By SABINA IDRIZ
The University’s preferred name policy was put into place at the beginning of 2017. It allows students to submit a different name than their birth name through MyDusis. This preferred name can be used in all Drake documents that don’t require a legal name.
The policy states its goal is to provide “consistent preferred-name experience across University systems and the use of one’s preferred name wherever legal name is not absolutely necessary. Students advocating for such a policy worked together with faculty to create it.
“We formed a working group made up of students, staff, and administrators to look at the scope of the project and see what exactly would need to be addressed, do some benchmarking with institutions that have already done this work and determine what the workload would look like at Drake,” said Tony Tyler, director of Student Engagement, Equity and Inclusion. “We went through a several month process of reviewing all those pieces and after that, we determined it was feasible to do. We also knew it was a long-term project … it was a multi-month process and we made it happen.”
Many institutions have similar policies in place. These include Princeton University, the University of Iowa and Western Michigan University.
The process of changing one’s preferred name is now accessible online. Students wishing to do so can go to MyDusis and select the Personal Information tab. Once there, they should select ‘Update Preferred Name’ and follow the instructions.
On the Drake’s Preferred Name FAQ page, it states “Once entered, a user’s preferred first name may take up to two business days to reach affected systems. New preferred names are reviewed each weekday by a University staff member.”
It is a violation of the policy, and in some cases, Drake’s Code of Conduct, to submit a name for the purpose of misrepresentation or fraud. The name may also be rejected if it contains inappropriate or offensive language. These guidelines aim to prevent the abuse of the policy.
Documents, where legal names are absolutely necessary, are students’ transcripts, diplomas, visa verifications, official Drake University records and documents with the Office of Student Financial Planning. The preferred name a student has set up will not be used in these cases.
This policy can be used by anyone who wants to go by a different name. International students who wish to go by an English name while in the country and transgender students who do not want their legal names reflected on every document may benefit from this.
“We were hearing from students who were transgender and maybe had transitioned already,” Tyler said. “By using their first name, we were potentially outing them as transgender so there was a lot of feedback from students who felt it could make their lives easier and resolve safety issues.”
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found in a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health this past March that when transgender youths are allowed to use their ‘chosen name’ in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops. Compared with peers who could not use their chosen name in any context, young transgender people who could use their name in all four areas experienced 71 percent fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34 percent decrease in reported thoughts of suicide and a 65 percent decrease in suicidal attempts.
“Students deserve to be in a place where they feel as though they are safe being themselves, and giving them that opportunity is a way to easily address the issue without it becoming something they may have to reach out to a professor for,” said Paige Penningroth, a first-year student. “It becomes more normal and therefore as a culture leads to more acceptance of people of all genders.”
This policy is up for review every two years, and so it may be modified come spring. Tyler does not expect any significant changes to be made.“We’re definitely not taking it and adjusting it so significantly that it changes its process, but we’re making sure it is achieving its process,” Tyler said. “At this point, it’s review to make sure all the parts are clicking … just continuing to upkeep and make sure it’s effective.”