Over winter break, Binghamton University’s Division of Operations enacted a new chosen-name policy, which gives students and employees the opportunity to use a first name other than their legal or official name to identify themselves on University information systems.
BU’s Information Technology Services (ITS) and Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), along with the BU Council and Student Association (SA) E-Board, worked on the policy for the past year. SA President Emma Ross, a senior double-majoring in political science and psychology, said she believes allowing students to be recognized by the name they feel most comfortable with is an important step toward inclusivity at BU.
“Every student has a right to feel recognized, safe and supported on this campus, and I believe this is a step in the direction of achieving that goal,” Ross said.
The chosen-name policy affords members of the University community further autonomy in regard to their personal identity, according to John Santare, SA vice president for academic affairs and a senior double-majoring in biology and comparative literature.
“[The policy] is a welcomed step forward from the University in terms of acknowledgment and acceptance,” Santare said. “Unfortunately, not all students experience the same level of encouragement and support when away from campus. I believe students who are unable to change their legal name — whether or not that is due to fears of ‘coming out’ — will benefit from this policy most. I hope this policy is utilized by all those who need to be recognized and have their identity be acknowledged.”
The policy states that, while students and employees must still be able to provide government-issued identification with their legal name where and when required, chosen names will be used for a number of systems and records, including, but not limited to, their University ID card, myBinghamton and myCourses, class rosters and B-mail display names. As specified in the policy, chosen names shall not be used for the purpose of misrepresentation, avoiding legal obligations or in any manner that violates University policies or federal, state or local laws.
According to Santare, the SA is currently working on other projects that could further benefit the University’s LGBTQ community, as personal identity through chosen names is not the only concern for LGBTQ students and employees.
“Transgender people experience more mental health issues and instances of sexual violence than cisgender people,” Santare said. “I have been researching mental health resources here at [BU] and compiling them for easy reference. I just joined a newly formed mental health task force, and I have had several meetings with the assistant vice president for health and wellness.”
Franklin Richards, BU Council student representative and a second-year graduate student studying public administration, said student leadership bodies such as the SA and student representatives are dedicated to laying foundations that future leaders can build on. For example, Richards’ BU Council student representative predecessor, Harry Bittker, ‘19, worked closely with University administrators when the chosen-name policy was first in the works.
“My hope for the policy is that it makes people feel more comfortable, safe and accepted at [BU],” Richards said. “Knowing someone’s name, especially the name they want to be addressed by, allows for people to feel a connection to the University — especially as they spend most of their time here. If we are truly going to make [BU] feel like a home away from home, this policy is a positive step in the right direction.”
To submit a chosen name, students and employees can access the ‘Chosen Name Request Form’ on the left-hand side of their myBinghamton dashboard. More information about the new policy is available on the University’s website.