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Loyola Allows Students to Go By ‘Preferred Name’ in New Policy

Courtesy of Loyola University Chicago

Thanks to a new Loyola policy, students no longer have to go by a name in the classroom that doesn’t represent their gender identity. 

Loyola’s Office of the Dean of Students adopted a new policy which allows students to go by a “preferred name” — an alternative to an individual’s legal first, middle, and/or last name. The change comes after several transgender students and the organization Gender Exploration Understanding Support Society (GUESS) pushed for an easier name-changing process to better represent their gender identity. 

In the past, Loyola required students’ legal names to be used in all circumstances, and only allowed a new name if it had been changed in court, The Phoenix previously reported.

Students can now add a preferred name on LOCUS — Loyola’s online registration and records portal — under the “Names” folder in “Personal Portfolio.” Students’ preferred names will then appear in LOCUS, class and grade rosters, the Outlook email system and Sakai, Loyola’s online classroom resource. The list will expand in the future, said Will Rodriguez, Loyola’s dean of students and assistant vice president. 

“Except when an individual’s legal name is required by law, policy or business needs, current employees and current students may choose to be identified in some university systems by the preferred name that they have designated in accordance with this policy,” the policy states.

Rory Btzer, a 19-year-old transgender student at Loyola, said he was excited to hear about Loyola’s new policy surrounding preferred names. The sophomore said in his experience at Loyola, professors are understanding about going by a name different than what’s on the roster, but said the situation is “awkward” and “frustrating” to explain.

“I think the hardest thing for me is the Outlook email showing up without my preferred name,” Btzer, a social work major, said. “I would sign emails to professors who I had an established relationship with, and they would still respond with my given name because it showed up in Outlook.”

Rodriguez said preferred names will be available in the Wellness Center system and on Campus ID Cards by the middle of the semester, and in the Residence Life system within the next two weeks.

A separate request must be filed in order to change a student’s name on their diploma, and a preferred name can’t be used for cases where a legal name is required, such as financial aid documents, tax forms, paychecks, billing statements, university transcripts and more, according to the policy. 

Rodriguez said the idea for the policy was first brought to his attention when he started at Loyola in 2017. He said he met with many student groups, one of them being GUESS, that shared struggles some transgender students have with explaining their preferred name. 

MC Sullivan, a transgender student studying communications and political science, said he feels “awkward and uncomfortable” emailing professors ahead of time to let them know he goes by a name different than what’s on the class roster, only to have them still call him by his birth name in class. 

National Center for Transgender Equality

Sullivan, 20, said he was loosely involved with GUESS in helping to convince Loyola’s administration to create a preferred name policy, and said he was happy to hear about the policy being implemented. Students received an email from the university over the summer announcing the policy. 

“I got the email just out of the blue this summer … and I was just really excited and I took a screenshot and sent it to my friends,” the junior said. “It’s just a huge relief that I don’t have to worry about it.”

Btzer said he was glad to hear the policy will change names in so many of the university’s systems, including Outlook and Sakai. 

“I had pretty low expectations, honestly, so I was a bit surprised, but it’s completely awesome,” Btzer said. “It definitely makes me feel more at ease.” 

Rodriguez said the idea was explored in the past at Loyola, but limitations in certain university systems — especially LOCUS — made the systems changes difficult. However, due to updates in LOCUS, it’s now possible. 

Work began at the beginning of the summer, and while the original goal was to have the preferred name policy ready by spring or fall of 2020, it’s ready now in most of the university’s systems.

“It’s a continued process … [but] with time, preferred names will continue to appear in more and more places,” Rodriguez said. “This was a big collaboration between so many people and so many offices, this was a group of really well-intended people.”

Although Loyola’s Jesuit Catholic identity could be seen as a potential roadblock for such a policy, the policy states it’s meant to create an inclusive environment for all.

Rodriguez said he thinks the university’s adoption of the policy could pave the way for other Jesuit institutions to implement something similar. 

Georgetown University — one of the nation’s oldest Jesuit universities — has a “chosen name” policy, whereby students can choose to go by a name other than their legal name. Similarly, University of San Francisco — another Jesuit institution — also has a “preferred first name” policy.

The issue of allowing people access to gender-aligning documentation goes far beyond college campuses, a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found. 

The study found nearly two-thirds — 65 percent — of responders said none of their IDs have the gender and name they prefer, and 34 percent said they have been “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave or assaulted” because the gender or name of their ID didn’t match with how they looked. 

In Illinois, the Office of the Secretary of State allows a person’s gender to be changed on their ID with a medical report form, psychiatric report form or physician’s statement. However, a name change on an ID requires proper identification such as a court order, credit card, passport, social security card or more. 

Rodriguez said he thinks there are still other ways the university can continue to benefit the experience of its transgender students. 

“There’s always room to make things better,” Rodriguez said. 

Sullivan said he thinks some of the ways Loyola could help transgender students on campus is by expanding the availability of gender-neutral bathrooms and introducing gender-neutral housing options.

Currently there are 10 bathrooms defined as unisex — gender-neutral or “family” restrooms — on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, and one at the Water Tower Campus, according to a university webpage.

Rory Butzer’s last name was originally spelled Btzer in the article. That was incorrect — the correct spelling is Butzer. 

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