September 21, 2019

Webster implements Preferred Name Policy

Transgender student Kaden Grossman said he once feared teachers outing him during roll call. Now he can control which name appears on the roster.

Kaden Grossman identifies as transgender. He said for each semester he has attended Webster, he must email each of his professors in the weeks leading up to class. In the email, he explains he chooses to go by his preferred name, Kaden, not the one listed on the class roster. 

“It is the most annoying thing ever,” Grossman said. “If you do not do that, you get outed in front of the entire class, and that is the last thing you want on your first day.”

At the beginning of the 2019 school year, Webster implemented a Preferred Name Policy and procedure. This policy allows students to designate the name they prefer to go by.

Grossman has attended Webster for three years. He said even after emailing, some professors pulled the roster up on a projector. The list of names would out Grossman’s gender identity to classmates regardless. Sometimes, professors repeatedly forget and accidentally call him by his legal name, regardless of the amount of times Grossman corrects them. 

“It is kind of like stabbing you in the chest every couple of minutes when you see [your legal name],” Grossman said. “You’re like, ‘Please take that down.’”

The preferred name policy changes a student’s name on university-maintained systems and documents. Class rosters, Webster student ID cards, Connections accounts and housing rosters are all included in the new policy. However, legal documents, such as financial aid documents and payroll, will still list a student’s legal name. 

Chief diversity officer Vincent Flewellen helped implement the new policy, and his name is listed on the press release from Webster for students with any questions. In an email, he said the policy was put in place to allow students to be called by the name they identify with.

“For example, some students have had their middle used by their parents throughout their lives and feel it is a better recognition of their identity,” Flewellen said. “Others, such as those named Elizabeth or Robert, may instead prefer being called Liz or Bob respectively.”

In order for students to utilize the new policy, they must complete the preferred name form. The form can be accessed either by website link or through a student’s Connections account. On the form, a student is required to fill out information, such as contact information, affiliation to Webster, legal name and preferred name. 

Larry Morris, the staff advisor to the LGBTQ Alliance at Webster, said he thought the policy was a no-brainer. He said the policy indicated Webster is a university that works to be inclusive to all. 

“I think people should be able to go by the name that they choose,” Morris said. “It shows that we are really about making sure that we create safe spaces and places for people of all backgrounds.” 

After a student submits the form, the Registrar’s Office reviews all requests and either approves or denies them. Cases will not be approved in instances where someone tries to be offensive, or in cases that would cause confusion with the identity of someone else. 

Grossman said he filled out the form, and two days later, he noticed his name was changed on all class rosters for the semester. His first thought when seeing the change was simply, “Finally.”

“It was correct and I didn’t feel bad about it,” Grossman said. “It was kind of like a beaming moment.”

Morris said it is important for Webster to allow students to express themselves in a way that is comfortable to them. He said any university that emphasizes diversity and inclusion on its campus should implement a similar policy. 

Flewellen said the policy was meant to be inclusive for everyone at Webster. 

“Webster adopted this policy because the previous policy was unfairly stigmatizing our transgender students,” Flewellen said. “Since the adoption, we have found that all students are enjoying the benefits.”

Grossman has three more semesters as a Webster student. He said he does not currently have the financial means to change his name legally, an action that would permanently change his name on all university documents. Having his name changed at Webster, Grossman said, will allow him to feel his gender identity is respected while he waits for the chance to legally change his name.  

“It’s a great thing because it makes you feel more validated that your gender identity is actually something that exists,” Grossman said.“It is something that is very important.”

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