In the two weeks since the University streamlined its preferred first name policy by allowing students to use a first name of their choosing on internal Yale documentation, abuse of the policy has become a topic of conversation among students. However, University administrators say they are not currently looking to impose any restrictions on the new system.
The new policy — which was announced in a Jan. 17 email to the Yale community and met with widespread approval from the student body — allows students to alter their first names on email addresses, student identification cards, online directories and other official Yale documents by completing a short form on the Student Information Systems website. Students can complete a name change regardless of whether they have legally changed their name.
Following the implementation of the policy, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway told the News that he was aware of instances in which the policy was misused, adding that administrators were “surprised” by some of the name-change choices people were making.
One student, Karl Notturno ’17 changed his preferred first name to “God Emperor,” attracting criticism on the Facebook group “Overhead at Yale.” Several students viewed his actions as mocking a policy widely regarded as a step toward greater gender inclusivity on campus.
“We expected better from Yale students,” Holloway said. “We expected more maturity.”
Holloway said the University likely needs to “articulate better expectations,” adding that he does not consider the selection of provocative or “hate-laced” names an exercise of freedom of speech or expression. However, he said the University does not intend to change the policy.
The new policy replaces an older one requiring more burdensome administrative work on the part of students, while also allowing students to use their preferred names on official Yale ID cards.
Kimberly Goff-Crews, the secretary and vice-president for student life at Yale, said she thinks most students are aware that when they select a new preferred name, this is the name by which they will be known at Yale by their professors, administrators and peers. Goff-Crews added they will make this significant decision “thoughtfully.”
“The opportunity to identify a preferred first name is a meaningful and important change for many students,” Goff-Crews said. “The policy has been well received by students and at this point, I don’t anticipate a need to impose restrictions.”
The decision to streamline the preferred first name process was spurred by the Office of LGBTQ resources.
Maria Trumpler, the director of the Office of LGBTQ resources, told the News that she would not personally feel comfortable acting as an arbiter in instances where the new policy might be considered to have been misused.
“In the past, such arbiters have often found gender nonconformity inappropriate or unallowable, so I have no interest in turning that around onto other groups,” Trumpler said.
Yale’s office of LGBTQ resources was founded in 2009.