Saying the right name

Districts considers policy giving students a choice

Los Medanos College and the Contra Costa Community College District are in the beginning process of implementing a name preference policy for students who are not comfortable going by their given birth names. 

Although this can benefit all students, the policy is designed to address problems faced by transgender students. 

“Transgender issues has just come into America’s consciousness in a way they never had before,” said LMC English professor Jeff Mitchell-Matthews, who is also working to create a major on LGBTQ studies. 

“It’s their moment in the sun,” he added. 

Mitchell-Matthews believes people are talking about this for the first time because significant portions of students are now open and identifying as transgender. 

“The fact that their official academic record doesn’t jive with their perspective of their gender is an issue,” said Mitchell-Matthews, who also understands the legality needed for Admissions and Records departments to keep a legal name in the official records. 

This policy to add a preferred name could help students when it comes to taking online classes. 

Unlike face-to face classes where professors can just go to the paper roster, scratch out the name that was given to them, and put down a student’s preferred name, students may have to continually remind their professors with online classes.  

“You don’t get that regular feedback,” said Mitchell-Matthews, who explained there is a male transgender student in his online class whose birth name is Kathie but the student told him early in the semester he goes by Kevin. But every time he turns in something on D2L the assignment comes through with the name Kathie. 

“Here I am the teacher of that class where I’m supposed to have some sensitivity towards that issue but just again because of my being an absent-minded professor, [the days after the student told him] I had forgotten,” said Mitchell-Matthews. “Whereas if they had been able to go in and go into D2L and change it themselves then when the message came to me it would’ve had the right name on it.”  

The policy is not fully implemented yet because of the programing the school and the district have to do in the background of WebAdviser, which has been the biggest delay in making the change.

“We have to follow the regulations,” said LMC Admissions and Records Director Robin Armour. “We are the keeper of the regulations we have to have a legal name on the college transcript,”

Armour added that the student information system is complex. When a student applies to the school and gets in, they are assigned a user I.D. and password to access their account. Before operationalizing a new name preference policy the need to devise a process and reprogram the software.

District IT would have to program a way for admissions to go in and change this information, she said, as well as going back and forth to test the changes and see how it works out before it becomes finalized. 

In addition, the policy will not be automatic process.  

Admissions want to prevent students who may not take the policy as seriously as others from doing it themselves and putting silly names into their profiles.  

Instead, students will have to go to admissions to fill out a form. From there, admissions will specify the request on their behalf so that the preferred name will be the one to show up on WebAdviser, D2L, and on professors rosters. 

           “The process to legally change your name could take up to years and that it isn’t fair for transgender students who are in their transitioning process or in the process of legally changing their name, to have to have to wait,” said Armour, “It’s about fairness and equitableness amongst students.” 

But initially, students will have to wait a while for the policy to be implemented. Armour said that the process to finalize this new policy may take up to six months before it gets turned into reality.