Ask the College of Charleston to Allow All Students to Use Their Chosen Name on Diplomas

Ask the College of Charleston to Allow All Students to Use Their Chosen Name on Diplomas

March 1, 2021
Signatures: 898Next Goal: 1,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Jensen Quinn

Letter to the President

February 28th, 2021


To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Jensen Quinn and I graduated from the College of Charleston (CofC) in May 2019. As an alumni of this institution and a person of trans experience, I am writing to the College in an effort to formally relay an issue I have been facing with regards to the reception of my diploma. At the time of writing this, I still do not have my diploma. I never paid for an initial diploma, as I go by a different name than my birth/legal name and was told by administration that I was not allowed to have my actual (chosen) name printed on my diploma, due to legal reasons. As such, I have since opted not to spend the money for a diploma at this time, with a name I do not recognize and that is my deadname (i.e. a name that I no longer go by or identify with that is often still used without my consent). After initially spending months attempting to save up the funds to change my name legally, so that I could both have peace of mind and obtain my earned diploma, I realized that I still would not be able to complete the legal name change process before the deadline of August 2020 that the Registrar’s Office had given me. At the time, this fast-tracked legal name change was a begrudged decision I was funneled into making; now, I am weighed down by the fact that I am no closer to obtaining a legal name change as I was after I had first graduated. I have attempted to communicate with both President Hsu and the Registrar’s Office about this issue repeatedly, and both parties have consistently cited that it is not currently the College’s policy to allow students to have their chosen names on their diplomas, unless they undergo a legal process and can provide documentation to prove it. This is unacceptable.

I am a trans person and a first-generation college student, and while I accepted this particular situation at the time of my graduation, I cannot express to you how disheartening and cruel it feels to have the institution that I gave so much of my time, energy, and money to, to not have a trans-inclusive policy regarding name changes, and not be willing to move forward with one. As a 2019 inductee into the Hall of Leaders and a graduate from the Bonner Leader Program, I know that I perhaps carry some pull in terms of campus connections, and so am here to advocate for myself, for others who have gone through this process, and for current students experiencing this system policy, so that the policy can ultimately change and no one else has to come against this barrier again.

With this letter, I hope that you consider that the policy of not allowing students to have their true/chosen names on their diplomas is an act of systemic transphobia. To not prioritize conversations surrounding policy change around this issue would be to openly perpetuate harm, and that is why I am urging you to sit with this issue rather than cast it to the side (as with our previous correspondence), while labeling it as the way things are. Trans students experience higher levels of discrimination than their non-trans peers, and the numbers climb when you factor in other systemic injustices such as anti-Blackness, Ableism, etc. that are embedded within all institutions, including and especially those of "higher" learning. I urge you to use your power to change the policy at CofC to encompass a more inclusive approach to awarding diplomas, to institutionalize respect and support for trans students. Some higher-education institutions that have already done so are:

Fordham University

Emerson College 

Dartmouth College

San Diego State University

California State University, LA

California State University, Northridge

University of Arizona

Harvard University

& Many More.........

The bottom line: this is not new. I urge you to consider what is possible here. Receipt of a diploma should not be met with even more barriers than already exist. I am happy to talk further about this, as well. Thank you for your time.




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Signatures: 898Next Goal: 1,000
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