administrative overhead, while providing enough oversight to preserve the university’s legal and academic integrity.
At the University of New Mexico, parameters will be established to define appropriateness, reasons for name change and character length. “As long as the use of the preferred name is not for the purpose of misrepresentation, the university acknowledges that a preferred name can and should be used where possible in the course of university business and education,” Hartley adds.
A software solution
Hartley is also looking into how much modification would be necessary within the institution’s Banner student information system to support preferred names. “We’re looking into whether we can encourage Ellucian (Banner developer) to make these changes part of a baseline offering delivered in the next Banner version,” says Hartley.
She explains that the university’s card production system does enable employees to add a field for preferred name, and there are plans to create a badge layout for preferred names. “I’d like to see a process that sends records to the badging software, looks at the ‘preferred name’ field in Banner and if it’s null, assign the standard layout to the student’s record,” she says. “If it contains data, the preferred name layout will be assigned.”
The solution that Hartley is alluding to would cut down on in-person conversation at the time of card issuance. “The whole point is not outing a student unnecessarily,” explains Hartley. “From the card office perspective, I’d like to see automation drive the process so that we don’t have a huge question and answer exchange at the service desk.”
Though the University of New Mexico is still in the early stages, a vision for the process has already emerged.
“Our intent is to collect the information centrally, probably via self-service Banner, review it for appropriateness, push the information into Banner, and have that information flow to a number of other campus systems, including our carding software,” Hartley explains.
What’s in a name?
As for Hartley’s championing of the preferred name issue, her efforts are certainly drawing attention to a growing issue in the campus card community. It’s an issue that, unfortunately, is partially the result of negative student experiences.
“The working group was inspired by several truly negative situations experienced by transgender students within the classroom setting,” explains Hartley. “It went so far as one student being threatened with a charge of academic dishonesty.”
As the manager for New Mexico’s LoboCard Office, Hartley was contacted regarding the issue and readily volunteered to be part of an on-campus working group. “The director of the LGBTQ Resource Center approached our Provost with the student narratives and he immediately supported the effort,” says Hartley. “The goal of the working group is to support the University’s ideals of inclusion and a respectful campus environment.”
The working group is tasked with researching the issues and developing a plan. In addition to Hartley, it is made up of the University Registrar, the LGBTQ Resource Center Director, the LGBTQ Resource Center’s Trans-Inclusion Specialist, and the manager of the IT team that feeds Banner data to the university’s carding software.
The way forward
The preferred name issue runs far deeper than a simple moniker or namesake. The name we use to identify ourselves includes the identity that we claim.
The use of preferred names on campus cards is not a distant issue, but rather has already arrived.
Hartley points out that preferred names have been a topic at a number of national conferences this year including NACCU, Ellucian, Illinois State Board of Education Special Ed Conference, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and more.
With so many universities facing the issue, a viable, proven solution will be required to tackle the issue on a larger scale. The good news is that some pioneers are already paving the way for others to follow.
“A number of universities have developed policy statements asserting their intention to honor preferred name as much as possible, and many of them have created manual processes to enable the use of preferred name in key systems such as email and the campus directory,” she explains. “Some have been able to integrate preferred names into their student information systems, and a few have even managed to automate it all the way through to their card systems.”