The University Senate will extend deliberation on a policy for preferred names, sex or gender markers, titles and pronouns to its fifth semester in a row.
The legislation hopes to ease the process for students and employees — especially transgender individuals — to update their personal information. Currently, there are processes for students and employees to update or change their names and gender or sex in their personal university records, but they are separate and uncoordinated and often contradict each other, said Luke Jensen, this university’s LGBT Equity Center director.
“It’s really important to individuals to be referenced in a way that’s true to who they are,” Jensen said. “Students who are also employees were frequently caught in this in between place. … We want people to feel empowered so they can take care of themselves. Right now we have too many systems that don’t talk to each other.”
The senate’s Education, Diversity and Inclusion committee received two charges in April from the education department to finalize both the interim non-discrimination and disability and accessibility policies and procedures, as well as a mandate from the state attorney general to update the Sexual Misconduct Policy. Committee Chair Stacey Sickels-Locke said because of time constraints, the committee put the gender and preferred name policy on hold.
“There is a lot of good work that has been done,” said Sickels-Locke, a staff senator from the development department. “I do believe the next committee to take this on will be able to hit the ground running.”
Jensen submitted a proposal to the senate to create a unified policy and procedures on these issues in August 2014. In November 2014, the senate Education, Diversity and Inclusion committee voted to include in the policy how honorifics, such as Mr., Mrs. and Dr. are used, and how to recognize preferred pronouns.
“In the two years we’ve been waiting for this legislation to move forward, a lot more schools are doing it,” said Jensen, referencing the University of Michigan’s online preferred name system and the University of California’s application, which includes sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and an option to opt out.
The final policy will hopefully include an online system that is universal for students and employees so that all documents align — which the Division of Technology has supported, Jensen said. This policy won’t change the university’s use of a legal name for payroll, official transcripts and financial aid, but would show the primary name in all other uses, such as on ID cards, public directories and class lists. It would also show a student’s pronouns on class lists, and address which prefixes are used by different departments when addressing students and employees.
After two years, Jensen said he hopes the proposal will move forward and reach fruition.
“While I’m very understanding, I do wish it had gone more rapidly,” Jensen said. “I’m very heartened by the comments and the way I’ve heard these issues discussed, but two years is kind of long. … I’m anxiously awaiting for the senate to wrap this up in the fall.”
Senate Chair Jordan Goodman said he expects the bill to reach the senate floor next semester, and when it does, he sees no reason why it wouldn’t pass.
“The campus is very supportive of the kinds of things it’s talking about, it just has to come out of committee,” Goodman said. “They have been doing a good job.”
Jensen and senior theater major Radcliffe Adler agreed that the pronouns on the class lists might be the most impactful change at first.
“I definitely have memories from when I first started to change my name and change my pronouns, I remember it being very difficult in the classroom because of who knew me in my past,” said Adler, who is transgender. “I think it’s almost like backup having your pronouns on the roster.”
Jensen said these policy changes are the beginning of educating people about LGBTQ issues.
“We hear students all the time who feel like they’re being beat up because they’re being disrespected, they’re being referenced in ways that don’t align with who they are,” Jensen said. “Putting it in an official way so it’s not only policy but that it actually lives in ways that are practical and empowering to students will teach people just by being there.”