What’s in a name?

There is a new policy on campus that allows students to designate chosen names other than their legal names. On Aug. 29, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Ame Lambert sent an email to all students introducing the policy, which is known as the Chosen Name Policy. This policy can be used for a variety of reasons, including gender identity, cultural preferences, preferred nicknames or monikers. 

The policy currently only impacts students, but the school is working quickly to extend its effects to employees as well. 

There is a website linked within the email that provides further information as well as instructions for how to complete the process. The name change will appear on class and resident life rosters, advisor and Dean’s lists, ID Cards and data request responses from the Registrar’s office. Despite this policy, certain documents such as federal, medical and financial aid are unable to reflect the change and will still use one’s legal name. 

In Dr. Lambert’s email, she said feedback has been positive and the only disappointment is the fact that the process to include faculty and staff is taking longer, as there are so many systems to integrate. She said this is something students and faculty have been advocating for, and that Assistant Director for Queer and Trans Student Initiatives Gabby Porcaro and Title IX Coordinator Dr. Jen Stanley have had powerful voices in the advocacy process. This policy is an update to a process created in 2015, led by Vice President of Student Life Dr. John King,. The current update has been in the works for several months. Dr. Lambert is delighted with the policy and urges the RWU community to look forward to further updates and other initiatives associated with equity and diversity.

Although the email was sent to all students, many were unaware of the new policy. 

Freshman Olivia Lozier was unfamiliar with the policy, but after given an explanation thought it was a valuable change for the school.

“I think it’s a positive thing because some don’t go by a given name, so it could make them more comfortable to go by what they want,” Lozier said.

Dariana Peña, a freshman who heard about the policy through email and from her professors also thought it was a positive change.

“I think it’s a good idea for people who are transitioning because their dead name bothers them a lot,” Peña said. “You want a school of support and this is a good way to do it.” 

The term “dead name” comes from the queer and trans community, referring to one’s legal name that they no longer go by.

“Our queer and trans students, while excited about the updated policy, are cautiously hopeful and anxiously awaiting the arrival of a change to the single sign on process,” Porcaro said.

As it stands now, the single sign on process does not reflect changes made through the Chosen Name Policy — meaning even if someone has gone through the process, the first initial of their username used throughout campus applications (first initial & last name) will still reflect their legal and not chosen name.

“This particular piece of the puzzle is incredibly important for our trans community members, as they navigate being outed with their own trans identity,” Porcaro explained.

The original email sent out to all students about this policy includes recognition about this missing piece and states it will be addressed in the final phase of the project. Porcaro hopes that this final phase and solution will come sooner rather than later.