Cal Poly students, staff and faculty will be listed under their preferred name in the Cal Poly directory beginning March 25. A campus-wide email from Information Technology Services (ITS) announced the change March 22, recognizing the importance of a name to individual identity.

What is changing

While the Cal Poly portal already allowed users to add a preferred name different from their legal name, the directory was searchable by both legal and preferred name. Now, only preferred names will be listed.

The email stated the update is in response to requests from students, faculty and staff. Chief of Data Management Dave Dobis, who helped with the technical side of the change alongside ITS, said a member of the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion asked him to look into preferred name usage.

“They explained that there are many members of the Cal Poly community — students, faculty and staff — to whom a preferred name is more than just a nickname,” Dobis wrote in an email to Mustang News. “Some examples include people in transition and married people whose professional name is not their legal name, and others.”

The Office of Data Management worked with representatives from Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, the Office of University Diversity and Inclusion, ITS and the General Counsel to carry out the change. While working on the project, Dobis said the team realized there was more work to be done.

It became very obvious that this was just one small part of a much larger issue,” Dobis wrote. “Where else should we default to preferred names? How do we integrate pronouns into our correspondence and communications? How do better recognize non-binary gender identity?”

A working group is being put together to develop a plan on how to best answer these questions and make appropriate changes to university technology systems and campus processes. More changes supportive of identity inclusivity are expected.

How to input your preferred name

To set a preferred name in your Cal Poly portal, log in and click the Personal Info tab. Under “My Info” click edit in the Preferred Name box. Write your preferred name and click save. Students who identify with their legal name will not need to make any changes. The portal automatically sets preferred names to be the same as legal names until manually edited.

Why it matters

Environmental management and protection junior Autumn Ford identifies with a different name than the one given to her at birth. She is a member of the Student Diversity Advisory Committee and has been advocating for university changes supportive of individual identity.

“This change matters because it’s important to have someone’s identity seen and heard and for their agency to be in their own hands to show who they are in the directory,” Ford said. “[This change] will increase identity visibility.”

Leece LaRue, a philosophy junior who uses they/them pronouns, also identifies with a different name than their birth name. LaRue said they think the change is a positive step toward a more inclusive campus.

“Even if some people think this is a small change — and granted, it is small compared to others actions the university could take — everyday changes can help affirm who a person is,” LaRue said. “Instead of having to go explain to every person why their name is different than the one in the directory, it’s cool that someone doesn’t have to disclose that every time.”

While LaRue said they hope the university will find more ways to support all identities, they view this as a good start.

“This will help marginalized students dictate their own experience at Cal Poly,” LaRue said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated only legal names were searchable in the directory before this change. It has been corrected to show both legal and preferred names were searchable.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with more information about the new directory system.

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