Last year, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Office of the Registrar updated their preferred name form after hearing feedback from students to make the process more clear.
The Student Information Change form allows students to change their personal information, such as their preferred name, legal name, residency status, and social insurance number. A preferred name is the name used day-to-day that is different from a legal name. The form was created in 2015 so students can change their personal information and have it applied to all necessary services and programs.
The Pride Advocacy Group and the President’s Diversity and Equity Committee (PDEC) have been advocating for this change for years.
Zena Mitchell, associate vice president of KPU Enrollment Services and Registrar, says the department changed the format of the form because some students thought they couldn’t update their preferred name without legal documentation.
“It was reading as though legal documentation was required for you to make a change to your preferred name, which wasn’t the case,” Mitchell says. “We changed the form into separate sections, specifically for legal name change and another section for preferred name change.”
In the previous version of the Student Information Change form, the preferred name box was placed with the change of name section. The form asked for legal documents like a marriage certificate, divorce certificate, or legal change of name certificate.
Students can find the form on the Pride @ KPU website and submit it electronically to email@example.com or hand it in-person at Student Enrollment Services. Students will soon be able to change their preferred name through the Online Self-Service (OSS) through the Personal Information tab.
Once a student submits the form, Mitchell says the application takes one business day to process if done online and immediately in-person.
After a student’s form has been submitted, they will see their preferred name on class lists, the OSS, and see their KPU email address changed. However, Mitchell says as the university continues to update its services, students may still see their legal names on some online systems.
Before the change to the form in October last year, Mitchell says KPU would create a student account through their legal name and then they could change their preferred name afterwards. But now, when a student begins their studies at the university and provides their preferred name, the student’s information and online systems will reflect the preferred name.
“We’re inventorying right now all those different systems. Some of those systems talk to each other, some of them don’t,” she says. “But we’re trying to make sure that as best as we can, those things can cascade through the variety of different systems.”
Romy Kozak, director of PDEC, says they and the Pride Advocacy Group advocated for the separate sections not only to make it more clear on the form but to ensure students feel welcomed, seen, and respected.
“The systems that are used at [KPU] are like many universities, they’re so complex, and we have different systems for different purposes,” Kozak says. “But how does that talk to Moodle? How does Moodle talk to Big Blue Button, Teams, or Zoom?”
The form’s change became a focus again last year “when the system that processes the information the form collected had finally been updated enough to be able to communicate [the] information,” according to a follow-up email from Kozak.
In addition, they say many people take it for granted that their name will be represented accurately such as through documents and proper pronunciation.
“But there’s many people for whom that’s not something that they can take for granted,” they say.
Kozak adds that while this is a positive change to the form, there are still some limitations.
“It would be great if a lot of our students from non-Anglo cultures felt like they didn’t have to Anglicize their names to fit into a colonialist structure,” they say. “[But] this is progress.”
In the meantime, Mitchell says the Office of the Registrar and the Preferred Name Working Group are working on how to continue to improve the systems at KPU across the different systems and platforms.
“Names are a really important part of who we are, and identifying a person by their preferred or chosen name shows respect. It honours identity expression and just helps to create a sense of inclusivity and belonging.”