By JAMES PRYOR
One of the alluring parts of the Mary Washington identity is the steadfast ideas of inclusivity, as shown through the community goal of ASPIRE. A key point in the ASPIRE acronym is “Inclusive Excellence.” Working to include all types of people, UMW prides itself on being a hearty ally to the LGBTQ+ community. A prime example of their support is being one of only a handful of campuses in Virginia to have a gender-neutral/LGBTQ+ dorm.
However, UMW’s inclusivity is not without its faults. The preferred name change policy at the University of Mary Washington holds the potential to hurt its transgender students.
On its surface level, the preferred name change policy is a euphoria-inducing option for transgender students who wish to go by a different name than the one they were given at birth. A student can simply print out the request form found at the University’s Safe Zone Resources website, fill in their preferred name and submit the form to the Office of the Registrar on the second floor of Lee Hall. The name change takes place within three days, resetting the student’s name in banner, canvas and on official class rosters. However, the form does not allow for students to change one of the most vital things to a college student’s education: their email.
“When we initially formed a committee in an effort to address the issue of students’ preferred names, we focused on things that we could accomplish with new functionality within Banner Self-Service (SSB),” said associate registrar for Student Systems, Brian Ogle. “We also looked at how to get preferred names reflected in third-party interfaces such as Canvas, and considered places that we would not be able to display a preferred name (such as on an academic transcript). The student email address is not something that was a point of focus for that effort.”
In the reporting process for this article, the fault in the preferred name change system was brought to the attention of the Office of the Registrar and they are looking into taking positive steps to rectify these issues.
“If there is a preferred name change system, it should be able to change everything. It shouldn’t have the implication of, ‘this is what you want to be called, but this is what you’re really called,’ which is sort of what is implied when it comes to the Outlook Mail account,” said Michael-Elliot Jansen, a sophomore double majoring in anthropology and biology. “If it doesn’t change everything, it’s useless.”
“I feel like if you’re filling out a preferred name change and it’s going to change your name in banner and when professors see it, I think it’s very underhanded of them to not change your email,” said junior Bucky Goforth. “Not only is that very confusing for professors and other students, it outs you without your permission. It feels extremely invasive.”
Goforth went on to explain his own experiences with UMW’s name change policy and how even after obtaining a legal name change, his records have yet to be updated with his correct name. He was originally told he only needed to provide court papers, but was later told he needed an updated SSN card.
“I think that this whole situation of hoops that transgender students have to jump through is really shameful and goes against UMW’s core values of ASPIRE,” said Goforth.
Sophomore Gabe Martin gave an example of how the faults in the preferred name change policy had directly affected him.
“It’s very confusing for my peers. I had to email my classmates for a group project, and even though I sign my emails with my preferred name, they saw my legal name and called me that instead. It felt like a slap to the face,” said Martin.
Transgender students should not have to beg UMW for the basic respect that is guaranteed to their cisgender peers.
George Mason University’s preferred name change policy states, “Preferred names will be reflected on class rosters, in Blackboard, in Patriot Web (including Degree Works) and in directory listings including email addresses.”
If the University of Mary Washington truly prides itself on creating a safe environment on campus for its transgender students, it will work towards protecting those students more, rather than letting them become tied up in red tape and then exposed to their professors and peers.
“It just feels gross,” Martin concluded. “I really hope Mary Washington does something about it.”