University implements ‘chosen name’ option

Since the beginning of the academic year, Baldwin Wallace University students have been given the opportunity to choose their own name in the largest extent to date.

The Chosen Name Change option allows a student to identify a different first name on BW communication platforms which are not legal documents. This option also allows BW students to identify pronouns which best reflect a student’s identity.

While this program went into effect this fall, CJ Harkness, Chief Diversity Officer and Title IX Coordinator, said that members of BW faculty have been working on this program for over a year.

“Our LGBTQ+ task force had this on its radar as a program that we didn’t have at BW that was at some other institutions. The program was an affirming signal to transgender individuals by offering a chosen first name policy on campus,” said Harkness.

This program reduces the likelihood that a transgender student is unintentionally outed, Harkness said, due to the use of their birth name rather than their chosen name.

While this program is beneficial for individuals that identify as transgender, this program can be useful for others as well. This program could be very useful for international students, he said, as well as students who have, simply, always gone by a specific nickname.

Offices such as the LGBTQ+ task force, the Registrar, Human Resources, and the Data Governance Committee had to come together to make this concept a reality.

There was not an excessive influx of reactions to this program, Harkness said, but the reactions that he did receive were very positive and affirming.

Like any new program, Harkness said that there were “a couple of hiccups” in the implementation of the program. However, there were no major issues, which is most likely due to the extensive testing of the program prior to implementation.

While the program is beneficial towards the overall sense of inclusion on BW’s campus, Harkness said that the program is just one additional small step in continuing to make BW as inclusive as possible.

“BW is a community that continues to want to find ways to strengthen and broaden the sense of inclusion on our campus,” he said. “We don’t think that one initiative is going to be able to solve that but it is, rather, a proactive assessment in finding programs that will continue to strengthen our community.