This past month, the Divisions of Student Life, Academic Affairs, and Information Resources & Technology at Rowan implemented changes offering students a preferred name option for documents that do not require a legal name.
This includes changes in phone and email directories, Rowan ID cards, and the online forums Blackboard and Canvas.
The option, which is the first of a number of measures being implemented towards protecting the rights of students from discrimination and harm, will help students who desire to be called a name other than their legal name due to gender, cultural, or social identity.
Rowan’s decision stems from the initiative taken by three students who expressed their concern to Rowan’s Board of Trustees during the spring 2015 semester. According to Richard Jones, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students, the students concerns were addressed through a number of meetings before more official action was taken.
“The rights of our students to be protected from discrimination and harm are of utmost importance,” said Jones. “We agreed that such a mechanism should be made available to them and that it should be a formal and official policy of the university.”
Roberta Harvey, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said that many students and staff will be able to utilize this program, which is in compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Civil Rights Act. More specifically, this will help students who experience gender dysphoria, which often affects the individual’s disposition and “detracts from focusing on their academic and extracurricular activities.”
“Rowan is a student’s home away from home and students should feel comfortable in their home,” said Harvey.
James Silva, a sophomore Communications Studies Major with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies and founding father of the Preferred Name Campaign, stated that this is the first step in helping the LGBTQ+ community.
“I am so excited that this is finally available to the community here on campus. With this being out in the public, it will show incoming students that Rowan is a university with LGBTQ+ Safer Spaces,” said Silva. “It also helps students that already go here, whether they are transgender/gender nonconforming or even if they just go by their middle name, that we are here to help them feel comfortable.”
Liz Ditzel, a senior writing arts major and coordinator of True Colors said that she is “happy to see that the campus is taking strides to support EVERY student.”
Rowan is not the only college initiating this process. Within New Jersey, both Rutgers University (Fall 2014) and Princeton (Spring 2015) have already established preferred name policies, while Montclair has plans to follow.
For now, students hoping to take advantage of the new policy should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Preferred Name.” From this, the request will be reviewed and entered by the Registrar in the system. Eventually, students will be allowed to directly enter a preferred name in Banner.