When students return to campus in January, the first phase of the Lived Name Initiative will be launched. Created in cooperation with Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Information Technology and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the project is aimed at streamlining the process through which students change their names across platforms such as Polaris, Workday and new OneCards.
In particular, transgender and nonbinary students, who may go by a different name than the one they were assigned at birth, will no longer have to come out to a variety of offices if they want to officially change their name. International students or others who go by a name different than their legal one won’t have to correct their professors on the first day of every semester.
We strongly commend the College, particularly Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion Kate Stern and Director of Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, Institutional Research, Consulting and Analytics Peter Wiley, for this effort. Now, it is up to students to keep up. While students transitioning on campus often feel support from both the College and their peers, specific instances of being referred to by incorrect pronouns or their dead name happen daily. The same can certainly be said for students who are not transitioning but also do not go by traditional male or female pronouns. We all make mistakes, but these actions often veer towards a carelessness that Bowdoin students rarely exhibit in other facets of their lives here.
Bowdoin was founded in 1794 and only began to accept women to the College in 1971. It is a small school in the whitest state in the Union. Despite its commendable efforts to diversify its student body in all senses of the word, it can still often feel like the natural extension to a New England boarding school. It is steeped in tradition and resistant to change. And some of these traditions without a doubt deserve to be celebrated. The reason that Bowdoin has been able to diversify its student body is because students from around the world—40 countries in the class of 2022—come here for its academic rigor, its impressive resources and its great food.
Often, students call on our administrators to make changes. Although many in our community may not have recognized the need for this specific change, we are grateful that Bowdoin did and took action. Now it’s up to us to transform an institutional policy into a daily practice. Keep your eye out for talks and events by LGBTQ students and about LGBTQ issues—and then show up. Or, as Stern told the Orient in October, it would be helpful “if people could find a way to mention their awesome gay uncle or to go to Out Allies [training] and put a sticker up on their water bottle, get their name on the list—it’s really that sign of ‘You don’t have to come out with a big, giant coming out story, but I’m OK with who you are.’” If you can think of a way to make your friends and peers comfortable coming out to you, no matter how low-key, do it.
Bowdoin is taking concrete steps to make this place feel more like home for every student who attends here. It is up to all of us to follow suit.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Dakota Griffin, George Grimbilas, Calder McHugh and Jessica Piper.