The Western Student Association (WSA) passed a resolution Wednesday Feb. 19 that supports the office of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender (LBGT) Student Services in their efforts to create a Preferred Name Policy.
The policy is designed for those who prefer to identify as a name different from their legal one.
The non-official name change only pertains to the first name, and is generally targeted at people who are transitioning in gender.
“The creation of a Preferred Name Policy will allow students the freedom of expression, and assist in fostering a safe environment,” said WSA Vice President Molly Cahill. “The creation and execution of a Preferred Name Policy will promote an inclusive environment at WMU.”
Currently, WMU does not have a Preferred Name Policy, and only supports legally changed names.
However, the legal change of name can be a financial and timely burden that is difficult for most students, Cahill said.
“I personally know many transgender and transsexual people,” said WSA Senator Jill Winfield. “This is something that would impact them in a huge way. It would take away the embarrassment of people judging you when they hear your name called during role.”
Many universities already have this policy. Wright State University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Michigan are on the list. The universities allow students to use a different name for their identification cards, student accounts, and transcripts.
What the policy will change for WMU is still undecided. The Office of LGBT has a committee working on it to figure out the details. So far, Cahill does not know if other offices support the policy’s creation.
In order to show student support, Cahill has offered to sit on the committee. She has also given the Office of LGBT information about the policy.
Members of the WSA were concerned with students abusing this policy. The main point was students who changed their name as a joke. Conversations with the administration will set the boundaries for the name changes.
However, it was agreed upon that this is something the WSA should support. The WSA represents the students. This is the first time the students have backed this policy.
“If ten people abuse it,” Winfield said. “It would be worth the one person who is positively impacted.”
The concept was first introduced by the Student Association of Michigan (SAM). SAM is Michigan’s only organization dedicated to representing all the students in the state. Their organization brings representatives from fifteen major public universities to discuss the issues that matter most to students. SAM was established in 2007.