New Chosen Name Policy

Have you heard about the Chosen Name Policy that was created in August 2023 at Sacred Heart University? This policy was created to allow students, faculty, and staff to use a chosen name that is different from their legal name.

“The SHU Chosen Name Policy informs the SHU community of Sacred Heart’s commitment to honoring all persons’ identities: fostering genuine belonging in its learning, working, and living environments,” said Anne Burmeister, Director of Institutional Equity Compliance & Support.

The new policy was announced on Aug. 1, 2023, after many efforts were put into the process to implement it.

“It began with the advocacy of a few SHU community members who recognized the need. That advocacy raised awareness. The Office for Inclusive Excellence was able to bring together folks across SHU departments and offices to create a policy and procedures to implement it,” said Burmeister.

Multiple departments at SHU were involved in the process of establishing this policy.

“To fully implement a policy like this requires coordination between almost every department at SHU: from information technology to financial aid, from athletics to the registrar, from residence life to student affairs and beyond. This would not have been possible without the commitment of a lot of folks and it serves as an example that the work of inclusive excellence is the work of everyone,” said Burmeister.

She explained the importance of such a policy on Sacred Heart’s campus.

“There are many reasons why someone may use a chosen name, such as a reflection of gender identity, as a nickname, as a westernized or Americanized name, or to recognize family relationships, just to name a few,” said Burmeister. “SHU is committed to identifying people only by their chosen name in SHU living, learning and working environments wherever possible.”

Kyle Humphreys, SHU’s manager of LGBTQ+ Affairs, also noted the significance of this procedure.

“Names are something that are given to us by somebody else, and as we grow and develop we establish a sense of who we are, we grow into new communities and new identities whether or not you are LGBTQ+. There’s a realm of reasons why somebody would want to go as a name other than the one on their birth certificate,” said Humphreys.

When a student decides to go by a chosen name, they will have to fill out a form and once that form is processed, their chosen name will be displayed on all SHU systems.

“The SHU community will see the use of chosen names across SHU Systems as this policy is fully implemented. We have worked to identify the most impactful systems changes and address those first,” said Burmeister.

Universities across the country are creating similar procedures.

“This is slowly becoming a more and more common practice in a lot of places because to be quite frank, the ability to change your name legally is a costly process. For me to change my name it costs me over $200, plus having it published in the newspaper, plus getting copies of the court order for my name change, then having to change my documents, which also costs money and time,” Humphreys said. “These steps are not accessible for everybody, so to allow people to have control over how they present themselves is important, regardless of whether or not your college is embracing of LGBTQ+ people or not.”

This policy continues SHU’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

“SHU’s mission is rooted in the recognition of the inherent dignity in every human being. Policies that make way for this dignity are important to each of us for many reasons,” said Burmeister.

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