Preferred Name Policy
What is a Preferred First Name?
Some Sonoma State University students are known by a first name that is different from their legal first name. In an effort to accommodate these students the University has created a preferred first name option for student information as it appears in select locations. While anyone is welcome to use a preferred first name, there are several groups of people for whom this option is invaluable. For example, some students are known by a middle name or a nickname and are hard to identify when their legal name is used. Additionally, this option will allow transgender students to use a preferred first name on campus prior to or without pursuing a legal change of their first name. Many international students may also find this option helpful if they use a nickname during their course of study in the States.
Currently enrolled students are now able to go to their MySSU Student Center and set a preferred first and/or middle name, defined as a name by which the student wishes to be commonly known if different from the student’s legal first/middle name. At this time, this preferred name will be seen in Moodle courses, on Class Rosters and Grade Rosters in Faculty Center, and you can obtain a new ID card (replacement charge applies). Over time, more systems will be adapted to display students’ preferred names.
The individual is free to determine the preferred name they want to be known by in the University's information systems. Establishing a preferred name does not automatically give the right to put the name on the SSU ID Card. Your SSU issued ID Card is your official university ID and is the property of Sonoma State University. SSU reserves the right to decline the ID holder’s request to print preferred name on the SSU ID Card if the name is deemed inappropriate. Inappropriate preferred names include but are not limited to those that avoid legal obligation, misrepresent, harass or threaten. In most cases, a preferred name should not be a message, company or group name, especially if it is for promotional purposes.
Some campus departments interact with, and send reports to federal, State and other government agencies that verify the identity of students using the legal name, in some cases Social Security Number, and other personal identifiable information which prohibits the use of preferred name.
Please be aware that inappropriate use of a preferred name may be a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and be referred to the Judicial Affairs Office. The University reserves the right to remove a preferred name if it is being used inappropriately or for misrepresentation or evading legal obligations.
In addition, indicating a preferred name will not change the student's e-mail address as it appears in the student’s record.
A student’s primary, or legal, name will continue to appear on diplomas, official and unofficial transcripts, and any documentation involving financial aid or student accounts. Students must also continue to use their primary names when conducting official University business. The primary name can only be changed by visiting the Office of the Registrar and filing a Personal Information Change Form.
The University reserves the right to approve or disapprove preferred first name change requests.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a Preferred Name?
A preferred name is a first and/or middle name by which someone wishes to be commonly known if different from their legal first name. Currently enrolled students can establish a preferred name by changing the first and/or middle names in their Student Center. Legal name changes are handled by the Office of the Registrar or by Human Resources.
- Your name is William Smith, but you go by Bill Smith. You may set up "Bill" as your preferred first name. Your name is then displayed as "Bill Smith."
- Your legal name is Mary Sue Smith. You go by Mary Sue, but the university directories list your name as "Mary Smith". You may set up "Mary Sue" as your preferred first name. Your name is then displayed as "Mary Sue Smith".
Examples of Preferred Names
2. How do I set or update my preferred first and/or middle name?
You can set or update your preferred first and/or middle name by in Student Center:
- Log in to MySSU
- Click Student Center (top-right-hand corner)
- In the Personal Information section of the Student Center screen, click the Names link
- Under "Name Type" select Preferred and click EDIT.
- Enter your preferred First and/or Middle name/initial
- Click Save
3. Can I set or change my preferred name to whatever I want?
Students can set a preferred name that they want to be known by in university systems instead of their legal name, where such usage is currently supported. Please note only alpha numeric characters are accepted in the preferred name field along with spaces, dashes and apostrophes. The University reserves the right to remove a preferred name if it is found to be being used for misrepresentation or to evade legal obligations. Inappropriate use of a preferred name may be a violation of the Student Code of Conduct and be referred to the Judicial Affairs Office.
Note:You may not use symbols in your preferred name.
Faculty and Staff can’t yet set a preferred name, but this should change soon.
4. Will my preferred name be used for everything at the University?
Not yet - it will take some time to update systems to use your preferred name. Bear in mind, however, that your legal name will continue to be used anywhere a legal name is required - on your diploma, official and unofficial transcript, and any documentation involving financial aid or student accounts. Students must also continue to use their primary (legal) name when conducting official University business. Setting a preferred name will not change your SSU email address, but it will update your name as shown in the “To:” field of emails and in the directory system. We hope to support email address changes in the future.
These updates are part of a project to expand the use of preferred names across campus systems, and it will take some time to get every system updated. The first priority is commonly used systems such as MySSU, Class Rosters, Grade Rosters, SSU ID card, and the phone directory.
5. Where will my preferred name be used by the University?
At this time, a student's preferred name will be seen in Moodle courses, on Class Rosters and Grade Rosters in Faculty Center, and you can obtain a new ID card (replacement card fee applies). This support will be expanded over time.
6. Can I change my email address to match my preferred name?
Not yet, because your email address is generated from the initials of your legal name. Setting a preferred name will not change your actual SSU email address, but it will update your name as it appears in the “To:” field in emails and in the directory.
7. May I request an SSU User Name that uses my preferred name?
Not yet. Your SSU User Name (eg sonomas) is generated from the initials of what was your legal name at the time the User Name was created. Your SSU User Name is your unique identifier in nearly all campus systems, which makes it a complex and far-reaching change.
8. May I request an SSU ID card with my preferred name?
Yes! It may take up to 2 days for the preferred name to be updated in our ID Card system, but it will be there.
9. Will faculty see my preferred name in Moodle?
Yes! It may take up to 2 days for the preferred name to display in Moodle, but it will be there.
10. Can I specify a preferred last name?
No. Last names can be changed only as a result of a legal name change. You must file a Personal Information Change Form with the Office of the Registrar to do this.
11. Am I required to provide and set a preferred name?
No. Using a preferred name is entirely optional.
12. How long will it take for my preferred name to appear and be used by the University?
Once you set your preferred name in MySSU Student Center, it will automatically appear and be used on the Class and Grade rosters right away. It may take a couple of days for the preferred name to appear in Moodle and other systems.
13. Do I need to change my password when I set a preferred name?
Maybe. If your existing password contains your preferred name, your might have trouble logging out. Our password rules prohibit us from using our names in the password. If your password happens to have your preferred name, we recommend that you change it.
14. I still have questions. Who can I talk to?
The CSU collects voluntary demographic information regarding the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of students. (California Education Code section 66027).
- Providing this information is optional.
- Your responses are kept private and secure. Limited campus staff will have access to this information.
- The data will not be used for discriminatory purposes.
- This information is used to provide services to all of our student populations.
- This information is used for summary demographic reporting where no individual applicant’s identity will be revealed.
In compliance with the CA Education Code, this summary information will be made available on CSU and campus websites and to the California Legislature.