A new policy in the works will give students and employees at Montclair State University the freedom to identify themselves by the name they feel most comfortable with. The policy was announced in a campus-wide email on Feb.13.
“Montclair State University recognizes that some individuals have a strong preference to use and be known by a name other than their legal name for reasons related to their gender identity, cultural background or for other social or personal reasons,” the email stated.
Senior theater major D. Fontaine, who identifies as nonbinary – a term referring to their gender identity – and uses the pronoun “they,” believes the policy means progress.
“I think they’re making a step in the right direction in regards to letting people address themselves as they want to be addressed,” Fontaine said. “It’s very unnerving and triggering to be referred to by a name you no longer associate with.”
Fontaine added that they wish the school had referred to it as a “chosen name policy,” explaining that they feel the word “preferred” implies less necessity for use.
The policy will not take effect until Oct. 1, but individuals can begin to apply for a preferred name before then. Students can apply to the office of the dean of students, and employees can apply to the division of human resources.
University President Susan Cole explained that the school will not be able to use a chosen name in situations that affect the school’s ability to apply with legal requirements or keep official records.
“There are a lot of information management systems, and we have to be very careful about the integrity of the university and there can’t be ambiguity about that,” Cole said. “There are lots of legal requirements from the government that relate to all kinds of things.”
If the name is approved, the university will allow applicants to use their preferred names for ID cards, housing and class rosters, student and employee directory information, and various other situations.
Cole warns, however, that having a preferred name can result in potential consequences in the future.
“A preferred name becomes an alias and there are lots of situations in life where you’re required to disclose any other names by which you went by, any aliases you might have had,” Cole said. “So people should be aware of these things when they decide they want to do this. They should know some of the issues that are related to it.”