As many of you know, Banner has an option to input a preferred first name, gender identity and personal pronouns, and it may be updated at any time. These functions are particularly useful for queer and gender non-conforming students, as they allow a more private way to have the information pre-populated. The alternative to this would be having to essentially come out to each and every staff or administration member. However, I have noted many issues and shortcomings with this function, because although it could prove incredibly useful, it simply is not adequate enough, given the circumstances.
Underneath the widget for “preferred name” is the description of “name by which you like to be commonly known. This information may be used in correspondence by university officials and will appear to faculty in Blackboard.” Essentially, this means that not all email or written correspondence will be addressed or directed at students with their preferred name. The entirety of my College of William and Mary inbox is rife with “Dear Sara,” save perhaps professors that have had me in their classes.
And I’m more or less one of the lucky cases; many trans and GNC students have to be repeatedly deadnamed throughout their time at the College. Hand-in-hand with this, of course, is typically the inclusion of incorrect pronouns or other identifying factors, both of which I have also endured at times.
My fellow queer students know that pronouns are hardly a simple matter, particularly when choosing the set or mixture that makes one most comfortable. Despite the complexity of pronouns in general, Banner has only five pronoun choices: “he, him, his,” “she, her, hers,” “they, them, theirs,” “ze, zir, zim,” “ze, zir, zir.” Nowhere is there an option to create or combine pronouns, such as perhaps “he/they” or “she/they” in my case. In addition to this, Banner states that “Personal pronoun is stored in Banner Admin, where it can be viewed by some administrative staff members. Faculty members cannot see personal pronoun in Banner Self-Service or Blackboard, but you may ask them to use your personal pronoun.”
Essentially, this means the responsibility of using correct pronouns is no longer placed on the professors, administrators or others, but rather on the person. I commend professors for trying to make this ordeal easier, and allowing a space to do so at the beginning of each semester, but many class sizes and delivery don’t allow for such things. Instead, I have to run the risk of being misgendered or pronoun-ed by the professor or faculty member, my alternative being forced to perform a micro-coming out.
Although I have never mentioned it before, my queer GroupMe chat recently had a discussion about the same issue, with many members sharing their frustrations. The next time it happened, the respective staff member told me many departments use different systems to pre-populate messages to students, and these systems use legal names and “sex” markers rather than the correct information.
As a queer person who is also a data science major at the College, it is not hard to imagine a future where this information is shareable between offices and systems. Indeed, given the recent lack of care shown for student mental health, I think it is all the more important that such an issue get the attention it deserves. Queer youth and young adults are some of the most vulnerable in terms of mental health issues, specifically spurned on from societal difficulties. Pride may be fast approaching, and campus ready to decorate itself in gauche rainbow flags, but administration needs to realize that queer needs exist year-round.
Elaine Godwin ‘22 is an English and Data Science double major. As a queer person, she has a unique view on the world and is dedicated to inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Email Elaine at email@example.com.