A petition advocating for legitimization of students’ preferred names has been circulating the USD campus for the last month in an effort to change the university’s name policy.
This petition will allow students to change their legal names to their preferred name on their myUSD portals including on their emails and Desire2Learn accounts, their identification cards and other important documents.
Currently, USD policy mandates that students and faculty must have a legal name change in order to change their name in the school systems.
Forming the petition
Olivia Mann, senior criminal justice and sociology double major, worked on starting the petition with Jae Puckett, assistant psychology professor, and other concerned students and faculty.
In an email interview with The Volante Mann said the preferred name petition was formed because university administrators said they would not be able to implement a preferred name policy until the new computer systems were brought in, which is not expected to happen until the fall of 2019.
Mann said that although some policy elements cannot be used until the computer systems can support them, she would like to see USD clarify its stance on the preferred name.
“The petition requests that USD implement an official preferred name policy in a timely manner rather than waiting to discuss such a policy until new computer systems have been implemented,” Mann said. “Until now the university has largely seemed content to wait on new computer systems to be implemented before a name policy is created.”
Petition organizers are not required to collect a minimum number of signatures. Mann said the purpose of the petition is to show the USD administration that this is an issue students care about.
“We are simply aiming to demonstrate to the USD administration that this is an issue that students, faculty, and community members would like to see addressed and resolved,” she said.
Mann said in an email interview with The Volante that she believes this petition will benefit more than just the LGBT+ community on campus.
“In reality this petition seeks to benefit any student who wishes to use a preferred name that is not their legal name,” she said. “International students, LGBTQIAP+ people, people who need to use a changed name for personal security reasons and others in similar situations could have a much more positive time at USD if a preferred name policy is in place.”
The petitioning is now over and Puckett is working on counting all the names acquired. The current count is over 300 signatures. Puckett said the next steps are to write a letter to university administrators, bring the issue to the attention of Student Government Association and deliver the petitions to both SGA and university administrators.
“We want to say ‘this is all the people that it is important to, there are probably others too and we would like you to do something sooner than fall of 2019,’” Puckett said. “It really is an urgent issue.”
Puckett said acquiring a legal name change is a hard process and should not be a requirement to use a preferred name.
“It costs altogether a couple hundred dollars to change your name legally,” Puckett said. “You have to petition the court to change your name, you have to live in the county you request the name change for at least six months and you have to publish it in the paper for two weeks when you change your name legally.”
Puckett said students and faculty should not have to go through the entire process of a legal name change in order to use their preferred name.
“You should be able to have preferred name show up to everything that is public-facing,” they said. “You should be able to have preferred name show up on a class roster so students don’t get called the wrong name, you should be able to have preferred name show up for faculty at the bookstore and you should be able to have preferred name show up on Coyote Connections.”
Megan Street, a senior anthropology major, who helped collect signatures said that even though the preferred name policy may not seem like a big deal, it would have a great impact on students’ experience at USD.
“Even something as seemingly small as this can mean the world to somebody who is gender nonconforming or transgender. It definitely fits into USD’s policy of inclusive excellence as far as embracing diversity and making sure everybody here has a comfortable learning and living environment,” they said. “We are spending so many months away from home and really this should feel like a home away from home while we are trying to get a higher education.”
Mann also said students’ USD experiences will improve if the preferred name policy is in place.
“Every person at USD can benefit from being part of a campus community that is actively seeking to support all of its community members through policies like these,” Mann said. “Supporting students in using their preferred names is a way of affirming their identities and making them truly welcome in our community, and we should be doing everything we can to achieve that end.”
Puckett noted a recent article from the Journal of Adolescent Health titled “Chosen Name Use Is Linked to Reduced Depressive Symptoms, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicidal Behavior Among Transgender Youth.” Puckett said the article is important in stating the tie between using students’ preferred names and lowered cases of depression and suicidal thought in transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.
“In this article, they talk about the importance of preferred name and the way that it affirms people’s identities and creates less risk of depression issues. I think (the preferred name policy) will create a place that students will feel more welcomed and accepted,” Puckett said. “I think this will create more safety to students on campus.”