Rutgers name policy reflects societal changes
Preferred name option acknowledges LGBT community
According to a new Rutgers policy that became operational just last week, students can now fill out a form to have their preferred name instead of their legal name used on class rosters, Sakai and Rutgers Grading and Information System. This will be a one-time form that students can fill out instead of having to email professors in advance to request they use a different name or pronoun. This is only the first phase of the policy. The second phase will include preferred names on student ID cards and housing rosters. This is especially important for transgender or gender nonconforming students, and we think it is an important step the University is taking (and should have taken a while ago, anyway).
International students can also benefit from this policy. Many international students prefer to use names easier for Americans to pronounce than their legal names, so it makes more sense to have their preferred names used in class and on Sakai as well.
There’s always the potential for some people to possibly take advantage of this policy purely to be obnoxious. Unfortunately, we can definitely see future attempts by some students to insist their preferred name is “Poop McFart” just for the hell of having it on a class roster.
But this policy is being implemented after two years of the University working out the technicalities, so hopefully enough of the issues have been worked out to ensure everything runs smoothly. Also, Rutgers definitely isn’t the first university to create this policy — it’s been in place at institutions such as the University of Vermont since 2009 and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 2013.
This policy might not seem like a big deal to those of us who don’t identify as transgender, but it’s a very important step for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Unless you’re a part of that community, you obviously wouldn’t be able to relate — but that doesn’t matter. The point is policies such as this one are important details in the overall movement for social justice that should never be overlooked. We might not always be aware of it, but our names make up a huge part of our identities. If we choose to present ourselves a certain way, we should also feel comfortable with our names. Legally changing a name is a tedious process, so for those students who would like to start transitioning with a preferred name this policy will make it much easier. Besides, in most instances in a university setting, using a legal name isn’t absolutely necessary. It only makes sense to have a formal way to ensure that at least for now, preferred names are understood by professors, and individuals who have any problems using their legal names don’t have to feel unnecessarily uncomfortable about it anymore.
We’re hopeful that in the future, there won’t be any attempts by people to use this policy to misrepresent themselves or others. As policies such as this one are implemented in more and more institutions, attitudes toward transgender and gender nonconforming individuals and the community as a whole should be shifting too. We hope that this policy proves to be helpful for those who need it.