This past November, the University of Connecticut took a step toward improving inclusivity of all students and faculty by allowing students to change their display name in UConn directories. Previously, a person’s legal name and their display name were almost always equivalent on the university’s phonebook, Outlook Global Address List and UConn AnyWare software, but the new function has changed this. Now, members of the university are able to enter a display name with a preferred first, middle and last name to ensure they are referred to by their chosen name in official university matters.
This function is beneficial to all students, but particularly to students who are transgender, gender non-conforming or non-binary. The director of the Rainbow Center, Kelsey O’Neil, emphasized how this software change has made it easier for students to use their chosen names if they do not identify with their legal name. While there were options for students to use a different display name before this software change, they were much more limited and required much more administrative effort for the same task to be accomplished. As these display names are not legal, they cannot be used in every context at the university. However, they can be used as an official name on students’ diplomas at graduation, as well as email addresses.
There are many things that, as students, we take for granted. We often do not realize that someone’s given name is not who they identify as, which creates a problem for students who may not feel accepted within their community. By adding this function and allowing a student’s chosen name to be the one displayed on university systems, UConn is sending a message to students, saying that we will be accepting of who each individual is. Again, this function cannot be used in all contexts due to legality reasons, but it is a good alternative for students who may not be able to legally change their name due to the cost and time that a legal name change takes. A name is a large part of a person’s identity, and in implementing this software at UConn, the university is opening itself up to be more welcoming and accepting of all students.