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Boston University allows students to change their own display name and pronouns on BU directory

BU Display Names
The email from Boston University Enrollment and Student Administration sent on July 19. The email announced that students will be able to change their display name, gender identity, and preferred pronouns for BU systems. CLARE ONG/DFP STAFF

By Xiaoya Shao and Fiona Broadie

Boston University Enrollment and Student Administration announced in an email July 19 that students can change their display name, preferred pronouns, and gender identity for BU systems. 

The email, signed by Christine McGuire, Vice President and Associate Provost for Enrollment and Student Administration, said the update is a step toward an inclusive campus for LGBTQ+ students. 

“[The new directory listing] provided needed flexibility and recognition for people who either had name changes or wanted to be referred to in a different way than their record indicated,” BU spokesperson Colin Riley said in an interview.

The BU systems include the BU directory, Blackboard, Kerberos login name, BU diploma, Student Health Service medical record and Zoom. 

For continuing students changing their display name before Aug. 1, they will receive a new Terrier Card by visiting the Terrier Card Office when they return to campus. If students change their display name after Aug. 1, they will get the new card in mid-Sept, according to the email.

Alex, a transmasculine student in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said students now need to worry less about being referred to by their non-preferred name.

“One of the biggest benefits is ultimately that these changes can help ensure the safety of students who aren’t necessarily able to get their name legally changed,” Alex said. “That’s a wonderful option to have because it lets people know how to refer to you, and it doesn’t lead people to make assumptions.”

“Gender identity will be used in the BU Housing system for Fall 2023 room selection,” McGuire wrote in the email.

The new directory listing is part of BU’s Student Information System renewal program, which aims to “modernize the IT systems that support and store student data,” according to the post by University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison. 

Lena Broach, a sophomore in the College of Fine Arts who is a transgender woman and the vice president of the Trans Listening Circle at BU, said there are potential pros and cons from the directory update.

“Making [name changing] accessible and … having a lower barrier of entry can be incredibly affirming and euphoric for people,” she said. “[However,] there is a chance that if this system is misunderstood, it could potentially out people to their parents.”

Vlad Rada, a sophomore at College of Arts and Science, shared mixed feelings about the new directory system as it could be “problematic” and “dangerous” for some students.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who are afraid to update their name or pronouns, because they just don’t want it getting back home,” Rada said. “But that’s not necessarily something that can be changed easily.”

Rada said they appreciate being able to automatically share their pronouns with BU professors, so they have access to preferred pronouns during class discussions.

“If [the pronouns] are just there and accessible, then it’s a burden taken off of someone, so I think that’s a positive,” Rada said. 

Instructions on how to change display name, pronouns and gender identity can be found here.

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