Chris DiCesare & Aley O'Mara


4 Focus Group Sessions: 10/ 30, 11/1, 11/5, 11/6

7 total participants


Overview & Priorities

  • Harm-reduction model
  • Processes should be active rather than reactive
  • The importance of training students, staff, and faculty
  • IDs, applications, and diplomas came up consistently as a place where preferred name must be shown
  • Payroll & Health Services
  • Other Concerns: Title IX, SUNY ESF, Focus Group advertising comments

Most participants brought up wanting to receive further follow up from us and expressed willingness to further engage on these topics in any ways possible.


Harm Reduction Model

  • Whatever can be done fastest with greatest impact.
  • “If we had to rank, which we don’t think is necessary, it would be: name first, then gender and pronouns together.”
  • On mass mailings, the “personal touch” of including a first name is negated when students receive emails with their deadnames, especially when they know their faculty would not have used it.
    • Eliminate auto-populated names in emails from Handshake/Orange Success until corrected.

Reply:  In some cases, this is out of our control but we will certainly take this under advisement and be mindful of this when sending out e-mail (using preferred name versus dead name).

  • Eliminate all prefixes until an expanded opt-in model is available.

Reply: We can probably do this for students. Thank you.

  • Rename things like “sex” and “gender” to “passport sex” or “federal sex,” what it maps onto specifically.
    • Only ask for what is necessary to be used, don’t ask for sex or gender for the sake of it.

Reply:   Thank you for this suggestion. We tried to keep to one authoritative source to reduce downstream impacts to other systems, but there are many systems that would have to be modified to actualize this.

  • All gender requests should be fill-in boxes; avoid “other” as a third option.

Reply: Legal/Federal reporting requirements make that difficult.


Active vs Reactive

  • MySlice and Registrar should prompt people changing names with further steps they may wish to take.
    • We also mentioned that there should be follow up confirming that these changes were made. Send a follow-up/confirmation email?
  • There are some reports of poor communication with Registrar about getting a new ID after a legal name change.
    • These occur through different offices (?)
  • Most participants heard about the possibility to change names, etc. through word of mouth, not through any published resources.
    • Where is this information located? The LGBT Resource Center website is a more intuitive option than ITS’.
  • A MySlice or Orange Success alert should be triggered for instructors when updates to students’ names/pronouns are made. Orange Success and Handshake should not out trans students to their instructors/advisors through deadnaming.
  • Include pronouns on student organization sign-ups and lists, on attendance sheets and rosters, and in student life information, especially for RAs and others who frequently interact with students.
  • Make sure any pronouns systems can be opted-out of. We don’t want to require this disclosure from all students.
  • One participant wondered if the Campus Climate Assessment offered any valuable insight that may be relevant to this committee.


Trainings & General Information Dissemination

The importance of training students, staff, and faculty came up centrally in every meeting. Comments were mostly along the lines of: even if the systems all work, this doesn’t achieve the desired outcome if those interacting with it don’t understand what it means. Further comments discussed internal diversity trainings, rather than bringing in outside groups; this allows for specific issues at SU to be engaged and allows for a more critical approach than some corporate-style trainings can offer. In these, specifically address adding pronouns to bios, preferred name experiences, and issues in various systems.

Reply:  The LGBT Resource Center will be sharing this information at its own trainings. They are revamping their Safe Space training which will be conducted in the Spring.


Send emails to professors and students addressing preferred names etc. or give sample options for how to appropriately collect this information from ALL students in classes. Secondarily, prepare sample emails or materials for students to send to faculty. A concern here is that it would require work of those with preferred names when it should ideally be something that is expected for all students.


IDs & Diplomas

  • What are the laws as opposed to the assumptions governing legal name on these documents?


    • The Syracuse Univeristy use of legal name and preferred name can be found on the policy page/FAQ page, available at: https://policies.syr.edu/policies/academic-rules-student-responsibilities-and-services/preferred-name-policy/
    • Laws governing legal names on those documents in particular are governed by FERPA/HIPPA – all of this can be protected by FERPA/HIPPA and Title IX. Our assumption is that non-SU affiliates cannot receive this information due to FERPA
    • Diploma: Preferred name is allowed on your diploma, see contact the registrar’s office.
  • Ideally, both IDs and diplomas would be able to include preferred names.

Reply:  For ID card rewrite, preferred name will be included, and we can refer them to the FAQ’s. For diplomas, please contact the Office of the Registrar. More information is available at: http://registrar.syr.edu/students/diplomas/

  • Opt-in pronouns available on IDs for interactions with gym staff and DPS.


    • Pronouns will not be available on ID cards.  Gyms have their own swiping system.  Preferred name will be a part of the ID card rewrite.
    • DPS has their own system, and they will be able to look up pronoun as it is available on the PeopleSoft.
  • New system for gym and/or health services that will pull up name and pronoun for staff upon swiping


    • Health Services has verified that front desk staff can see preferred names and pronouns if the student has entered them in the system.
    • The gym does not show preferred name.



