Update: Response from CECIL admin

We received a reply – each of us, copied word for word – from Sally Eberhard this morning, the person who seems to be in charge of changing the preferred name system. In the interest of transparency, and as the university seems to be continuing to keep this rather quiet, I have pasted the email below:

Dear Jennifer,

We are aware of what the change means, hence has been supportive of it.
The change is on hold for now so we can work out how to move forward.

I intend to share the feedback when I have finished collating all the feedback, so people can help come up with solutions to move forward with the change. But I still have A LOT of emails and AskIT calls to get through before the list is complete.

 The biggest negative impact I have so far is on the mark entry processes as most of the tests, assignment and especially final exam process will still be done based on legal name – alphabetically. While we do recommend data entry based on ID numbers, for some, it is physically impossible for them to work with numbers due to their medical conditions. For most others, it is hard to change all the relating processes all in one go overnight.

Other issues like no sanity checks at all on the preferred names can be dealt with (I hope) with a bit more education to the students to ensure their preferred names are filled in correctly, with an appropriate name, not aliases.

I personally would really like to see more staff education on this, not all process and human issue can be fixed by changing the technology alone.

Anyway, we shall focus on moving forward.

Regards,
Sally

I replied:

Hi Sally

Yes, we’ve heard about the issue with the results, but are wondering exactly how much of a hassle that will cause – especially considering a significant number of students submit their assignments under their preferred name already.
As for the sanity check, we feel that the worry of people abusing the system to use aliases should be secondary to the safety of trans students, and feel that it’s a concern that will likely hardly come to effect anyway.
I agree on the staff education, and believe that there are a lot of areas that staff need to be trained in. But at the same time, with CECIL only using preferred names, preventing staff from even having access to legal names would thus prevent even the ability to use the incorrect names for students. We believe this is an issue where changing the technology would have a massive, immediate impact on the issue.
I appreciate the need to assess the issue, but once again have to insist on the importance that this get changed before the start of the summer semester, as every new semester means another round of being outed in classes.
Regards,
Jennifer.

Some thoughts:

  • The “sanity check” for preferred names vs aliases seems like the same kind of baseless myth as the massively-debunked “trans women make bathrooms unsafe” myth. Secondly, it shouldn’t be prioritised over the usefulness of this change. Thirdly, what actual impact would it have if people were to abuse the system to go by aliases? Students who have checked class rolls in the psych department report maybe one to two potentially false or jokey names per class. This seems a hugely minor thing compared to the benefits.
  • “Staff education” alone doesn’t cut it. Changing this technology would make it near impossible for staff to deadname their students, accidentally or otherwise. The reality is, staff education doesn’t work when a staff member doesn’t think that the point being educated on is important or relevant – especially in the common misconception of “I don’t have any trans students in my classes” (which, aside from being very likely wrong is also a useless notion that only makes it harder for trans people to speak up and come out.) While we tend to give university staff the benefit of the doubt and while Equity seems to think the staff body as a whole is supportive, staff education also doesn’t work when a staff member is bigoted or actively disagrees with what is being taught. This system change would totally prevent any harm being done.

Update:

Heard from Sally again:

Dear Jennifer,

Seeing that you know more on the issue.

Could you outline the specific issues for me on allowing staff having access to legal names in Cecil.
What are staff doing with these name lists that is threatening the safety of the trans students?

I have to look at the issue from both perspective in order to actually make some changes happen.

I need to know, what are staff doing intentionally or unintentionally with the name lists currently.
So when we look at solutions, we can see if that would help with the situation.

Thank you.

Regards,
Sally

It’s no surprise that we’re more familiar with the benefits of this change, but I would expect that she would at least have some idea – especially considering Equity were pushing for it. This shows that this isn’t being considered a priority for the university. Again, I have to stress that this absolutely should not come down to a standoff between convenience for staff and safety for students.

The trans staff and student community needs to be highly involved in these decisions, seeing as they directly impact our lives, and seeing as important details clearly aren’t getting across, despite us talking directly to Equity about this at the end of the first half of last semester.

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