NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—At the beginning of this semester, Rutgers implemented a student "preferred name" policy, allowing students to identify themselves by a name of their choice, instead of their legal names, on class rosters and online academic systems.
As we reported earlier this year, a trans advocacy group known as Trans*missions pushed for such a policy, which affects online education systems like Sakai and the Rutgers Electronic Grading and Information systems.
“Now all Trans students have to do is fill out a quick form online instead of having to put themselves in harm's way by having to personally email all their professors… and outing themselves to them,” said Jamie DiNicola, Rutgers graduate and former President of Trans*missions.
DiNicola said the new policy is especially helpful for trans, gender-nonconforming, and non-binary students who wish to avoid being mis-gendered or misnamed in class.
“It was a huge safety hazard that could not be overlooked for much longer,” said DiNicola.
Although this issue was affecting many students for a while, it was not until Trans*missions and the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities became closely involved that the design and implimentation process started to move along.
“It is definitely fulfilling to see all of our hard work finally pay off,” said current Trans*missions president Natasha Payano.
“One of the key roadblocks, in my opinion, was the administration's inability to realize just how much of an issue this truly was, and that their delayed response was causing many of its students distress on a day to day basis,” Payano said.
“It costs $400 to legally change your name in NJ,” said DiNicola. “$400 could now be used for tuition or books or other transition related expenses.”
Coming off of this success, Trans*missions looks forward to accomplishing more this semester.
“The next steps definitely include making students aware that this is now an option for them and providing them with the necessary knowledge to be able to access this… resource,” said Payano.
According to the Center for Social Justice Education, 65 students had already signed up under the preferred name policy as of last week.