The University of Maryland Senate voted Thursday to streamline the process for students who want to change their names and gender markers in university databases.
The proposal was approved 93-3 with one abstention, and recommends the creation of a third pronoun option — other than he/him and she/her — for non-binary individuals on the campus. The bill also resolves a current technical issue where names appear differently on their student records and personnel records, making it more difficult for students, such as LGBT students, to change how they are addressed.
"When it comes to how people are addressed and which pronouns they use, that needs to be respected," Luke Jensen, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity Center and also the proposer of the bill, said. "Our current IT system doesn't have the flexibility to do what we want it to do."
If a student undergoes a change of name or gender identity in student records and is also an employee at this university, the employee records overwrite what is in student records, Charles Delwiche, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Senate Committee chair, told the Senate Executive Committee at its March 27 meeting. This affects class rosters, student ID cards and the university directory, and "creates a situation that is unfriendly in particular to people who are transgender or gender nonconforming," Delwiche said.
The senate proposal, which now has to be approved by university President Wallace Loh, would prohibit this overwrite by making all university systems interact with one another.
"Name and sex are really fundamental to the computer records, so it's a big deal if you make a change in how those are handled," Delwiche said. "You have these computer systems that have to be modified to make the situation right, which is going to require time and money to fix."
The cost of implementing this bill has the potential to reach millions of dollars, Delwiche said.
The bill passed amid a slew of petitions from students asking their senate representatives to approve the long-awaited policy.
Cecilia Franck, a senior Spanish major and LGBT studies minor, sent petitions to 35 student and faculty senators from the College of Arts and Humanities.
Franck, who identifies as transgender and gender queer, hasn't tried to change their pronouns in the university database since there are currently no options besides male and female.
"The way it is now, a lot of transgender students have to email professors and explain to them everything about gender politics and their pronouns since they can't change it on the database," Franck said.
Brian Starace, an undergraduate senator representing the College of Arts and Humanities, said this is the first time his constituents have reached out urging him to support a policy.
"I think this illuminates that this is really important to the student population," said Starace, a sophomore music education and saxophone performance major.
This bill was originally proposed in August 2014, and on two occasions, the senate set it aside to take up other proposals, one of which was the updated sexual misconduct policy approved last year.
The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee — which the SEC tasked to look into the proposal — has also undergone changes in membership, including selecting a new committee chair.
The EDI committee also found that there has been at least one case of identity theft on this campus, where a person asked to have a new diploma issued under a new name, Delwiche said, so the committee had to discuss whether this might happen more often under the new policy.
The University Senate also approved an update to the Intellectual Property Policy — which has been in the works since 2010 — and endorsed an updated Climate Action plan during Thursday's meeting.
The Intellectual Property Policy states instances of when university, faculty, staff or students own specific intellectual property. If Loh approves, the updates would cut the wording of the policy from 39 pages to 10 pages.
"The policy is awkward, long and needs to be refreshed," Robert Dooling, the chair of the IP Policy Subcommittee that is part of the Research Council, said at the meeting.
The updated Climate Action Plan passed 96-2 with 1 abstention and seeks to clarify strategies to reach the university's 2020 and 2025 goals of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively, from 2005 levels.