Many students can relate to having to tell a professor that he or she goes by a different name, shortened name or nickname. It can be a hassle for some students, but for others, especially in the transgender community, it can be agonizing.
Until recently, Blackboard only used students’ legal names on the site. It is now updated to allow students to use their preferred first and middle names.
“It’s a piece of your identity. It’s what you want to be called,” said Jessica Adams, coordinator of gender and LGBTQ+ programs and services. “For trans students, it’s that times a million.”
Adams said the student portal allowed preferred names a few years ago, but then no students were allowed to use preferred names.
When preferred names weren’t allowed, Adams said students were not participating in discussions on Blackboard or were being outed as transgender.
Adams said she began working with technology services to update Blackboard to allow preferred names. Before, students would have to change to their preferred names manually, Adams said.
If students haven’t legally changed their name, then they are being victimized and reminded that who they are isn’t real if they can’t use their preferred names, Adams said.
“Having their preferred name on Blackboard allows them to fully participate and engage in classrooms without having to out themselves as somebody else,” Adams said. “If you’re saying your name is one thing in class, but in Blackboard it’s showing up as another, people begin to question that.”
Dr. Frank Lamas, vice president for student affairs, said one of the issues he had heard student voice concerns on across campus and at forums was the ability to use preferred names.
Lamas said preferred names were important for students because it was how they identified themselves.
“The bottom line is if it’s very important to them, it needs to be very important to me as vice president to do everything possible to make them be in a caring and inclusive environment where we’re taking care of their needs wherever possible,” Lamas said.
Biology student Jude Jackson said that as a member of the transgender community, he thinks allowing students to use their preferred names is great.
“I’ve been through this on a different campus,” Jackson said. “Having your name not reflect who you are is really painful.”
As far as Blackboard is concerned, Jackson said if a student’s birth name gets out, it can be dangerous for the student or painful to see a name that the student doesn’t want to be associated with anymore.
“Being able to change [names] to reflect who you truly are and being able to live your authentic self without having to worry about that is just one less stressful thing,” Jackson said.
He said having preferred names on Blackboard was a huge achievement, and he was glad Fresno State is taking steps to be more inclusive.
“Even just logging into Blackboard and that name pops up—and you see your name and not the one you don’t want to be associated with—you see your actual name that you want people to call you and that feels great,” Jackson said.
Adams said it is important to have preferred names across all campus platforms. She said Fresno State was striving to be as inclusive as possible.
“We are absolutely moving forward,” Adams said. “We are getting new facilities or changing current facilities. We’re getting policy changes on names and hopefully on ID cards.”
Even though there is progress, Adams said she would like to see a faster pace of changes, but she understands that Fresno State is a large institution and things take time.
Fresno State is taking steps in the right direction toward inclusivity, but Jackson said there is still room to improve and that he would love to see more gender-inclusive restrooms on campus because they are safer for transgender students.
“If you’re uncomfortable using a gendered restroom, you have to make the decision of either getting to class on time or going across campus to use the facilities,” Jackson said. “It would be nice to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom in every building.”
Adams said she would continue to advocate for gender-inclusive restrooms in every building on campus and hopes to have every single-stall restroom on campus labeled as gender-inclusive by the end of the semester.
“There’s no reason why we need to have gender-specific single-stall restrooms.” Adams said. “We need more accessibility of restrooms for all students.”
Recently, Lamas’ office sent out a press release entailing plans to get preferred names on ID cards, more discussions and programs to increase awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and Lamas said the next issue on campus was getting more gender-inclusive restrooms added.
“I think we are very sensitive to the needs of our students,” Lamas said. “I think we are very responsive. We listen and learn from hearing students tell us what it is that’s going to make this a better campus.”
“I am happy to see the University make this public statement and I think it shows that Fresno State to truly serious about creating a welcoming and inclusive campus for the LGBTQ+ and Trans communities,” Adams said. “I am excited to be working with our students and the administration on this process.”
Jackson said it was nice to see issues not only being addressed, but that there are efforts to actively resolve the issues that the transgender community has been pushing for.
“I was very excited to see support and recognition of the campus’ transgender students sent out to the entire campus community,” Jackson said. “I look forward to ongoing work with Fresno State for more transgender inclusive policies on campus.”
Lamas said it was morally imperative to be there for students and to foster inclusivity on campus.
“I do see the CSU as one of those organizations as out there trying to meet the needs of all of our students,” Lamas said.