Preferred name policy updated

Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor Credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor

Carnegie Mellon issued an update to the preferred name guidelines for students this fall.

The changes were announced in an email sent by Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno last Monday. According to the email, student-specified preferred names have been used in all Blackboard courses since the summer semester. The message said that preferred names have now also been added to Health Services records, course photo rosters, and residential rosters.

Records for University Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, and housefellows and residential administrative staff will now contain students’ preferred names as well as their legal ones. Photo rosters will contain students’ preferred names instead of their legal ones.

Any student who wants to set a preferred name needs to log in to Student Information Online (SIO) and select the preferred first name option under “View and Update My Info.”

In order to avoid any technical issues implementing the name policy, Casalegno said that working groups spent a large amount of time coding in order to “build the right infrastructure, which is part of what took us so long” in rolling out the new preferred name policy.

Junior global studies and Chinese studies double major Colin Meret, the president of ALLIES, an LBGTQ group on campus, said that preferred names are often of particular concern to transgender students.

“Definitely it’s a step in the right direction,” Meret said of the new guidelines. “Obviously, transgender students face many challenges in college.”

Meret recalled the steps his predecessors took to encourage these changes, saying, “ALLIES was one of the organizations helping push this policy.”

Casalegno said that ALLIES brought forth the initial proposal for preferred name guidelines several years ago. After becoming dean of Student Affairs, Casalegno took up the issue. She said she worked for two years to develop the policy.

Meg Evans, ALLIES’ coordinator of LGBTQ resources and the Stever House housefellow, was involved in the working groups that led to the changes.

She spoke of the residential benefits of this new policy, such as RAs receiving a student’s preferred name for door decorations and other purposes before the student even arrives.

Evans also emphasized the role of awareness and education in achieving greater tolerance and understanding of the transgender community. “It’s a step,” Evans said. “But it won’t change the hearts and minds of people.”

In addition to the LBGTQ community, these changes in policy may also be pertinent to international students, who often go by a name that is not their legal name, or students who for other reasons prefer to be addressed by an alternate name.

The changes to the preferred name guidelines have been welcomed by many students.

“I feel a preferred name policy is great because it allows students to feel most comfortable on campus, even in an academic setting,” said Angelique Rein, a sophomore business and Japanese double major. “It addresses an issue that doesn’t even cross most people’s minds. It’s a step towards greater acceptance and freedom of identity for all students.”

Junior information systems and human-computer interaction major Shreepal Shah was in favor of the changes.

Shah, a TA for 73–100 Principles of Economics, said, “I could only imagine it helping, primarily because it avoids discrepancies between how you would interact with a student in class and keeping track of their grades on an official roster. The more consistency, the better.”