By Sophia Lopez, November 23 2021—
The University of Calgary recently announced that a flexible name-change policy has been approved for students who wish to update their personal names on university identification documents.
The policy approved by the Calendar and Curriculum subcommittee and the Academic Planning and Priorities Committee of the General Facilities Council, allows students to submit a statutory declaration, marriage licence or passport documentation of the name they would like used in the university’s system. This can be done online and free of charge.
In an interview with the Gauntlet, the co-president of the Residence Rainbow Council at the U of C, Grace Donner, discussed her initial thoughts on the announcement and how such a policy is a positive step forward.
“I think that, in general, seeing an institution like the University of Calgary, thinking about marginalized students and minority individuals in ways that they can support them and make their lives easier is definitely a good thing,” she said. “I definitely think that members of the queer community appreciate this effort.”
While the policy is something that helps all U of C students, it especially impacts international students, abuse victims and transgender students. Donner spoke about how making name-changing a more facilitated process will help many LGBTQ+ community members feel more comfortable.
“As [transgender people] come out and adopt their new identity, many of them choose to change their given name — the one they were given at birth — because it no longer represents who they are or no longer aligns with their gender,” Donner explained.
The university has faced heavy criticism these past few months over its lack of student consultations on decisions such as the increase of tuition for the Fall 2022 semester. Donner believes that although the university has struggled to meet the needs of students, this new policy is a positive first step in making students feel more seen and heard.
“I think the university can always do more for students,” she said. “There are so many ways that the university has fallen short in terms of supporting students — but I do think that this is a first positive step in the right direction. I hope that we continue to see positive changes in the future as time progresses.”
Donner shared her personal experience as a queer woman of colour on campus, and how the university needs to make a greater effort in protecting all of its students.
“Myself, as a queer woman of colour, I definitely feel that I’ve experienced a lot of marginalization in general, but particularity at the University of Calgary,” said Donner. “As students, we have rights to fair treatment, to respect, to dignity at the school. So making sure students feel empowered to stand up for themselves if they think that their needs aren’t being met, and to ask for changes if they think that change needs to take place, could be really powerful for students.”
Donner emphasized the importance of the flexible name-change policy and how it shows respect from the university to its students.
“I think that this change shows a mark of allyship from the University of Calgary and I think that a lot of trans students will really appreciate that,” she said. “Recognizing trans students’ pronouns and their chosen names is a great way of showing respect to those individuals.”
Abandoning a non-affirming name is a big step for anyone. At the Residence Rainbow Council, support is always offered to students who need it and offered an inclusive space for everyone. Visit the Residence Rainbow Council’s website if you need any support, to find out about future events, and other general information about the council and who to contact.
You can find out more about how to change your name on U of C identification documents, on the university’s website.