Gutierrez: Wildcard names should be the names on rosters

Pallas Gutierrez, Opinion Editor

Many people at Northwestern go by names other than their legal names for a variety of reasons. Some are rather obvious, like Chris for Christopher, and some are middle names, often in the case of shared names within families. Others go by names with cultural or ethnic significance to them, even if that is not their legal name, or the Americanization of their foreign-language names. Some students go by other names because they are transgender, but haven’t legally transitioned and changed their names. Other students simply became more attached to nicknames they acquired and began going by those.

Changing your name in CAESAR is a very easy process. You log on to CAESAR, click Profile, click the pencil icon next to “Preferred” and enter your name. That name subsequently appears on class rosters, grade rosters, Canvas and the NU Online Directory. Changing your name within the NU library system is similarly easy; on the Borrowing Privileges page, there is a link to a name change form, which also contains a link to information about changing your name on CAESAR. Email addresses and names can also be changed relatively quickly: in account management, you can set up an account nickname, or you can update your name, which will allow you to change your official name and email in the school system.

By contrast, there is no publicized way to change the name printed on your Wildcard, other than a legal name change. A legal name change can be financially restrictive, impossible to get for family reasons or impractical if the name you go by is part of your legal name, such as a middle name or a shortened version of your first name.

Nevertheless, having your legal name instead of the one you go by on your Wildcard can be intrusive and potentially dangerous. At the library, the people checking out books are largely students, who might see that the name on your Wildcard and the name you go by are different, exposing trans students to outing or awkward questions. Students also use Wildcards in Evanston and Chicago for other student discounts. Presenting a Wildcard with a name other than your chosen name can be uncomfortable, even to a stranger.

There’s no reason for Wildcards to display our legal names. They are not government-issued photo IDs. Their primary purpose is to identify us to students, officials and employees on campus, so they should display the names those people know us by. Allowing choice of name on Wildcards would make trans students and others who go by alternate names feel safer and more included in the Northwestern community.

Pallas Gutierrez is a Communication sophomore. They can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.