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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Editorial: MyZou name preference option is essential

The use of birth names in MyZou causes difficulties for transgender students.

Feb. 19, 2014

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Maneater editorial board.

Here at MU, we respect diversity, from race and ethnicity to sexual orientation and gender identification. As proven at Saturday’s “Stand for Sam” counterprotest, we can be One Mizzou.

Unfortunately, some students still have their identities disrespected, due largely in part to MyZou.

MyZou, the Web portol used by MU to coordinate finances, enrollment and other university records, only uses a student’s legal name on class enrollment lists. For transgender students, this is a major issue. When a professor calls roll during syllabus week, only a transgender student’s birth or legal name is listed. If a student has transitioned from a “Brianne” to a “Brandon,” for example, a professor taking roll has no way to know what the student’s preferred name is. Sometimes this results in transgender students being involuntarily outed to their peers and teachers. At this time, the only way to change your name on MyZou is to have a legal name change.

To those affected by this daily, having a birth name called out to a room full of strangers is a problem. It can lead to feelings of judgment and insecurity, making students uncomfortable in the classroom setting.

It has become very clear that MU needs some gender identity education.

We know that implementing a name preference option isn’t as easy as checking a box or clicking a button. There are legal and technical issues involved. Attendance, financial aid and other record-keeping activities are all tied to a student’s legal name. If a student is called one thing on Blackboard (where you can add a preferred name) and something else in class, things become muddled when a professor goes to report grades and the names don’t match. The process is also costly, since MU uses a third party to run MyZou. It might not be as easy as it was for Facebook when it added 50 or so new gender identity choices to profiles last week.

Yet, there aren’t any concrete reasons why a name preference box isn’t being pursued. The registrar needs to look into other options instead of allowing this to sit on the table. It isn’t going to happen overnight, so in the meantime, professors need to be more accommodating and aware. Teachers can try to use an outlet with preferred names, like Blackboard, to take roll. Even at that, though, the issue of instructors knowing gender identity preference remains.

This is also a safety issue. Even though the MU campus has accepted Michael Sam with open arms, many students are still wary or unsure of how they feel about the transgender community. The same goes for professors. A classroom is a considered a safe space — a learning place — where ideas are respected, and that includes sexuality and gender choice.

Though this issue seems one-sided and simple, there’s a bigger picture at hand. We still fall short when it comes to supporting LGBT students, faculty and staff. Gender identity is not in the MU antidiscrimination policy (albeit, sexual orientation is). Gender-neutral housing has been tossed around by the Board of Curators, but like the name preference idea, it sits on the table. Campus is becoming more comfortable with gay rights, but that doesn’t mean campus is as comfortable with transgender issues and rights.

Times are changing and so are demographics, and that means working hard to implement a box for name preference on MyZou is necessary. It’ll have to happen at some point, so why not start working on it today? These issues definitely aren’t going anywhere. If anything, they’re just entering the spotlight.

To those of us who are not transgender, an option for name preference doesn’t change our lives. It does, however, show us that this is an important issue — important enough for MU to need to pursue a change. A name preference option could make life infinitely easier for transgender students. If this university wants to take pride in our LGBT community, progress needs to be made. Talking is one thing, and doing it is another. Actions lead to progress and progress leads to change.

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Article comments

Feb. 19, 2014 at 1:13 p.m.

Amy Johnson: UMKC passed a preferred name policy thru SGA last year. Email me to get a copy of the resolution and perhaps you can have preferred names too!

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