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By Any Other Name: What UCLA’s Preferred Name Policy Means for You

The cold sweat. The pit of dread in your gut. The gnawing sense of unrest as the professor moves down the list, calling out student names in alphabetical order.

And then they reach you, call out a name you no longer identify with, a name you’d rather not know, and you correct them with another. Life moves on. Maybe, for most people, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but if you’ve changed your name to better align with your identity, you know the terror of waiting for the wrong name to be called, and the humiliation of having a whole classroom hear it.

At UCLA, several different departments banded together with staff, faculty, and students to address this very issue. They knew it could be done – after all, UC Irvine and UC Davis have both implemented preferred name policies – but instituting such a policy takes work, understanding, and cooperation. For the past nine months, the UCLA LGBT Campus Resource Center (CRC) has joined forces with the Dean of Students, the registrar’s office, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Student Affairs IT Office, and many others to create a clean, simple system that students can use to indicate their preferred names. This same group has created training to help staff and faculty learn to understand and be sensitive to students who have a preferred name

So what does this mean for you, queer friend?

Well, changing your name to your preferred name in the system is a piece of cake. It takes a few minutes, max, and your records will be updated in a few days. Once your name is changed, it will be listed as you’ve specified on CCLE, MyUCLA, and your unofficial transcript. Professors will receive class rosters that indicate your preferred name as well, so when they call roll, they can use the correct name and you can avoid those terrible moments of dread.

For legal reasons, your name can not be changed on legal documentation without the standard court order. These types of documents include your official transcript, diploma, and for now, your BruinCard, which is considered legal tender. Allyson Bach,  Undergraduate Students Association Council Academic Affairs commissioner, was quoted in the Daily Bruin as saying they would like to see preferred names implemented on BruinCards, however, there is no specified date or time when that will occur.

Even so, I can’t really express in words how good it feels to see the right name on CCLE postings alone.

I changed mine the day I heard that it was an option, and the relief was immediate. Now I feel much more comfortable participating in online class discussions and waiting for roll to be called. Hell, I’ve thought about getting an unofficial transcript just for kicks. I’m planning on having my name legally changed before I leave UCLA, however, in the interim, this is a great way to provide immediate and very real relief.

So how do you change your name?

It’s quick and simple: Log in to MyUCLA. In the upper right hand corner of the screen, click “settings.” The seventh option on the menu reads, “Preferred Name.” The website will walk you through the rest of the process pretty easily, and within three business days, your new name will be approved and immediately displayed on all applicable documents and websites.

Two hundred people have already used this feature as of Monday, January 12th, according to Raja Bhattar, Director of the CRC and one of the people who spearheaded this change. That number is expected to be over a thousand by the end of the year, according to them. This will also serve incoming students in future years, and is a huge step toward making our campus more inclusive and supportive of queer populations. 500 staff and faculty have already gone through the voluntary training, and that it will be offered to 1500 additional staff and faculty before the end of the year.

Raja and the rest of the awesome staff at the LGBT CRC are there to help and support LGBTQ students with whatever they are going through. If you’ve never taken advantage of this fantastic resource, I highly encourage it. The preferred name project is one of many ongoing ways in which the CRC seeks to help and encourage LGBTQ students with their unique needs.

So what are you waiting for?

Log in to MyUCLA and get that name corrected today. And a great big “Thank you!” to all the folks who worked so hard to make this policy a reality.

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