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delfin bautista, director of the LGBT Center, describes the importance of the new "Student Names" policy

Photographer: George E. Mauzy Jr.

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Registrar Debra Benton (left) and interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones (right) take questions from the audience during the Sept. 1 brown bag.

Photographer: George E. Mauzy Jr.

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Administrators answer questions about new preferred student names policy

Policy has inspired more than 400 preferred name requests


Ohio University hosted a lunchtime brown bag on Tuesday to answer questions about its new policy titled, "12.021: Student Names," which can be found at https://www.ohio.edu/policy/12-021.html.

The new policy allows students to choose a preferred name and/or gender pronoun for self-identification. The preferred name and pronoun will be used when the student's legal name is not necessary.

President Roderick J. McDavis approved the policy on June 4, following up on unanimously approved "Preferred Name" resolutions from the Student and Graduate Student senates over the past two years.

Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones, University Registrar Debra Benton and Director of the LGBT Center delfin bautista* were on hand Tuesday to answer questions and explain why the policy is important.

Bautista said students developed the policy because some of the gender transitioning students felt uncomfortable policing their professors about their name change and there were some instances where professors refused to use a preferred name because it wasn't a legal name.

Other students who will benefit from the policy are international students who want to use an American variation of their name and those who prefer to use a shortened version of their name (ex. Rob instead of Robert) or a nickname.

"We just want to make sure we are respecting and reflecting how all students want to identify," bautista said.

Bautista also gave the example of students who haven't had a legal name change, but want to distance themselves from family members who have been abusive to them through sexualized or family violence.

"These students now have the opportunity to use a preferred last name without a legal name change, which can be quite difficult in Ohio," bautista said. "The new policy reflects our University's commitment to diversity and inclusion and creating an environment where all students feel respected and affirmed and where they can ultimately learn and not fear that their professors will discriminate against them."

Bautista said the brown bag discussion brought out some questions that he hadn't anticipated.

"Some of the questions brought up today were ones that we hadn't thought of," bautista said. "It was information that was not only important for students to know, but also important for the faculty and staff who interact daily with them to know."  

Hall-Jones said that since July 28, about 150 students have reported a preferred pronoun and about 420 have requested a preferred name.

One audience member expressed her fear of not knowing that a student has a non-traditional pronoun or preferred name.

Bautista advised her to not worry about making mistakes.

"We should all make sure we refer to students by their name and pronoun whether they are present or not," bautista said. "If you make a mistake, that's OK. We don't want people to be paranoid that they're saying the wrong thing. I mess up with my staff and they mess up with me, so most of us who want to take advantage of this policy understand that mistakes will happen and we assume people's best intentions."  

Bautista shared some best practices in regards to implementing the preferred names policy on campus:

1.  Perform roll call by last name
2.  Include preferred name policy information in syllabi
3.  During introductions, ask people to share their preferred name or pronoun
4.  If you make a mistake, apologize, correct it and move on.

One of the administrators in attendance was Valerie Miller, OHIO director of student financial aid and scholarships.

"I attended the session today to learn more about the policy so that I can share it with my staff," Miller said. "We want to continue to be sensitive to the needs of our student body. I'm encouraged by the great collaboration between our LGBT Center, Registrar's Office and Student Affairs units. It makes me feel proud to work at a university that is so inclusive."

Sophomores Jared Roese and Marissa Woods represented National Honor Fraternity Phi Sigma Pi at the brown bag. Roese said the fraternity recently created a diversity and inclusion chair position. He said they want to better understand the policy so that they can educate the rest of their fraternity members about it.

"This brown bag was insightful. I didn't know there were more than 400 students who have already changed their name since the policy became active this summer," Roese said. "That is definitely more than I thought would do it."

Preferred names may be self-reported at My OHIO Student Center (students) or My Personal Information (employees).

For more information about the new policy, visit the “Names” page on the University Registrar website at https://www.ohio.edu/registrar/names.cfm.


*delfin bautista prefers the lowercase form of their name and gender neutral pronouns