BY AJ Trager
KALAMAZOO – Just in time for the 2015 academic year, Western Michigan University has adopted a preferred name policy that allows students to be identified by a chosen name rather than their legal name in a wide range of campus settings and activities.
WMU joins the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University and Northern Michigan University as the only universities in the state to offer this type of policy to students.
“The option of having a preferred first name is a reflection of WMU’s continued commitment to the inclusion of all individuals,” says Dr. Martha Warfield, vice president for diversity and inclusion. “Recognizing and using the first names students choose for themselves confirms to students that we respect who they are.”
Legal names will still be used for enrollment, transcripts, diplomas, financial aid, e-learning and certain federal reporting, but students are now free to select the first name of their choice for class lists, email, ID cards, the student computing portal (GoWMU) and campus directories. With this move, WMU becomes one of just 146 schools around the nation that have adopted some form of preferred name policy, according to Campus Pride, a national service and advocacy group for LGBT and ally student leaders and campus organizations.
The conversation began roughly eight months ago when a task force was established to amend the university’s policy. The group of individuals found that individuals were the best people to determine how they wanted to be addressed, said Cheryl Roland, executive director of university relations. The university’s diversity office was supportive throughout the whole process, she told Between The Lines.
The option signals the university’s continued commitment to diversity and inclusion, WMU officials said, and is expected to be popular with a variety of students. The updated policy will appeal to LGBT students, especially transgender students as well as international students, who often choose a first name that enables them to enhance their assimilation to the U.S. and WMU.
The preferred name option also extends to campus employees who can change their preference though the Office of Human Resources. Faculty and staff are encouraged to use preferred first names in their interactions with students and in all university communications, except where use of a legal name is required by university business.