By NIA BENTALL
A list containing the legal names of all University of Mary Washington undergraduate students and their class credit status was recently sent out to all undergraduate students. This could be problematic, as there is the possibility that a transgender student could have a name they do not prefer on the list, which would expose their status as a transgender student
The Battlefield yearbook sent out the list on Feb. 20 with the instructions to “Please take a moment to check your classification… on the Excel spreadsheet attached to this email.”
The Excel spreadsheet attached contained all undergraduate students’ legal names and their class classification, according to the Registrar records. The email was intended to fix a problem the yearbook has had in past years with incorrectly stating a student’s graduating class.
Charles Girard, vice president of People for the Rights of Individuals of Sexual Minorities (PRISM), said, “we understand the list was sent out with good intentions and the yearbook is striving to improve, but the execution of the solution was done without thought to trans [gender] students.”
Whitney Hanlin, graduate assistant and advisor to the yearbook, said she was asked by Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Searcy to figure out a way to classify student with their graduating class in the yearbook, and there is no way to figure this out through the registrar, which has students listed solely based on credits.
Hanlin said that the list sent out was her and Searcy’s idea, and that the “students in the yearbook had no role in this process.”
She added, “we won’t send out the list ever again, it was not sent out with bad intention.”
Annie Truslow, student representative for the sociology department and president of Feminists United on Campus, took action when she saw the list was sent out. Truslow sent an email to many administrators detailing why she found the list problematic.
“I found the possibility for exposure of individuals’ legal names to be deeply troubling. The primary reason I felt compelled to take action was the very real possibility of violence against members of our community who are transgender,” said Truslow.
She also added that for many transgender people, concealing the legal and biological sex is paramount in the process of transitioning from one gender to another.
The emotional distress caused by being called a legal name is serious.
“Being called an old name can be triggering for many transgender students. I know students who have left classrooms because being called an old name during attendance can be emotionally overwhelming,” said Girard.
Jack Pando, president of PRISM, said it can be hard for trans [gender] people to change their legal name due to obstacles such as court attendance and fees attached. Some counties have a law requiring that a person wishing to change their legal name have to travel to their home county in order to do so, something which can be difficult for college students.
Pando said that many policies concerning legal names, such as Banner and Eagle One cards, cause obstacles for transgender students but adds, “slowly but surely things are changing, but it could be changing faster.”
Monique dela Cruz, Student Government Association vice president, says her initial concern with the list was with the sharing of class credit status.
“If a third year student has sophomore credits, it could expose academic issues, which could be embarrassing for the student,” said dela Cruz.
Dela Cruz added that she also sees the impact on transgender students, and wants to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
A meeting that is yet to be scheduled will be set up between Girard, Truslow, Pando and Searcy to discuss the issue.
“What I hope to gain from meeting with Searcy is assurance that administrators at the University of Mary Washington truly do value the extent to which the actions of our university honor or violate our community values,” said Truslow.
In regards to the issue, Searcy said, “It is my hope to hear their concerns and that together we can come up possible solutions.”
Searcy wrote a reply to Truslow, which said, “I am fully invested in setting processes that supports our students.”
Although this misstep occurred, Girard said that overall, the climate towards transgender students on campus is friendly.
Pando is glad the issue is being taken seriously, and said he is “happy the administration is willing to talk to us.”
Truslow feels the same way, and added, “I will always hold administrators to the expectation that my voice is something to be listened to, and that I deserve a response that shows appreciation for my concerns… I am confident that his [Searcy’s] willingness to go beyond what is required to value students’ voices will continue to positively impact the culture and climate of Mary Washington.”