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GRCC’s preferred name and pronoun policy doesn’t eliminate the need for students to repeat this information each semester

New installation of a wooden GRCC wall on the 4th floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall. (Breegan Petruska/The Collegiate)

Editor’s Note: The Collegiate published an article in August 2021 about GRCC’s lack of a system to identify preferred student and staff pronouns. Below is a followup story that was originally published on Oct. 26, 2021 at 3:39 p.m., but was altered soon after to correct the headline. 

By Alena Visnovsky

While many colleges and universities across the country have adopted policies that allow students and staff members to easily declare their pronouns, Grand Rapids Community College is not one of them. 

GRCC does currently have a policy to allow students to declare a preferred first name and pronouns, however, it does not have a system to allow the information to be available to classroom instructors. 

“GRCC works to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all of our students and employees” said GRCC Communications Director Dave Murray. 

In an email to The Collegiate, Murray provided GRCC’s Transgender and Equal Opportunity Policy, which establishes that students and employees need to be addressed by their preferred name and pronouns. This policy as a whole was implemented in August 2015 and last updated in November 2019. 

GRCC offers a Preferred First Name Change Request Form. This form can start the process of getting a new email, and then students can stop into Student Life to get a new RaiderCard. However, this form does not address pronouns. It only involves a name change. 

At this time, there isn’t a way for students to formally inform GRCC of their pronouns and have that information appear on a class roster.  

While GRCC offers a “Using They/Them/Their Pronouns” professional development session available for all faculty, these sessions are optional and offered at limited times. So, currently, the burden falls on students to introduce themselves with their preferred pronouns. However, here are some resources available.. 

“Within the Title IX training that every student has on Blackboard, there are videos that explain transgender equal opportunities and other aspects of the policy” said GRCC Director of Student Life and Conduct Lina Blair. 

While information can be sought out, GRCC hasn’t provided clarity regarding pronouns. 

The Collegiate reached out to neighboring colleges to find out which ones had established pronoun policies and found that there is no policy in place at Ferris State University. 

“I am not aware of a pronoun policy, but we do encourage the use of pronouns while making introductions,” stated FSU’s Dean of Student Life Joy Pulsifer in an email to The Collegiate. Like GRCC, FSU has a preferred first name policy.

When contacted by the Collegiate, Grand Valley State University revealed an accessible approach they used. Admissions Counselor Michael Guerra said that GVSU has software called “myName” installed in their students’ accounts, which was implemented in March 2019. Students can log into their student account and change their name and preferred pronouns. Those changes are then reflected in Blackboard and other systems throughout GVSU. 

GVSU also holds optional workshops for staff to learn how to manage pronouns and introductions on the first day of class. 

“GVSU hopes to make these workshops mandatory in the near future,” Guerra said. 

Reader Feedback: The Collegiate is interested in following up with students and employees who are impacted by GRCC’s lack of a pronoun policy. Do you think a change is necessary? How are you navigating this issue on campus? We want to hear from you. Email collegiate@grcc.edu.