Preferred Name Policy goes into effect at Cleveland State

By: Anna Toth

After initially being proposed in October 2017, the Preferred Name Policy officially went into effect at Cleveland State University this month.

This policy will allow Cleveland State students and employees to go by a preferred name outside of their legal name whenever possible within the university.

Any student may change their preferred name with the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).

Cayden Seely — treasurer with the Queer Student Alliance (QSA) and student worker in the LGBTQ+ Center on campus — explained that the Preferred Name Policy is essential. For many students whose gender doesn’t match their sex, it’s an important part of being able to participate in classes comfortably.

“If the policy wasn’t in place, then it would mean that professors wouldn’t be required to use a student’s preferred name in the classroom, meaning that those students would skip class,” Seely said.

Seely also explained how the preferred name policy helps encourage students who don’t identify with their legal name to seek help from other resources on campus, as well as participate on Blackboard.

The policy will allow preferred names in class, on Blackboard, at Counseling Services, on Residence Life documents, at the Cashier’s Office window and in the Office of Disability services.

Students can also change their Student ID cards to match their preferred name.

The preferred name cannot be used on financial documents or within Starfish. Legal names must also be used on admission applications as well as transcripts. But anywhere that a legal name is not necessary, the preferred name may be used.

Once OIE has been made aware of a preferred name, professors will be obligated to address the student by that name.

If a student is having issues with a professor or classmate not using their preferred name, it can be taken to OIE to be dealt with further.

Names with symbols or numbers, with the exceptions of hyphens or apostrophes, aren’t allowed. In addition, preferred names which are obscene or derogatory cannot be used. People may change their preferred name more than once but they cannot change their name to avoid responsibilities, legal obligations, violate university policy, federal or state law.  

Preferred Name Policy does not extend to last names. Instead, only first and middle names may be changed.

For many students, like Seely, the ability to go by a preferred name is essential, but it’s not perfect yet.

“I wish that it would expand to cover Starfish services,” Seely said. “If students make an appointment with the  [Tutoring Academic Success Center] or their advisor, they go in without the advisor knowing their preferred name.”

Cleveland State is one of many universities in Ohio to adopt a Preferred Names policy. According to, Kent State University adopted a similar policy in 2016, while others exist at Oberlin College, Ohio State University, the University of Akron and Ohio University.

Seely continued, saying that while the policy may now be in place, more needs to be done to advertise it. He talked about his struggles with finding out how to get his name changed on Blackboard before the Preferred Name Policy and not wanting future students to struggle with it.

“It’s good that the policy is in place,” Seely said. “But there needs to be some sort of advertising on it.”