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Friday, April 19, 2019

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Transgender Inclusion Act increases representation on campus


Dane Ashton believes the act will show prospective and current students they are free to be themselves at UH| Courtesy of Dane Ashton

Student Government Association recently passed the Transgender Inclusion Act with the aim of increasing representation for the LGBT community on campus, while also refreshing the system for name change requests at UH.

The Transgender Inclusion Act has been made to work exclusively with the new Cougar Card system, which will now update a student’s name throughout the system whenever a name change request is made.

“The goal of this bill is to make the process of changing names throughout the University easier for students,” SGA Chief of Staff Allison Lawrence said. “The LGBTQ Resource Center told us about this ongoing problem for transgender students and through my time working as an ambassador for the Resource Center, I met many students who struggled with the process.”

The act is intended to resolve students’ concerns with the old name change system, concerns heavily present in the transgender community on campus. Whereas the old system involved filling out a form and submitting it to the Office of the University Registrar for approval, this new system is implemented through the Cougar Card office and is designed to work much faster.

“Some students felt that this issue was widely ignored,” Lawrence said. “SGA tried to create this policy in honor of the transgender community on campus – the group most widely affected by the problem.”

The policy allows students to request a preferred name to appear on more than just a class roster or their Cougar card.

“The new Cougar Card and Cougar Card System will include the ability for students who do not identify with their birth sex to indicate a preferred name both within the system and on all University of Houston documentation,” according to the new act.

Although named in honor of the transgender community, the act is not exclusive to them and will impact all students on campus who want to change their name with the University.

The new policy will allow name changes to be uploaded automatically through the PeopleSoft system, eliminating any glitches students may have faced regarding their new name, Lawrence said.

“Students wanting to use this ability provided by the University must go through the new Cougar Card system,” Lawrence said. The new Cougar Card system was implemented August 1, 2018.

While the system is designed for automatic name change uploads to the new Cougar Card system, the new names may not always be uploaded immediately.

“I would caution students against expecting immediate results. Depending on the Cougar Card office, this process may take a bit longer to fully upload throughout the whole system,” Lawrence said.

Under the new policy, there will be no harsh restrictions on where the new name can or cannot go. The new name will appear on all University documentation with the exception of financial records due to a possible violation of legal rules, Lawrence said.

For students wanting to apply for a name change under the new policy, the process itself will be quite simple.

“The process is to contact the Cougar Card office and specify your preferred name,” Lawrence said. “The preferred name should be changed throughout the PeopleSoft system, University documentation, and will be included in all course roster sheets.”

After learning that his name could be changed, the overall college experience got much better, psychology junior Dane Ashton said.

“I had my name changed with the University in the fall of 2016, my freshman year,” Ashton said. “At that time I could only get my name changed on Blackboard and by extension, class rosters. To get my name changed on my Cougar Card I had to visit the LGBTQ Resource Center and get a letter signed by the director.”

Before that, he had crossed out his old name on his Cougar Card and was worried about getting in trouble or turned away from on campus services because of that, Ashton said.

“Before I learned that getting my name changed on campus was an option, I was incredibly anxious about having to explain myself to each and every one of my professors for my entire college career,” Ashton said.

His new name is used in most instances, but there have been a few occasions in which certain offices don’t use preferred names, opting instead to use the old name, Ashton said.

“My only complaint is the inconsistency of where a student’s name is or isn’t changed, which is why I’m happy to help the Transgender Inclusion Act,” Ashton said. “Hopefully, this act will either see that set right or provide framework for future initiatives.”

Ashton hopes the act shows transgender students applying to UH that they are welcome to be their authentic selves at the University.

“This bill is a part of a progressive movement that reflects the values of the University to support diversity and create a comfortable environment for its students,” Lawrence said.

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