Blackboard to automatically update transgender students’ names

Previously students had to manually contact each College platform individually

Blackboard Learn will now automatically change a student’s name when they have updated their name change with College’s Academic Registry (AR).

Former Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) LGBT Rights Officer (LGBTRO) Jenny Maguire announced the news on Twitter.

According to the Blackboard IT services, AR will send weekly updates of students who have updated their names with them to Blackboard, who will then change the student’s name accordingly.

Maguire expressed her delight about this update, noting its particular positive impact on transgender students: “Speaking from my own experience, it’s really lovely to see this changed.”

“I found it quite upsetting during an already stressful time like exam season to know my TA or professor will see my deadname – not knowing how they would respond or if it could interfere with my mark at all.”

Previously to this update, students who wished to change their name with College had to contact the Academic Registry, Blackboard and Blackboard’s submission software TurnItIn separately. According to Maguire, this “resulted in all assessments being submitted in the previous name of the student – despite ‘that student’ never attending the class”.

“This would be quite distressing, with trans students being forced to out themselves to their TAs and essay correctors every time they submitted their assignments, not to mention the upset caused by being faced with your deadname constantly during exam season.”

Maguire noted the ignorance of many trans students when it comes to changing their names with College: “An issue in itself was that a lot of trans students simply didn’t know how to change their names on TurnItIn. All of the instructions on changing your name with the Academic Registry are online and you could change it easily on Blackboard, but I spoke to a lot of trans people that simply didn’t know how – including myself.”

As LGBTRO, Maguire decided to address this issue during the Hillary term assessment period: “As LGBTRO, I knew this has been an issue for a long time, and have been told many reasons by various individuals how it couldn’t be fixed.”

“However, in the midst of just submitting my own Hillary assessments and having this name issue myself, I wanted to see what could be done.”

She continued: “After a few back-and-forth emails and updates, I got the good news that the Academic Registry and IT services desk were going to work together to ensure any student that changes their name will be updated onto the system.”

Maguire explained that now, students must only contact AR to have their name updated across all College platforms: “This change means the system is now streamlined, and takes the burden off students looking to simply go to College as themselves.”

Maguire, who is the incoming Gender Equality Officer, believes that “Trinity does try to be mindful of its LGBTQ+ students”, but while she is “delighted that college saw the need to take the burden off of trans students with this issue, so much more needs to be done in relation to this”.

“The current name and gender change process is awkward and inaccessible, I would love to see this process made clearer and easier for the students that need it.  I would also like to see so many more gender neutral bathrooms, and mandatory training for college staff on LGBTQ+ issues.”

“Trinity was a trailblazer and headline-maker when we first launched our gender neutral bathrooms, and it’s about time college got back to doing much more for queer students” she noted.

TCDSU and College introduced six gender-neutral toilets in the Arts Building in 2016. Dublin City University (DCU) unveiled 54 gender neutral bathrooms in 2017, while University College Dublin (UCD) introduced plans to install 170 gender neutral toilets in 2018.

TCDSU has allocated €20000 to a “T-fund” to support trans students in their social transition.

Maguire hopes that College will start to support queer students before distressed students are forced to enact change themselves: “I have found that a lot of issues that have been occurring for years simply do not get sorted until a person has to experience unnecessary distress and kick up a fuss about it, and I hope that college is more proactive in dealing with the issues queer students face daily.”

“College must move to be unappologetic in its support of queer students.”

Ellen Kenny

Ellen Kenny is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Politics and Sociology. She previously served as Assistant Editor and Features Editor