Faculty and staff will soon be able to have a preferred name


Liam Joy, a senior digital media production major, is one of many Kent State students who are able to use their preferred names under the new system on FlashLine. 

Madison Baughman

The dark-haired student sat in his class waiting for it to begin. His professor started calling out names for attendance. Once the professor called out the name Paige, he raised his hand and a deep male voice said “here.”

Liam Joy, a senior digital media production major, was one of many students who was unable to use the name he chose to go by rather than the name he was given at birth before the preferred name policy was implemented in FlashLine.

After class, Joy talked to his professor and explained the university recognized him as his legal name, which at the time was Paige, but he had recently started going by the name Liam. Joy said the professor was very respectful of his decision and changed his name to Liam on the attendance sheet.

In the fall of 2016, the university implemented a preferred names policy on FlashLine. Currently, only students at Kent State are allowed to have a preferred name. Kent faculty and staff are not yet given the same opportunity.

The term “preferred name” allows people to choose a name they’re more comfortable with instead of being addressed by their legal name.

“It impacts a lot of people in the LGBTQ community — especially our trans members of the community who maybe go by a different first name than what’s on their birth certificate,” said Amanda Leu, the academic diversity outreach coordinator for the College of Communication and Information as well as president of Spectrum, the LGBTQ staff group on campus.

Students can add their preferred name in FlashLine and the name will then be added to the class roster for professors and classmates. This new feature helps students feel more comfortable while in class.

Spectrum is pushing for faculty and staff to have that same preferred name policy as students.

Leu narrowed down the preferred name policy to two basic factors: What name do you go by? Is that name different than what’s on your legal documents? No problem, she said. Leu wants everyone to have the opportunity to enter their preferred name into the system.

“It also affects tons of other communities as well,” Leu said. “It really impacts our international students. A lot of our international students have maybe more complicated names here in the English language so they’ll adopt sort of an Americanized name while they’re over here. They can put that in the preferred name system.”

She gave another example where international teachers, with hard-to-pronounce names in the English language, have been stereotyped by students because of the name they see on FlashLine.

Leu explained there’s only certain places preferred names can show up. The preferred name helps people within the university refer to one another in the way that makes them feel the most comfortable, but on documents such as your diploma, your legal name will appear because of federal regulations.

In April, faculty and staff met to discuss the plan to allow preferred names going forward.

“Everyone was in agreement that this is important and we need to do this,” Leu said. “It was just a matter of getting all the right people together.”

Leu saw no one opposing the motion for faculty and staff to have preferred names, but there’s a process they have to go through. There was also a wait for the new hire of John Rathje as the vice president of Information Services on March 5.

Andrea Nunley, the executive director of Information Services, said in an email the process will require thorough testing to make sure the correct names are provided in the systems. Nunley also wrote they are in the design and planning phase of the project and will soon be starting the development.

In January 2017, Joy utilized the preferred name system in FlashLine to change his name from Paige to Liam. Plans for the preferred name system for faculty and staff are in progress, although Nunley said there is no implementation date determined as of now.

“When I started telling my friends and my family that I was going by Liam, I was like, ‘OK, this is here. I’ve created this new identity for myself,’” Joy said. “And then when I did the preferred name change, then it was known campus-wide and university-wide, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, this is Liam.’ It definitely helped a lot.”

Madison Baughman is the diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected]