IUP implemented a new preferred name policy in March to allow students, faculty, staff and alumni to formally change the name by which they are addressed in all university-related records.
The policy allows IUP community members to be addressed by a name that is not their legal name in all forms of communication such as I-Cards, MyIUP, news releases and commencement booklets.
However, the policy cannot apply to communications related to university business or legal needs such as diplomas, transcripts, legal documents, bills and employment verification. This is because a person’s name can be only changed in such instances with proof of legal documentation verifying the change. The policy has been in the works for about a year.
Before that, the university had an informal process of responding to preferred name requests, according to Tedd Cogar, assistant director for the Office of Student Conduct and an LGBTQIA advocate.
“With the creation of my position, the need was identified to respond in a more formal way to these types of requests, so we formed a task force to identify areas of response for the university,” Cogar said.
“The Preferred First Name policy was an easy area for us to work on completing.
“In addition to this being an area that we were working on, the U.S. departments of justice and education released a joint ‘Dear Colleague’ letter in May 2016. This letter provided additional guidance for the work we had already started.”
The policy began as a way to make IUP more inclusive to members of the LGBTQIA community, but expanded to include all individuals since it was recognized that others could benefit from the new policy, as well. The change is geared toward individuals who prefer a middle name, nickname, anglicized name or name for which the individual is in the process of legally changing.
Cogar said he has already seen some requests received under the new policy, but “the importance of the policy goes beyond any number of uses.”
In order to take advantage of the new policy, students should fill out the request form and submit it to the Office of the Registrar.
Employees should submit the form to the Office of Human Resources, and alumni will submit it to the Office of Advancement Services.
Individuals will be notified within 10 business days whether their application has been accepted or rejected. Rejections may be issued to avoid “a legal obligation, fraud, obscene/offensive language or misrepresentation,” according to the IUP website. Rejected applications can appeal.
Cogar said the new policy helps establish of mutual respect among members of the IUP community.
“A name is a part of our identity, just as our pronouns are tied to our identity,” Cogar said. “By respecting the individual’s preferred first name, either in a classroom setting or in a dining facility where individuals will call out the name on an I-Card, it is important to respect the preferred name and pronouns of individuals.”
Cogar also said a preferred name change can become a safety issue for transgender students who may no longer look like the photo on their I-Card or “who may be living out their known identities, which can be different than their sex assigned at birth.”
Cogar said he wanted to thank everyone whose hard work helped make the policy a reality.
“The fact that IUP now has a Preferred First Name Policy for all individuals is great news,” he said.