Penn State continues work to improve gender and identity inclusivity

March 24, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To continue creating and maintaining an open, safer and more inclusive environment honoring gender and sexual diversity, several units at Penn State are pursuing efforts for Zoom users to have an option to add gender and identity pronouns to their displayed screen names, while also addressing a new version of Penn State’s AD84 Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy, which will be deployed late this spring.

“We are working to create a culture of belonging by allowing people to be their authentic selves in their place of work or learning, whether that is digitally or in-person,” said Brian Patchcoski, assistant vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, in Penn State Student Affairs. “We must maintain equity in digital environments. While our information systems at times provide limitations to how we might wish to engage, we continue to work behind the scenes toward changes to keep equity at the forefront.”

Penn State Zoom users currently can make edits to their name displayed in a Zoom meeting; however, changing the display name needs to be reset on a per-meeting basis and is dependent on the individual security settings determined by the meeting's host. If the "Rename" option does not display, then the meeting host has not enabled this feature for the meeting. With these current limitations in mind, hosts of Zoom environments are encouraged to enable the renaming option for closed and authenticated Zoom sessions.

To address this issue long term, University leaders have been discussing with Zoom representatives how to add support for pronouns for users of their product. No timeline has been given, but when Zoom determines this feature can be added, Penn State is committed to working to reconfigure its integration with the platform to quickly incorporate such an update.

“We're very excited to see more applications adding and considering support for chosen pronouns,” said Keith Brautigam, director of identity and access management. “In the background we are hard at work modernizing Penn State's identity management systems and integrations to enable Penn Staters to manage their chosen identity through a single self-service portal.”

Additionally, following guidelines created in consultation with various campus constituencies — including the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (CSGD), President's Commission on LGBTQ Equity, and the Identity Governance Committee — along with a pending update to AD84 Preferred Name and Gender Identity Policy, units are actively working to modernize various aspects of Penn State systems to allow users to more comprehensively manage their chosen identity in support of the new version of the policy.

As part of updating AD84, students will be able to self-assert their chosen first and middle name. Employees will be able to self-assert their chosen name, plus a chosen last name to meet the "professional" name use case. This expanded policy will not only cover students, staff and faculty as it relates to gender transition, but also faculty and others with different publication or professional names; individuals teaching and studying here from other countries who may wish to use an Americanized name; individuals who have possible safety issues; and nicknames. 

“The integration process will be an upcoming challenge as the main systems will navigate these major shifts and then our downstream systems at the college, unit and department levels also will be working to integrate any changes as they are able,” Patchcoski said. 

To learn more, check out the following knowledge base articles: 

Last Updated April 15, 2021