Allegheny implements chosen name policy

Emily Hayhurst, Contributing Writer

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This semester, Allegheny is implementing a “Chosen Name” policy that will allow students to officially change their name within the college without having to change it legally.

The chosen name will then appear on WebAdvisor, Sakai, and in the student’s email address. Professors and other faculty will be encouraged to refer to the student by their chosen name.

The policy aims to increase support for students who identify with a gender other than the one assigned at birth, as well as international students who wish to use an English name.

Provost and Dean of the College Ron Cole said it is about the respect Allegheny has for its community.

“We recognize the importance of respecting students’ identities,” Cole said.

Cole also explained that Allegheny was in the process of implementing the Chosen Name policy before the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released the “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students” in May 2016.

The letter outlines the civil rights of transgender students based on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which banned sex discrimination.

“This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status,” the letter states. “The Departments treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.”

The letter also lays out the rights of transgender students, including their right to be called by the name and pronouns consistent with their identity by their school. The letter specifies, “Under Title IX, a school must treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their education records or identification documents indicate a different sex. The Departments have resolved Title IX investigations with agreements committing that school staff and contractors will use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s gender identity.”

We recognize the importance of respecting students’ identities.”

— Ron Cole

Allegheny’s Chosen Name policy ensures these rights as laid out in the letter, according to justin adkins, director of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access and Social Justice Center.

“[The policy] reflects that we want to refer to students as they choose out of respect for them,” said adkins.

The policy also makes it much easier for students to go by their chosen name, as the information is shown in all Allegheny records, according to the Allegheny website.

“Before, you would have to go to advisors, professors and classmates to explain,” adkins said. “That is so exhausting. It’s a burden students should not have to deal with here.”

Under the new policy, professors and other faculty members will already have the student’s chosen name on record.

Creating the opportunity for transgender students to change their names is a crucial action for the college to help them be who they truly are, adkins said.

“For a transgender student, consistently being called something that is not your name just reinforces someone you aren’t,” he said. “Why would we want to reinforce the wrong idea? Why would we want to reinforce who you are not?”

adkins said the Allegheny Community sees the new policy as a way to improve on the student experience.

“We want to create a better environment for you by calling you your name,” adkins said. “This better environment will allow students to feel more comfortable at Allegheny and have a better college experience.

Darnell Epps, associate director of the IDEAS Center, also has high hopes for the policy’s effect.

“The aim [of the policy] is to create a stronger sense of empowerment for the students,” he said. “It also shows Allegheny’s commitment to inclusivity, acceptance, and respect.”

Since the Chosen Name policy is going into effect for the first time this semester, there has not been much time for feedback, but adkins said the response from students has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

“The level of excitement is very high,” adkins said. “They’re all just so excited.”

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