At the University of Washington, folks are fed up with diplomas bearing “dead names.”
Or at least one is: On July 8th, PhD candidate — and instructor in the School of Social Work — Vern Harner launched a petition.
Its mission: Convince the school — which boasts 50,000+ attendees across three campuses — to let graduates decide what names are placed on their diplomas.
Via Change.org, Vern spoke of pride:
I am proud of what I have accomplished as a doctoral student, including being named a (who’s-who winner via the) Husky 100, receiving the prestigious Excellence in Teaching award, and serving as communications coordinator for the Caucus of LGBTQ Faculty and Students in Social Work.
[I] am worried that, when I graduate, I will not be able to have a diploma that I can be proud of.
The university, Vern laments, “does not currently allow trans and nonbinary students to have…chosen first names on [their] diplomas.”
In Vern’s view, that’s unreasonable:
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 (regardless of whether a legal name change has been completed).
The professor’s hoping to graduate in 2022, and he’d “love for [his] diploma to match the name on the masters diploma [he] received from Arizona State University 5 years ago…”
He wants to be able to hang his accomplishments on the wall — “as is the norm for college instructors…(which I hope to be!).”
If I may momentarily assume a Dear Abby-ish role, Vern’s making things more difficult than they need to be.
If he’s so certain of the moniker he’ll prefer for life — comprised of many years with those name-framed awards behind a desk — he should simply legally change his name and be forever finished.
On the other hand, if someone’s so unsure that they aren’t willing to commit to a legal switch, sticking with a birth name on the diploma might be a best bet.
Either way, certainly, the new-name issue’s built stunning steam over the past couple years.
Case in point — a Google associate recently raged for having to deal with being “deadnamed”:
Outrage Erupts at Google After a Transgender Employee Is Forced to Wear a Badge Sporting Their 'Dead Name'
— RedState (@RedState) June 2, 2021
And as I covered in April, following a young person’s tragic suicide, estranged parents held two separate funerals — one for the male name/identity and one for the female:
Transgender Child Commits Suicide, Feuding Parents Hold One Funeral for the Boy and Another for the Girl
— RedState (@RedState) April 27, 2021
Culture is undergoing rapid change.
Not long ago, schools stuck students with the rules, and anyone who didn’t like them could stick it.
These days, it seems, students (and employees) possess power as never before.
In many ways, those not officially in charge can call major shots.
At the same time, curiously, a generation more powerful than any before appears unprecedentedly threatened.
Whereas “safety” once referred to not being eaten by bears, the word’s experienced immense evolution as society’s grown more refined.
Courtesy of Vern’s petition:
The fact that UW policy does not allow [diplomas to bear preferred names] is not only an equity issue, but a safety issue for trans individuals.
Is equity — equality of outcome — now the focus of school, in place of meritocracy?
Judging by the sound of it, Yes:
Updating the preferred name policy at UW to be in line with the university’s diversity and equity focus and allow preferred/chosen first names on diplomas is a necessary step that must be completed as soon as possible to ensure that, not only our trans students can be safe and affirmed, but that we can continue to recruit and retain top tier students, faculty, and staff.
“Sign this petition,” Vern implores, “to demand that the University of Washington Faculty Senate expedite a policy change to allow diplomas to reflect the chosen first names of trans and nonbinary students.”
Where support is concerned, the compulsion looks to have worked: Over 30,000 have lent their John Hancocks so far.
Will the school relent?
As reported by Campus Reform, UW “already allows students to use preferred names on ID cards and class rosters.”
I’d say the chances are high.
But there’s still the issue of driver licenses, health insurance cards, etc.
So…still a long way left to go in order to be “safe.”
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