Students’ Pronouns and Gender Identities Are First Change in BU’s Updated Data System
Terriers now have the option of updating the University Directory with pronouns and display names—how they identify and wish others to identify them, as opposed to their legal names.
They may also choose to provide their gender identities (which won’t be displayed in the Directory). Legal names will remain unchanged in BU’s records.
“This is an important first step in a longer journey to enable consistent use of chosen display name and pronouns throughout our systems,” Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer, wrote in an October 25 email to the BU community.
Morrison noted that the change is the first in a long-planned modernization of the 40-year-old Student Information System (SIS), the information technology systems that store student data about numerous interactions with the University: applying for admission, financial aid, or study abroad; registering for classes; paying bills; meeting with advisors; and managing employment while a student.
“The user experiences students, faculty, and staff are accustomed to for routine academic activities, like registering for classes, obtaining a class list, or checking degree progress, will change,” she says. “We aim to ease this transition for students by providing access, starting in the spring of 2023, to existing tools and services through a new student portal, MyBU. This portal will remain constant when user experiences for specific functions change.
“We hope this will help students find things easily. We are also working to make new user interfaces as simple as possible and will be providing training and support throughout the transition.
“This change is a foundational step that enables LGBTQIA+ students to provide their lived or chosen accurate name, pronouns, and gender identity to be used in BU systems and services,” Schroeder says. “In the near term, the impact of this is limited to the BU Directory display, which includes ‘Display Name and Pronouns’ only, and to a small number of other services, including the Terrier Card and Housing. Information Services and Technology will be working with administrative offices across BU in the coming months and years to adopt use of this data across all BU systems.”
A dozen years ago, the University of Vermont was the first school to allow students to include pronouns in its data system. Today, at least 20 schools do so.
BU students wishing to add their gender identities can do so through the “Change My Directory Listing” form under “Other Personal Information” at the University Directory.
“Adding pronouns and gender identity was a welcome change, [but] I think the breadth of this systematic overhaul was also overstated,” says Lena Broach (CFA’25), vice president of Trans Listening Circle, a club for Terriers who are transgender, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, and questioning.
“Changing the name on your Terrier Card was always possible,” Broach says. “Changing your [Directory] name was not possible, but it was possible to completely hide your name from the Directory, which I did months before legally changing my name.” She’s also waiting to see how new information about pronouns, display names, and gender identity will be shared with BU Housing, an initiative that Morrison’s memo said will happen this spring “to support gender-affirming housing processes.”
Broach urges BU “to put more resources into a broader overhaul of the system and to look towards stopgap measures in the meantime—instructing the mailroom to use students’ chosen names, making gender-neutral and gender-affirming housing guaranteed for those that need it. I understand that large changes take time, especially in a university this size with systems this intertwined, but I do not believe that this is a reason to delay change. ”
Morrison announced the following steps in the process over the next two years:
- This spring semester will roll out “a new, more user-friendly portal” accessing various resources, including the Student Link, to academic, financial, and institutional data, as well as sharing students’ new data with Housing.
- Next fall, new student applications and financial aid will be processed in the new SIS.
- In spring 2024, students will register for fall 2024 classes in the new SIS.
- In summer 2024, students will begin paying bills and managing enrollment through the new SIS, while faculty will use it for grading and advising.