The university announced the implementation of a Chosen First Name Policy on Monday. Students, faculty and staff will now be able to enter a chosen first name within PantherSoft in addition to their legal name. The goal is to create a more inclusive environment for Panthers.
“It’s really important that we are providing spaces for LGBTQA students to find who they are so they can be accepted by the people around them in the way they identify. It affirms who they are,” said Erica Friedman, associate director of LGBTQA Initiatives. “It’s as basic as your name. You hear someone say your name a little incorrectly, even if it’s on accident, and it’s like, ‘Oh, you didn’t see who I was.’”
FIU also rolled out its Inclusive Language Guide, which provides recommendations for how to facilitate thoughtful communication with people of a different race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, religion, ability or disability, health status or military experience.
“This policy allows us as a university to enhance our inclusive and caring nature. It allows us to call individuals what they want to be called,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Anthony DeSantis, who has overseen the implementation of the policy.
Some official university and legal records, such as tax and medical documents, will still require use of an individual’s legal name.
“FIU is committed to using and adapting processes to use a chosen first name where feasible. There are certain third-party systems that won’t accept a chosen first name, so the university’s IT staff is working to address each platform. The policy says that we’re adapting. It’s not going to be everywhere on day one. FIU is making a good faith effort to ensure we’re doing everything to support every Panther who uses a chosen first name,” DeSantis said.
For students like senior international relations major Moon Medina, the policy has been a long time coming.
“Before I came to FIU, I exclusively went by my legal name because it was just too hard to get people to call me Moon when they have called me by my dead name my whole life. When I came to FIU, I kind of made it into a new start,” Medina said.
In the beginning of each semester, Moon reaches out to professors and asks if they can use Moon’s chosen name and pronouns (they/them). Now, Moon’s preferences will be available to professors directly through Canvas.
“From a student, I feel like the request carries less gravitas than it being a university policy," Medina said.
Moon feels a university policy on the matter holds more weight than a personal request.
"I feel like it makes my voice heard more. I can still send out those emails, but it being backed by the university is amazing. When [Associate Director of LGBTQA Initiative Erica Friedman] told me it would be implemented soon, I almost started crying. Finally,” Medina said.
Under the policy, if an individual finds that someone in the university community is not using their chosen first name and pronouns, they are encouraged to try to resolve the issue with the individual one-on-one first.
After that, the policy lists several offices on campus that can provide additional support and advocacy for an individual. The document also outlines ways for an individual to file a formal complaint.
Friedman sees the policy not as a tool to reprimand, but as a way to foster inclusiveness at the university.
“This is not a mandate. It is a policy that encourages people to align with FIU’s values of respecting the diversity of who is here,” Friedman said.
Staff and faculty who would like to learn more about LQBTQA Initiatives can request a Safe Zone training with Friedman’s office. Those who become trained learn how to best practice advocacy and support for LGBTQA students. Advocates are listed on LGBTQA Initiatives website and they receive an advocate sticker and email signature so students can identify and assess who is safest to go to for support at FIU.
Panthers can also complete the FIU Chosen First Name and Pronoun Use Training through https://develop.fiu.edu/.