The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Students may now choose preferred name and gender on campus systems

(Michelle Krichevskaya / The DePaulia)
(Michelle Krichevskaya / The DePaulia)

For Jordan Jedry, a new quarter didn’t just mean new classes, but a conversation about gender. Jedry, who does not identify as male or female, needed to make sure professors were aware of their preference for neutral pronouns – even though that wasn’t reflected on the class roster.

“I found that was a conversation I needed to have with every single professor I had since I became openly non-binary,” Jedry said. “Even after I had those conversations, it was disheartening that it wasn’t respected in every university setting that my records made reference to. It was showing something that was incorrect.”

But this week, that changed. Jedry and all DePaul students are now able to designate their preferred identity thanks to a new policy aimed largely at improving inclusion for those who are gender nonconforming.

Originally proposed last fall, the policy allows students to choose the first name and gender through Campus Connect. The change will then be reflected in class rosters, D2L and directory information, in addition to official transcripts and diplomas.

“The Preferred Name and Gender Policy is one piece of the puzzle of best practices around trans inclusion,” LGBTQA Student Services Coordinator Katy Weseman said.  

Along with Senior Director of Records and Technology Michael Wright, Weseman spearheaded the process after recognizing a need for the policy when she was hired as DePaul’s first full-time LGBTQA student services coordinator in 2012. After it was proposed, the policy was passed Joint Council, composed of DePaul President Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, C.M., and other executive leadership.  

Within the first few minutes of its implementation, Weseman said about 60 students had already opted-in.

“It’s clear that this is a need or resource a lot of students have really been craving,” she said.

Though the university now recognizes that “that any student may choose to identify within the University community with a preferred first name that differs from their legal name,” it also comes with several guidelines. Preferred names may not be inappropriate or misrepresent a student for illegal purposes. Names may not contain numbers and symbols, and students can only change in their name three times per academic year.

Like Jedry, students can also specify their gender as “unspecified,” in addition to “male” or “female.” However, Housing Services and swipe restrooms cannot accept an unspecified gender selection.  

This lack of access for those who identify as neither male nor female is something that still needs to be pursued, said Patrick Pfohl, Student Government Association executive vice president for student affairs and Act Out vice president.

“It’s something that’s important. Using a restroom is something that every human should basic have access to,” Pfohl said. “If they’re being barred – especially in the Loop where a lot of the bathrooms are swipe access – that’s poses a problem and is definitely something we need to have more conversation about.”

Weseman, too, acknowledged that while the preferred name and gender policy is a strong step toward inclusiveness, there’s always more to be done.

“We could always have more gender-inclusive restrooms, which is a huge thing, and something we could certainly be better at,” she said. “We don’t really offer gender-inclusive housing here; it’s a case-by-case scenario for students who identify as trans or non-binary.”

But Pfohl said he has seen a positive response, both from SGA and Act Out, and was excited about the steps the university has taken. Weseman also said that another byproduct of this policy is that it could raise awareness for the everyday issues facing those who might not recognize it as an issue.

“I think that what this does also is raise awareness in the minds of folks who maybe haven’t really thought about this as an issue,” she said. “If you go by the name that you were given, you’re never confronted with this as an issue for you personally.”

For Jedry, it means the conversation will be a little easier.

“This is a very good first step toward visibility for non-binary people at DePaul,” Jedry said. “This is a testament to how far we’ve come, both as a university and as a community.”


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