VCU’s Call Me By My Name initiative promotes inclusion

The systemwide effort allows people to “use the name they choose without having to justify it.”

VCU’s Call Me By My Name initiative gives students and employees the opportunity to use names oth...
VCU’s Call Me By My Name initiative gives students and employees the opportunity to use names other than their legally assigned name. (File photo)

Inclusion creates a sense of belonging. That’s the message behind VCU’s Call Me By My Name initiative, which gives students and employees the opportunity to use names other than their legally assigned name. It also gives people the opportunity to identify with the gender they know themselves to be and to use the pronouns that best fit them.  

“People should be able to be their authentic self,” said Archana Pathak, Ph.D., special assistant to the vice president of institutional equity, effectiveness and success. “One way is to assure that they can use the name they choose without having to justify it.”

Archana Pathak, Ph.D., special assistant to the vice president of institutional equity, effectiveness and success. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)
Archana Pathak, Ph.D., special assistant to the vice president of institutional equity, effectiveness and success. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

After adding information on the eServices page of myname.vcu.edu, everything from Blackboard and Banner to MyVCU portal and VCU G Suite by Google Cloud will be updated within 24 to 48 hours. 

The process of changing your name has been available at Virginia Commonwealth University at the department level for some time, but was only integrated at a systemwide level in July.

“We needed this to be across the board. It has taken us awhile to get here, but we are here,” said Pathak. “It’s been a complex process. Doing it at an integrated level is quite an undertaking.”

The Call Me By My Name work group held focus groups with students and staff to hear their perspectives and better understand their hopes for this change.  

“This work stemmed from the work done by the Transgender Inclusion Administrative Work Group that met during the academic year 2016-2017,” said Pathak, an associate professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Womens Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

The initiative includes fields for name of use, gender/gender identity and pronouns.

“By including pronoun as a field, it allows for programs to incorporate that information wherever possible,” Pathak said. 

As of Oct. 30, 6,358 students and 664 employees had used the initiative to adopt their name of use. People who previously changed their first name with departments rolled over into the new system. Those numbers are not reflected above. 

“It’s important to know this is not the same as a legal name change,” Pathak said. “Tax records, health care and financial aid will still use those legal names.”

This is a multiyear, ongoing process, Pathak said. “We are working with VCU Health now to incorporate this into the VCU Health System.”

VCU is also moving forward on adding professional identity into the initiative. “This is for people who have gone through a last-name change and their professional identity is impacted,” Pathak said. “That will go through the same very comprehensive, thoughtful process.”

Going through the process gives the university a better understanding of the VCU community “in a more diverse and complete way,” Pathak said. 

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