A Jesuit university has launched a new policy that will allow students to use their “preferred name” in many circumstances on campus. An official there also rejected the idea that LGBTQ-related employment disputes could happen at the university.
Loyola University Chicago student newspaper The Phoenix reported:
“Students can now add a preferred name on LOCUS — Loyola’s online registration and records portal — under the ‘Names’ folder in ‘Personal Portfolio.’ Students’ preferred names will then appear in LOCUS, class and grade rosters, the Outlook email system and Sakai, Loyola’s online classroom resource. The list will expand in the future, said Will Rodriguez, Loyola’s dean of students and assistant vice president.
“‘Except when an individual’s legal name is required by law, policy or business needs, current employees and current students may choose to be identified in some university systems by the preferred name that they have designated in accordance with this policy,’ the policy states. . .
“A separate request must be filed in order to change a student’s name on their diploma, and a preferred name can’t be used for cases where a legal name is required, such as financial aid documents, tax forms, paychecks, billing statements, university transcripts and more, according to the policy.”
Will Rodriguez, the dean of students and assistant vice president, explained that the new policy is a work in progress, but over time the “preferred name” option will be present in more university systems. It has begun earlier than the originally scheduled launch date of 2020. Previously, students had to have a legal name change in order for campus records to be changed.
The new policy resulted from the initiative of transgender students and campus groups like Gender Exploration Understanding Support Society. The Phoenix reported reactions from transgender students:
“Rory Btzer, a 19-year-old transgender student at Loyola, said he was excited to hear about Loyola’s new policy surrounding preferred names. The sophomore said in his experience at Loyola, professors are understanding about going by a name different than what’s on the roster, but said the situation is ‘awkward’ and ‘frustrating’ to explain. . .
“‘I had pretty low expectations, honestly, so I was a bit surprised, but it’s completely awesome,’ Btzer said. ‘It definitely makes me feel more at ease.'”
In related LGBTQ news, university spokesperson Evangeline Politis told The Phoenix that an employment dispute similar to what has happened with Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, which lost its Catholic designation after refusing the archbishop’s request to fire a gay teacher, “wouldn’t happen here.” Winifred Williams, the Chief Diversity Inclusion Officer, pointed out that the Loyola’s Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Nondiscrimination Policy includes sexual orientation and marital status as protected classes.
Fr. Jim Prehn, SJ, the rector of Loyola’s Jesuit community, also commented on the Brebeuf situation:
“[Archbishop Charles Thompson] simply said [Brebeuf] cannot call themselves Catholic, but by virtue of being a Jesuit high school, they are Catholic. . .I think the bishop’s actions have kind of created this strange system in which there’s a school sponsored by a Roman Catholic religious order, but he won’t call it Catholic. . .
“‘It seems to me this was kind of a very short-sighted decision by the archbishop of Indianapolis who didn’t think through the consequences.'”
For both student life and worker justice, Loyola University Chicago’s administration models the possibilities for Catholic education to support community members of all sexual and gender identities. This new policy on “preferred names” could have a ripple effect in Catholic higher education. According to The Phoenix, two other Jesuit institutions, Georgetown University and the University of San Francisco, already have similar policies. Dean of Students Will Rodriguez hopes that number will grow. As for Loyola’s campus, with a new school year beginning, students are exploring new issues, like implementing gender-neutral housing options and expanding gender-neutral restrooms.
For more information on LGBTQ issues in Catholic higher education, see the “Campus Chronicles” category or click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 29, 2019