Legal names on diplomas make trans students unsafe, petition argues

A student-led petition demanding 'chosen' name options for diplomas has received over 30,000 signatures since July 8.

The University of Washington already allows students to use preferred names on ID cards and class rosters.

Despite a University of Washington policy that enables students to choose a preferred first, middle, and last name for display on class rosters and ID cards, there is now a student petition demanding the school allow transgender students to use their “chosen” names on diplomas. 

Though having a stated graduation date of spring 2021, PhD candidate and instructor Vern Harner started the July 8 petition, which now has over 30,000 signatures. 

In the petition, Harner acknowledges that while UW “supports trans students in many ways,” not allowing students the option of displaying their chosen names on their diploma is “not only an equity issue but a safety issue for trans individuals.”

[RELATED: Massachusetts women’s college strives to be ‘gender diverse’ with new ‘chosen name’ policy’]

“There is no state or federal law enforcing full legal names on diplomas. While transcripts must reflect legal names, there are multiple universities, including Yale, Miami University, the University of Missouri, and the University of Denver, that have policies making it simple for trans students to have diplomas reflecting chosen first names,” the petition continues.

The Daily, the school’s student newspaper, reports that the registrar’s office is considering options, but has not made any official announcement. The university had updated its preferred name policy in 2018. 

[RELATED: NYU chosen pronoun policy could create confusing guessing game]

Earlier this year, UW implemented a “central pronoun option,” allowing students, faculty, and staff to “express what pronouns they go by in their everyday lives.” Like the university’s chosen name policy, student pronouns appear on course rosters. While instructors are “strongly encouraged” to use their students’ chosen pronouns, they are “not required to do so,” the policy states. 

On July 20, Harner published an update, revealing she is expected to meet with the incoming chair of UW’s faculty senate to “discuss the issue and process for changing this policy.”

According to Campus Pride, 265 colleges and universities currently allow students to use a chosen first name on campus records. 

Campus Reform reached out to Harner and the University of Washington for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ameliascarponi