GVSU to launch preferred-name option in Banner in February

By Anne Marie Smit | 11/20/17 1:16am

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GVL / Emily Frye Darryl Shongedza serves a customer at the campus dining Lobby Shop wearing his name tag on Sunday November 19, 2017.

For various reasons, people may want to be identified by a name other than their legal name. Starting in February 2018, Grand Valley State University students, faculty and staff may request a preferred name through "myName" on Banner.

Sue Korzinek, the associate vice president and chief information officer for information technology at GVSU, said the university has been pushing for a preferred-name option for more than 10 years and that it will benefit many people at the university. 

“There are many reasons (for a preferred name),” Korzinek said. “For instance, my name is legally Susan, but I go by Sue. So, every place I go at Grand Valley, unless you know me, people are going to call me Susan because if they had to pull up any information about me at Grand Valley, that’s what’s going to pop up.”

Korzinek pointed out that some faculty members may opt to go by their maiden name, for example, because that is how they are recognized in the professional world. Or, they may want to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives.

“Let’s take somebody that might go by their maiden name,” Korzinek said. “They’re married to another faculty member at Grand Valley, they might not want that to be known, maybe, or because they’ve published articles by that name and now they’re married. So, their professional name, they want to keep that, and they have not been able to do that in our system.”

With the preferred-name option, GVSU will also give transgender students the opportunity to express their gender identity without having to change their legal name. Jen Hsu-Bishop, director of the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center at GVSU, believes the preferred-name option will make the GVSU community more inclusive. 

“Our names are an important part of who we are,” Hsu-Bishop said via email. “Addressing people by the name and pronouns they use helps to create a more inclusive, safe and welcoming campus for transgender students.”

Once students request a preferred name on Banner, it will show up on most GVSU locations, including Blackboard, housing, student IDs, email, people finder and EAB student success collaborative. A legal name would still show up on other documents, such as accounting and taxes, admissions, employment, federal requirements, healthcare benefits and official transcripts. 

“For instance, an official transcript is going to have your legal name, and if you apply for financial aid, they’re going to need your legal name; if you’re an employee, they need your legal name,” Korzinek said. “But if you walk up to the (Recreation) Center or the library or a faculty member, they don’t need your legal name, right? So we want to be able to present, in those situations, the name that you want to use, whether it’s a faculty or staff member or a student.”

Not only does the preferred name need to be applied to different departments across campus, but each request will go through a screening process to make sure the name isn’t inappropriate. Simpler preferred name requests will go through the system more quickly, while less common changes will take a little longer.

“For example, my name is Susan, and if I go into the system in February and put Sue in that preferred first name, there’s a table that it’s going to look at that says, ‘(Here are) all the nicknames for the legal name Susan,'" Korzinek said. "My name would pass through easily and would be approved that day.

One important aspect of the screening process, Korzinek explained, is that it will prevent people from assuming the identity of another person.

“We’re also going to make sure that people aren’t going to pretend to be (another person) as a misrepresentation,” she said. “If your name is Anne Smit and you want to be called Sue Korzinek, we need to look for those things. We need to look for those things that people can’t use as a source of manipulation at the university.”

Korzinek emphasized that the screening process isn’t meant to control how people refer to themselves, but there will be limits to prevent it from getting too out of hand.

“We’re not going to let people put in ‘Your Highness’ or something,” she said. “That screening process is only for that reason, not to be a judge of what a name should be. It’s strictly to look for those types of things that are offensive or misleading or could cause problems.”

With all of those factors considered, the preferred-name option is fairly flexible. People could use their last name as their first name or be playful with their name changes. 

While people will be able to be playful with their name changes, Korzinek cautions them from getting too carried away with changing their name. Future employers might have access to their preferred name at GVSU, especially through public tools, such as people finder.

“I hope people understand that if they make those decisions, you’re going to have to explain them when you go off to find a job,” she said. “You can approach this in a way like, ‘Hey, I’m just going to do this because it sounds like fun,’ but it may not be something that will easy to be explain, or get out of, when you want to be serious.”

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