Published June 15, 2022
SUNY is updating its policies on chosen names and pronouns to create a more accepting campus environment for students, but the changes are nothing new for UB.
Since 2017, UB students have had the ability to add their chosen or preferred name in campus operating systems as part of the university record, says Sharon Nolan-Weiss, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
“This past month, UB incorporated pronouns into our student systems, so students can now enter this information,” Nolan-Weiss says. “Pronouns will appear on class rosters and student systems for students who have chosen to enter them. Students also have the choice not to have their pronouns appear.”
The SUNY Board of Trustees recently directed all 64 of its campuses to update their policies on chosen names and pronouns to ensure that transgender, gender non-conforming and nonbinary students are fully reflected in campus systems.
Not only does it help students feel safer, but it’s a matter of respect to the LGBTQIA+ community, SUNY and UB officials say.
“Names and pronouns go to the core of our identities,” Despina Stratigakos, vice provost for inclusive excellence, explains. “The changes to UB systems enable people to make self-affirming choices and to provide the tools we need to treat our community members with respect. That is why it is so important to ensure that all our systems are helping, rather than hindering, our goals to be inclusive of everyone.”
By the start of the 2023 fall semester, all SUNY campuses are required to reflect chosen names and pronouns in “any instance consistent with federal law.” That would, for example, allow chosen names and pronouns to appear on campus portals, class rosters and student email addresses, among other records, according to SUNY.
SUNY students who identify as nonbinary also will be able to select “X” when asked by their college to provide a gender. New York State began offering this option last month on driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and non-driver identification cards.
But the use of “X” for nonbinary students is one issue UB still has to work out, Nolan-Weiss says.
While UB has an option to include a nonbinary designation on HUB, for example, “federal reporting requirements are, unfortunately, still in a male or female binary format, so our legal-sex field has followed this,” she says.
One area the SUNY policy does not speak to, but that UB is trying to address, is how chosen names and pronouns apply to employees, Nolan-Weiss adds.
The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion collects employee information on gender identity as part of a self-reported survey. That data, however, is not included in the university’s official personnel system, she says.
“Similarly, employees have limited options for adding chosen names,” Nolan-Weiss says.
She and Stratigakos have been working with Information Technology and Human Resources to better reflect an employee’s gender identity, but given the complexities of UB’s systems, these changes may take some time, Nolan-Weiss says.
I love that UB and SUNY are taking steps toward a more inclusive community.
I would like to comment on something that we deal with often. It is important to mention that the improvements on chosen names are not proprietary to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Our international community, who often seek western/English names to be identified, or individuals who are not comfortable with their names and prefer to be called differently, can also benefit from these services, and that should be publicly acknowledged, too.
I do understand the focus is on LGBTQIA+. I just wanted to make the distinction that the services we provide can be for everyone who feels those needs.
An example that I use often is single-user bathrooms. They are not meant only for nonbinary/nonconforming individuals. They are also for people in the community who have different levels of mental and physical health issues, and require a level of privacy that a shared bathroom cannot provide.
Thank you for the platform.