After five years of fighting, UNC allows graduates to state their name on their diploma
Senior graduates from UNC are now able to specify the name that appears on their diplomas.
This decision was made to allow students who cannot use their legal name to display the name they identify with on their diplomas. Deputy Provost and University Registrar Lauren DiGrazia said the purpose of the move is to increase students’ pride in their achievements.
“We hope this change in practice will reinforce the pride students feel when they display their printed diploma with the name that best reflects their identity,” DiGrazia said in a message to seniors on April 12.
This decision was largely pushed by Terri Phoenix, the director of the LGBTQ Center. Phoenix said the ability for students to specify the name that will appear on their degrees is an important way for the University to support transgender and non-binary students.
“The most important message it sends is that it is student-centered, that they recognize that degrees are something that students can proudly display,” said Phoenix. “They worked hard to get these degrees, especially for people with marginalized multiple identities, it’s not an easy journey.”
University documents and emails sometimes show the legal names of students and staff, while other times they display their asserted names. Max Carter, a junior member of the Alliance for Sexuality and Gender at UNC and an employee at the LGBTQ center, said he did not know when his confirmed or legal name will appear.
“It’s really hit and miss,” Carter said. “Most of the time, you don’t know what name will appear in different places. There are so many different names that I get in the UNC mailing list. Even on more official stuff, it’s still like a purse with the name popping up, which is really frustrating.
Phoenix said that over the years at the LGBTQ Center, T has found that uncertainty over which name will appear on documents and emails can be detrimental to students.
“I think it’s very damaging and it contributes to a feeling of alienation and not belonging and not being respected or seen,” Phoenix said. “In the worst case, it can also unintentionally kick someone out, which can be very physically dangerous, not to mention academic danger due to the prejudice and discrimination that exists.”
With these issues in mind, Phoenix began working on getting students to choose the names of their degrees about five years ago. Phoenix said the process was largely about educating the University and working with IT on the logistics of implementing this change.
To make this a reality, it was necessary to determine that diplomas are not legal documents, but rather ceremonial documents.
“Under North Carolina law, it is not considered a legal document, it is a ceremonial document, and because it is a ceremonial document, it is not necessary that it has the legal name, ”Phoenix said. “It took a long time to get enough evidence and enough people to understand that there was a difference with the ceremonial documents.”
In the past, in order for students to use the name on their diploma, students had to change their legal name to that name. For Carter, not having to worry about completing this process before graduation next year is a relief.
“It’s very important to know which name you are going to be able to present,” they said. “I kind of expected that if I didn’t get my legal name changed, I wasn’t going to be able to do it. There’s definitely a little bit of weight on your shoulders knowing, ‘Oh, that’s something I’m going to be able to do.’ “
While the news was enthusiastic about students not calling each other by their legal names, Carter said it was only a small part of what the University could do to support transgender students. and not binary.
“It’s really a relief to know that this is something that will be available to me,” Carter said. “But at the same time, it looks like a very superficial thing the University can do.”
Another process with disparities between submitting legal and confirmed names is during the course registration process, as ConnectCarolina lists the legal names of faculty members rather than confirmed names, Phoenix said. Another is on UNC One cards, as they are considered legal forms of identification and reflect the legal names of students and staff.
“I want to start a discussion that maybe the UNC ID is not defined as a legal document so that people can have whatever name they want on this document because we are posting this document everywhere,” said Phoenix.
Carter and Phoenix said other issues that need to be addressed by the University include making gender-neutral housing options available, expanding employee health care to cover hormone treatments and bridging surgeries, and the fight against heteronormativity on campus.
“I think there’s a danger in thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve done this, so we have it,'” Phoenix said. “There are so many things we need to do.”
To confirm or update the name that appears on their credentials, students can visit their ConnectCarolina student center.
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