Montana Hall File, MSU File

A man and his dog skateboard through the Montana State campus at sunset on April 2. (Rachel Leathe/Chronicle)

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Montana State University students and staff who would like to be known by something other than their legal name will have the option to go by a different name when a new service launches next week.

The Chosen Name service is scheduled to start Oct. 21, with anyone in the university able to submit an online request to what they would like their name to be throughout MSU’s internal systems.

Students and staff who request a chosen name will be issued a new university email. They can also request an updated CatCard, MSU’s identification card, with their chosen name for the usual replacement fee.

University spokesman Tracy Ellig said the main reason for rolling out the service was standardization.

“Students, faculty and staff were already using something other than their legal name in some of our systems in an ad hoc and informal way, but it was a patchwork,” he said. “This project made those names operate across as many of our systems that were practicable.”

PJ Diamond, program manager with the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons, presented information on the service at a Faculty Senate meeting in late-September. She talked about the importance of going by her preferred name.

“For me personally, it’s been super empowering. When they look me up, they see the name I want them to see. They call me by what I want to be called,” she said. “… If it’s this empowering for me, I can imagine how empowering it will be for the community.”

In answer to a question from a faculty senator about using a chosen or legal name in peer reviewed research, Diamond said it likely depends on the individual and it was their choice on what they would prefer.

The university outlines instances people may wish to be known by a chosen name, including, using a nickname, abbreviated form of their name or their middle name, to align with an individual’s gender or religious identity, to use their former last name professionally, to use a pseudonym, to adopt a local name for international students, or to provide an additional level of safety for victims of physical, sexual or other violence.

The chosen name will be used in the campus directory, internal systems like CatScholarships and CatsConnect, Handshake, the student information system, Rec Sports and Fitness Center and the campus housing website.

Starting in December, class lists and grade rosters will begin reflecting the chosen name.

The service won’t directly impact diplomas since students have always been able to decide what name they want used.

The university estimates it will take around 48 hours to process chosen name requests and update the systems.

Legal names will still be used for financial aid, official university transcripts, payroll, tax processing, employment and enrollment verification, reporting to federal and state agencies and immigration status reporting.

The university says it will not allow chosen names to be used if the purpose is to misrepresent, avoid legal obligations or violate any laws and university polices. It will also deny or remove a chosen name in certain situations, including the use of obscene language or content.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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