UC Santa Barbara will begin using preferred names in all campus services on June 16, affecting access cards, class rosters and faculty interactions with students.
Celestino Jones, a second-year music composition major, came out as transgender during the beginning of his second year at UCSB. “I’ve been stopped at the dining commons before because I don’t look like a ‘Celeste,’” Jones said, after undergoing hormone therapy that changed his appearance.
He now has the opportunity to purchase a new access card with his preferred name without having to legally change his documentation.
“It grew out of the desire to support transgender students specifically, because there are many transgender students whose legal name is not consistent with their identity,” Leesa Beck, the university registrar, said. She also hopes the efforts will improve academic experiences for international students who may use alternate names.
Students are currently able to change their name through Identity Services or by submitting a petition to the registrar. Certain programs, such as G.O.L.D., source data directly from the registrar’s office, but many organizations such as GauchoSpace interact with numerous other databases like Identity Services.
Beginning in the summer, the registrar’s office hopes to streamline all name change requests by communicating their information to as many “data feeds” as possible.
“Identities are static, sometimes someone goes by one name for a part of their life and they have a shift.” — Dave Whitman
“We think we have caught most of the major ones, but there are literally hundreds around the campus, so we may continue to find ones that we have missed, and have to make updates after we go live,” Beck said.
Departments that require legal verification, such as the financial aid office, Student Health and Counseling & Psychological Services, are the only groups that will receive both the legal name and the preferred name for each student. Staff members at these locations will be directed to use preferred names when addressing students and legal names when submitting and verifying claims, Beck said.
The new system will only allow students to change first names, requiring legal documentation to change last names. Although this leaves room for falsification, Beck said she has spoken with schools who use preferred names and found that students “almost never abuse the system.”
“It would be like putting a weird fake name on LinkedIn or something. No one wants that to be the name their professors are calling them by,” she said. “So for now there will be no “policing” of the names entered. If it becomes a problem down the line, we will reassess.”
The registrar’s office will be working with the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) to publicize and implement the changes after Spring Quarter grades are finalized.
Dave Whitman, the director of the RCSGD, said “a lot of people take names and pronouns for granted” because they never feel misrepresented by their legal name.
“Identities are static, sometimes someone goes by one name for a part of their life and they have a shift,” he said. “We just want students to feel like there are services in place that validate the experiences that they are having.”
“It’s a very rough patch of time telling everyone what your new name and pronouns are and why they’re that way.” — Celestino Jones
When beginning previous quarters at UCSB, Jones said he would sometimes find himself staying quiet during roll call, waiting until the end of class to correct his teachers about his name. He is “grateful” that professors and teaching assistants will only have access to his preferred name next year, and said several other students will benefit as well.
“It’s a very rough patch of time telling everyone what your new name and pronouns are and why they’re that way,” he said. “It can alleviate a lot of stress, I suppose, if the name that you prefer is the name that everyone calls you by.”
Although the new system will be implemented throughout UCSB in the fall, Jones, who is a chair for the RCGSD transgender taskforce, said it will not be a “fix-all” for transgender inclusivity. He explained that faculty members can learn about gender identity and make students feel safe by asking them about their preferred pronouns.
“I know that even though I told people my preferred name, there were still some folks who made the mistakes of using the wrong pronouns,” Jones said. “It’s all about being educated!”
A version of this story appeared on p. 1 of the Thursday, May 26, 2016, edition of the Daily Nexus.