For many transgender or gender nonconforming students, their first legal name can become an issue, especially in relation to the University.
As of Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, Ferris implemented their Preferred First Name Policy (PFN) so that students can choose the first name that appears on class lists, wait lists, final and midterm grades, registration status, student ID, and diplomas.
“Our goal with this policy is to ensure all students, staff and faculty are recognized, respected and connected within the Ferris community. While a preferred first name is just one piece of that, it’s a visible and important part of a person’s experience at Ferris,” Ferris Associate Dean of Enrollment Services Elise Gramza said. “Our hope is that the more people are connected and accepted at Ferris, the more likely they will be successful here, whether that’s in the classroom or within their career.”
While the PFN policy allows for a lot of changes for students, it does have its boundaries. The name change is restricted from legal documents such as financial aid records, health records, employee health insurance, IRS forms and social security forms. Legal names will also appear on the back of all University IDs, according to the PFN policy.
“I believe one of the most important aspects of the policy is that it is for all Ferris community members, not just students or just faculty and staff. It is truly an inclusive policy for everyone at Ferris,” Gramza said. “Another item for consideration is that there are some instances, like financial aid and employment purposes, that still require the use of a legal name. The use of a preferred first name will be a balance of business processes that require a legal name and those that can allow a preferred first name.”
According to Gramza, the biggest struggle in implementing the policy was the technical abilities of the student information systems. While a group had been working on the implementation of the policy for two years, after the technical abilities were changed, the development and approval of the policy only took a few months.
“This policy and the technical advances to ensure its implementation was a collaborative process. We had students express the need for a preferred first name, staff that spent hours of time researching the policy language and technical components and stakeholders across the university that came together to consider the implications of its implementation to ensure a smooth and possible transition.” Gramza said.
Ferris biology and psychology junior Duvonna Haynes said she was surprised by the new Ferris policy, especially because of how small Big Rapids is.
“…It’s a good thing. I think that it’s good that they’re starting to accept that a person should have the right to be themselves, basically,” Haynes said. “So, no one else can tell you who you are or who you want to be, and if they really believe that they are the wrong gender or they believe that their biology’s wrong and they want to be referred to as this and called that, I feel like they have thr right to do that because they didn’t have a choice when they came into this world, you don’t have a choice. And like now, we’re given back that choice in a way. So, I feel like that’s very open minded thinking and I’m surprised that Ferris has done that.”
To find more information about the policy, it can be accessed off of the Ferris Registrar’s home page. Ferris community members can find the policy, Frequently Asked Questions and a request form to change their preferred names.
“We have created a website linked from the Registrar’s Office page. This page includes the policy, frequently asked questions and a request form and process for students who wish to designate a preferred first name.” Gramza said.
Ferris staff and faculty can contact the Human Resources Department for further information and steps of action, according Gramza.