‘MyName’ option a progressive step for GVSU

MyName option a progressive step for GVSU

What’s in a name? Contrary to Shakespeare’s famous answer that “‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,'” the way we are labeled by others and ourselves is an integral, fundamental part of our identity. Basically, what someone is called—and what they want to be called—is a crucial component of who they are.

At Grand Valley State University, students, faculty and staff will finally have the opportunity to identify themselves how they want and in a way that is most in keeping with how they view themselves by requesting a preferred name through Banner, the site that houses students’ most important information. 

This is an important initiative for many reasons. At the most basic level, GVSU community members may not identify with their given, legal name and may want to be known by another designation that “fits” them better. Individuals don’t get to pick their birth names, so there are bound to be instances where someone’s name is not one they would have chosen for themselves. Considering that adults have a right to legally change their name, it should be no more challenging to change your “display” name in a university portal without making official, legal changes.  

This can be as simple as someone going by a nickname or a different name altogether—the choice is theirs. For example, many transgender students at GVSU do not identify with their legal name. With this opportunity to request a preferred name, these students are able to express their gender identity without having to change anything legally. 

Though this change may not have been prompted in an effort to create a more inclusive campus community, it will likely do exactly that. The change isn’t exclusively visual, either. Professors have access to names of students through GVSU portals like Banner and Blackboard, and on the first day of class, they often perform roll call using these listed names. This can be an extremely uncomfortable situation for students who don’t identify with their listed name and may not want it to be publicly announced in front of their peers.   

On another level, faculty and staff members may wish to separate their personal lives from their professional lives, which might involve distinguishing between their personal names and their professional names. For example, a lot of women adopt their husbands’ surnames after getting married, but at a university setting in particular where faculty members may have research published under a maiden name, the practicality of maintaining both a personal name and a professional name might make sense for some individuals. That way, professors can maintain their already-established professional names in their work-related and academic circles.

The Banner name-preference addition is a progressive change, and a welcome one, too. In addition to being an initiative that pushes inclusion and tolerance, it will also prevent any potential mix-ups over minuscule issues such as someone publishing work under their maiden name. GVSU has taken the correct step here.