Districtwide new name change form

Emmy Hardy, Copy Desk Chief

A new name policy has been introduced at Dallas College for students who wish to go by a name different from their current legal name.

The student must fill out a form, after which their chosen name should appear in eCampus and Microsoft Teams. This new policy comes in the wake of multiple efforts by students, staff and faculty to change the previous rule.

Prior to the introduction of the new policy, if a student wished to have a different name displayed in the Dallas College system, they would have to provide a court order or equivalent legal documentation authorizing a full legal name change.

Chris Schlarb, a coordinator for Student Life at Brookhaven Campus and adviser for PRISM – the student-led LGBTQIA+ club on campus – said: “The LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group leadership advocated for a process and form for a long time, and we finally found a top administrator, Rachel Wolf (director of institutional effectiveness & accreditation), who made it happen.”

Currently, a student wishing to go through the name change process must contact each system (eCampus, Teams, etc.) with the form attached as proof in order for the change to take effect. “The College needs to streamline [the process] so that submitting this form changes all compatible systems,” Schlarb said. “That’s the next improvement we would like to see.”

Schlarb is one of many people who pushed for the change. Scarlett May, an English instructor and faculty member at Brookhaven Campus, has been campaigning for a policy change since Fall 2022.

May said: “At the start of a 1301 class in Fall semester, when I asked for students’ preferred names and pronouns on Day 1, I became aware that two of my students had very different names from the ones shown on eCampus.”

May said after she talked to her students, she learned they had been told to fill out a form when they registered for classes. However, the only effect this had was the students seeing their name correctly in the gradebook, while their classmates and instructor continued to see their deadname.

This resulted in the students’ deadnames appearing on any online discussion posts/forums hosted on eCampus, a frequent occurrence in many courses. “This was just absolutely unacceptable to me,” May said.

What came next was, in May’s words, “a frustrating few months.” May went to various entities asking for advice on what she could do to fix this problem for her students. “I was constantly referred to phone numbers that weren’t answered or to the form students could fill out in registration which clearly didn’t achieve anything useful,” May said.

May became increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress, and her frustration was shared by her students, who were using every resource they knew of in order to get anything done.

One of May’s two students who first brought the issue to the instructor’s attention was also active in the effort. The student, whose identity is being kept anonymous, in reference to his experiences with the original form, said: “In the actual form, it said [the chosen name] will show on rosters and eCampus, and I came specifically before school had even started to do it.”

When the student met with May before Day 1 of his English 1301 course, he requested for his instructor to look him up on the class roster, only to find his deadname still listed. “And then we spent an entire semester running in circles trying to get it fixed.” May’s student said.

During this time, May also began to worry about another aspect of the issue. May said, “I was extremely concerned for all the trans students who didn’t feel comfortable advocating for themselves or speaking out; and let’s be clear, they shouldn’t have to.”

After a semester of continuously running into red tape, May and her student finally found some success when May emailed multiple administrators, listing her and the student’s experiences trying to make the change happen.

No student should have to make a case for being addressed correctly and respectfully.

— Scarlett May, English Professor

Ahava Silkey-Jones, vice provost of school of creative arts, entertainment and design, was one of the administrators whom the email was sent to.

“I was connected to an extraordinarily helpful Dallas College colleague in our IT department who resolved the issue the next day.” Silkey-Jones said. “..I believe increased awareness regarding the processing of preferred names will benefit many students.”

May recalled feeling the same day change felt both “miraculous and ridiculous,” with a seemingly impossible issue, one which she had dedicated a semester’s worth of effort to addressing, vanishing overnight.

While grateful to Silkey-Jones for her help, May was also annoyed. May said, “If the fix was that simple, why on earth had we had to spend so much time and energy trying to make it happen?”

Schlarb said for trans Dallas College students, the new name change policy will significantly decrease the possibility of hearing their deadname in class or seeing it online, which will hugely benefit them.

Schlarb also said this change will benefit international students who want to go by a different name as well.

Schlarb also expressed frustration with how long it took Dallas College to implement this new policy. “This change should have been implemented in the 2000s when other colleges and universities made it happen,” Schlarb said.

May expressed similar dissatisfaction. “No student should have to make a case for being addressed correctly and respectfully,” she said.

May pointed to the Dallas College official website, where on the LGBTQIA+ page, a heading reads, “Dallas College Supports Transgender Community.”

May commended the spirit behind the message, but had concerns over whether the college is actually functioning by this statement. May said, “It is absolutely essential that we live our values as a college. Affirmation is quick and easy, but follow-through is sometimes another matter.”

May’s student said: “It’s not that hard to show basic human respect. It doesn’t cost anyone, especially someone you just met, to use a different name.”

If a student wishes to fill out the new name change form, they can find a PDF of the document to print out on Dallas College’s website under the LGBTQ+ Resources page.