Faculty and Staff Resources
Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment where students, faculty, staff, and alumni are valued and supported is important to the mission of American University. The AU community is strengthened by the diversity within it.
Part of being committed to an inclusive and welcoming environment is addressing students by their chosen name and personal pronouns/prefix. This page will provide more context and resources about how to support our students in and out of the classroom. Details for how main campus students submit their chosen name and select their personal pronouns via our tech pilot can be found here.
Why Is Using Students' Chosen Name Important?
For many students, using a chosen name is essential to feeling welcomed and included at AU. There are many reasons why students might want to use a chosen name. Some students may have used a different name than the one assigned at birth for many years and find the use of their legal name uncomfortable and out of place. Others may have adopted a new name more recently. Some examples include the following:
- A student who may have a gender identity different than that assigned at birth and may want to use a name that reflects their gender identity.
- International students may find that faculty, staff, and other students have trouble pronouncing their birth names, and may want to adopt a name they feel is easier for others to use.
- Some students have gone by their middle names instead of their first names and would like this to be the name that appears on their class rosters.
- A student may find a nickname to suit them better.
You have likely facilitated chosen name changes like this in the past by asking on the first day of class what name students to go by. This process offers students the opportunity to share their chosen name throughout our campus information systems to provide a more cohesive student experience and inclusive environment.
Where Will Students' Chosen Names Be Displayed?
Any AU main campus (non-WCL) student can now enter a chosen name through Eagle Service. The change will be reflected in class rosters, Blackboard, Canvas, and more. This means that student’s professors, advisors and other AU staff will see the name a student chooses to use, instead of the student’s legal name. There are some areas where a legal name must still appear, often due to government regulations and law. Please note that not all students who use a chosen name will have designated it in our campus systems. It is still important to check with students that the name displayed on your roster is the name by which they would like to be addressed. Note: During the pilot period in the Spring 2021 semester, only students on AU’s main campus will have chosen name update capabilities. The Chosen Name Working Group is moving forward in piloting these changes for WCL, and faculty/staff and will share further information once it is ready.
What If I See Two Different Names for a Student? For Example, in Their Email and in My Roster?
The chosen name a student has designated to go by will be automatically populated in Canvas and Blackboard. When in doubt, please pull your class names from there.
If you are an office that serves students directly and you see a difference between a student's One Card and the name on your screen, please use a student's AU ID to verify the account. If you need to address them by name, you can simply ask, "Can I ask the name you go by?"
Does This Mean I Should No Longer Ask Students for Their Chosen Names?
Not necessarily. Although some students may be comfortable with their chosen names displaying across campus, others may only want certain faculty, staff, and departments to know their chosen name. We recommend on the first week of classing sending out a e-survey asking the following questions:
- What name and pronouns would you like me to use for you in class?
- What name and pronouns would you like me to use when we're speaking just the two of us?
- If I receive permission from you to correspond with your family, what name and pronouns would you like me to use for you?
Some of My Students' First Names Show Up as a "." What Does That Mean?
Some students want to be referred to only by their last name. Unfortunately, our AU systems cannot accommodate a blank space as a chosen first name. Student have instead been instructed to put a period mark in their first name slot if they go by their last name. Therefore, their names would show up as ". Lastname". In this case, please refer to the student by their last name.
My Office Sends Mail To Students' Home Addresses. What Name Should I Use?
Although students use a chosen name for many reasons, transgender students are most at risk of harm if they are outed/named without their permission. Many transgender students may be “out” at school but may not feel that they can disclose their identity to their families. If you are mailing to a home address, please use a student's legal name.
Why Don't Students Change Their Names Legally?
Obtaining a legal name change can take time and can also be expensive. There also may be legal or personal reasons why someone cannot change their name legally or why they do not wish to do so. For international students, obtaining a legal name change may not be possible or even preferable. It is also important to understand that many transgender students may be “out” at school but may not feel that they can disclose their identity to their families.
What Do I Do if I Mess Up a Student's Name or Pronouns?
Students who go by a chosen name, often note that when someone messes up their names, they either say nothing, or take up a lot of time apologizing. Best practice is to:
- Correct yourself. "He makes a great point... they make a great point."
- Apologize and affirm your dedication to getting it right next time. "I'm sorry, I won't do that again."
- Keep moving. It feels really bad to mis-name or mis-gender someone! However, going on about how badly you feel and how hard it is to remember a different name or pronoun makes the mis-gendered/named person feel like a burden. Additionally, it brings unnecessary attention to the mistake. In the moment, continue onward in your discussion/lecture.
- Follow-up privately if necessary. If you feel like you need to follow-up with a student later because you notice they might feel uncomfortable in your class, do it one-on-one. In that conversation, ensure they can opt out if they don't feel comfortable talking about it. For example, "I know I misgendered you in class today, I won't do it again and it's important to me that you feel like you belong in the class. Do you want to talk about what happened? Is there anything else you need from me?"
What Stops a Student From Submitting a Silly or Obscene Chosen Name?
Submitted chosen names are subject to review and clarification by the Office of the Registrar. Students who opt to use a chosen name must provide a name that is representative of themselves. AU reserves the right to remove chosen names that are obscene, use derogatory language, are not representative of the individual who submitted it, are used for fraudulent purposes, or in other situations deemed inappropriate.
We do not anticipate this being a concern, as the chosen name students submit via Eagle Service will display across campus systems.
Can Faculty and Staff Submit a Chosen Name and Pronouns?
AU's ultimate goal is to ensure all students, faculty, staff, and alumni are referred to by their chosen names and pronouns. Currently, AU's HR systems do not have the capacity to include a chosen name and pronouns for employees. However, the second phase of the Chosen Name and Gender Identity Working Group in FY 2022 (starting in July 2021) will be focused on these technological changes. We look forward to listening sessions with staff and faculty during the Spring semester of 2021. More information will be forthcoming.
Where Will I See a Student's Pronouns, and What Do They Mean?
Pronouns will populate in your section roster for students who have designated them. Students who have not gone into Eagle Service and added pronouns will have a blank space in the "Pronouns" section of your roster.
There are several personal pronoun choices for students, and they are listed below:
Use my name as a pronoun*
*Additionally, if a student does not identify with any of the available choices they can choose to be referred by their first name instead of a pronoun. For example, "I appreciated Akua's example in class today. You should ask Akua if Akua would like to study with you later."
When and How Often Can a Student Update Their Chosen Name and Pronouns?
Students can change their chosen name and pronouns at any point in the semester. This means that your roster may change even after the Add/Drop deadline. With this, it is important to check your roster regularly and not rely on printed paper versions.
While we do not anticipate students to change their chosen name or personal pronouns multiple times in a semester, it does take time for someone to find the identity that suits them best. So, it is possible that a student may change their chosen name or pronouns more than once in a semester.
Why Is It Important to Use a Student's Chosen Name and Pronouns?
This process is in place to create a welcoming and inclusive student experience, and faculty/staff are a critical part of creating that environment. Not using a student’s chosen name and pronouns creates a negative experience for our students and creates an unwelcoming environment. It is a professional expectation that all AU employees will address students respectfully, and that includes using their chosen name and pronouns.
Discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited under law. AU has two policies that address discrimination: (1) Discrimination and Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy and (2) Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy. If you believe you are experiencing misgendering or mis-naming, you may contact the Office of Equity and Title IX at email@example.com or TitleIX@american.edu to file a complaint and/or to discuss your options and resources.