  • Multiple participants noted that they actively sought out universities with inclusive applications; it was something that shifted their decisions to apply to Syracuse University.

Reply:  Thank you!

  • These forms should have more gender options or no gender options, not a generic “more info” box at the end of the app.

Reply:  We can submit this feedback to the Common Application system.

  • Students’ gender info on housing applications could usefully filter down to ResLife.


    • The Housing Management System will pull all data from PeopleSoft.  Preferred name and gender could appear on rosters for the Office of Residence Life (ORL).
    • As we update the PeopleSoft system, this information could cascade down to ORL.
  • Who has access to sex vs. gender info should be privileged (departments don’t need to know sex).

Reply:  This information is already privileged.

  • If applications can’t be changed, disclaimers affirming students’ identities and university’s priorities in spite of that should be visible before accessing the application.


    • We will continue to research that and look for ways to address it.
    • These disclaimers could be included in job ops, Common App, etc., as well as Admissions, Health Services, and other sites.
  • The University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Hawaii-Manoa were mentioned as places that do this well.
    • It May be worth checking their sites for more general information and approaches.
  • With Common App, concerns about family involvement versus being on campus were raised.
    • When information is requested matters for what information will be received

Reply:  Thank you for this information.


Payroll & Health Services

Similarly to IDs and Diplomas, there were comments about ensuring these were inclusive if possible but recognition that laws may limit what is disseminated and how. There was a comment about ensuring Health Services staff were well trained, but no specific previous experiences were discussed.

Reply:   Health Services is totally confidential.  At this time we are a FERPA compliant entity, but when we move to the Arch in the Fall of 2019, we will be HIPPA compliant. Either way, information is confidential. At Health Services, preferred name and pronouns are visible when providers open the chart, and are listed next to the legal name.  The front desk staff may also view preferred name and pronoun but they need to look for it on another screen. At the Counseling Center, students may also list personal pronouns which are visible to therapists, but again they are not visible to front desk staff.  When we move to the Arch, the Counseling Center will use the same system as Health Services so this will change. The Health Services staff had Safer Spaces training 2 years ago and is planning to repeat this very soon. Numerous providers and nurses have attended conferences about gender confirming treatments, and this Fall we started prescribing gender confirming hormone therapy.


Title IX concerns

One participant mentioned that the university may be open to a Title IX lawsuit for not affirming trans student’s identities, and that they have considered this.

Reply:   It is true that a number of courts across the country have ruled that both Title VII and Title IX extend to gender identity. In addition, the University’s Non-Discrimination Statement says we will not discriminate against persons based on “sex, gender … sexual orientation … gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender.” So, yes, it is true a student or employee could bring a legal claim against the institution for discrimination based on gender identity.

That being said, where there are non-discriminatory reasons for implementing certain operational practices, or even a legal requirement that we do things a certain way, the University would have a solid defense to any such claim. For example, there are legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons why Payroll needs to use legal names in its system (e.g., tax reporting). So, although the University should affirm trans students’ identities, potential claims under Title VII or Title IX potentially do not justify every and all operational changes we may seek (e.g., placing preferred names on every school system/ document).


ESF concerns

A participant in ESF noted that there is almost no culture of names and pronouns coming up or being discussed. This participant also noted that preferred name options were less available and, in some cases, reverted back to legal name a few days after being changed. Is this in our purview?

 Reply from ESF:

Thank you for thinking of us.  Here is the process that we have established for preferred name as of right now: https://www.esf.edu/registrar/preferred.htm.

This has probably been in place for maybe 2 years, but we try to fully point out the limitations we have no control over (your systems, knowing that many of our faculty use Blackboard and Myslice rather heavily).  No one has reported any concerns to us, especially if something reverted back after a change request was made. I was not directly involved in the development of this, but based on how things are written, it would seem that students would contact Student Affairs with any issues.  I’d have to check with Anne to confirm this.

Your progress may allow some more systemic changes to occur over here as well.  We recognize that many students and faculty rely on MySlice and Blackboard, which is where we understand rosters in classes emanate from.  So if you’re moving in a direction where preferred name would be included, this might make the changes much more extensive on our end.

Reply from PGPNAC:

We will continue the ongoing dialogue with ESF to look further into this.

Focus Group advertising concerns

Name of advisory council (Preferred Name, Pronoun, and Gender Advisory Council) discouraged some; it felt bureaucratic, and some were deterred by the term “preferred.”

Reply: We have since established a new title: the "Pronoun, Gender, and Preferred Name Advisory Council" (PGPNAC).   

Some participants were concerned about what they were walking into; was it going to be cis-administrators or trans? They mentioned that this dissuaded some peers from attending.

  • Trans leadership of focus groups should have been advertised.

Reply:   This is great advice and we will use this for future planning and communication with groups.

Locations were difficult to find.

Reply:   Thank you, we appreciate this feedback.

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