Western gives nod to preferred name use

Western students who use a name other than their legal name will soon be allowed to use that preference on everything from campus email to their diploma. It is a move, university officials say, that promotes a more inclusive community.

“This is an issue that has been requested by students, but also encouraged by Equity & Human Rights Services believing this is a human rights issue,” University Registrar Glen Tigert explained. “Students, for example, who are in transition, at some point would like to transition names, more in line with their gender direction.”

Legal names will remain on all records and official documents – such as transcripts – but students can now identify by a preferred/chosen name in areas such as campus email display; OWL; Student Center account; class lists and grading; and Western ONECard student cards (a fee will apply if a student requests a new card).

Tigert said the policy change also pertains to international students, some of whom choose to westernize their first names and would like to be identified as such.

While the focus may be geared more towards transgender students and international students, a preferred/chosen name can be requested by any student. For example, if a student goes by a nickname, a middle name or simply prefers a name other than their legal name.

University Senate approved the measure last week.

Policy details will be posted to the Office of the Registrar website by Feb. 15, relating to the three categories of names at Western: legal, diploma and preferred/chosen first.

The preferred/chosen first name procedure will require a student to complete a form for processing in Student Records. Western will have final say on a name and will veto it if inappropriate, vulgar or offensive in any way. Once the first name change has been approved, it will be reflected in the university’s system.

Students requesting a diploma name adjustment will have their degree parchment printed with the diploma name, but their transcript will be printed with their legal name. A note will be placed on their transcript indicating their degree name, to ensure the two can be connected.

When students graduate from Western, they have had the ability to make a modification to their degree name like changing ‘Robert’ to ‘Rob,’ removing a middle name, using capitalized and lowercase letters or adding accents, such as ‘Noelle’ to ‘Noëlle.’

But this latest addition to the policy seeks to nurture an environment of acceptance and supporting students’ choices, Tigert explained.

“Along with the vocal student demand for it, identifying other universities doing it and in talking with Equity & Human Rights Services, we felt it was something we should be doing,” he said.

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In order to maintain the integrity of the university’s student records, each student is required to provide either on application for admission or on personal data forms required for registration, his/her complete legal name. Any requests to change a student’s name by means of alteration, deletion, substitution or addition, must meet the Request to Change Students’ Names on Degree Diplomas policy below (Change in policy underlined).

Printing Students’ Names on Degree Diplomas

Students’ names (first, middle and last names) as confirmed during the application to graduate process will be printed on Degree Diplomas in capital letters. Students wishing to include lower case letters or accents in their names must follow the criteria below.

Requests to Change Students’ Names on Academic Records and Transcripts

Students who wish to change their name used for official registration purposes are required to provide acceptable documentation and photo identification reflecting the change.

Requests to Change Students’ Names on Degree Diplomas

Students who wish to include a variation of their complete name for the purpose of their printed degree are required to put this request in writing to the Office of the Registrar. The name variation for the printed degree will be retained as part of the student’s permanent record and displayed on official transcripts with the degree conferral information.

The following are examples of acceptable requests for student name changes without documentation:

  • Truncation of names – Alexander to A;
  • Diminutives of names – James to Jim;
  • Variation in the order of names – Surname/Given name;
  • Use of religious names – Addition of Mohammad;
  • Removal of middle names – Jane Ann Smith to Jane Smith;
  • Using both capital and lowercase letters – MACKENZIE to MacKENZIE;
  • Addition of accents – Francois to François;
  • Use of previously approved preferred/chosen name.