Policy Steward: Vice President for Administration


  • Purpose
  • Preface
  • Policy
  • Process
  • Further Information


    This policy provides guidance for the establishment of a preferred name within the University's information systems.


    This mechanism is intended for those who have a significant reason for utilizing a preferred name instead of, or in addition to, their legal name, particularly individuals in the process of gender transition or those who have a safety concern. At this time, Penn State does not have information systems in place which can accommodate all forms of a person’s legal and preferred name; changes must be made manually, on a case by case basis, for each system that can accommodate a preferred name. Name changes based on preference alone cannot be accommodated at this time but may become available as future information systems are designed.


    The Pennsylvania State University recognizes the need or preference for members of the University community to refer to themselves by a first name other than their legal first name. As long as the use of this name is not intended for the purposes of avoiding legal obligations or for misrepresentation, the University acknowledges that a “preferred name” can be used where possible in the course of University business and education.

    Only the first name may be designated to appear as a preferred name, in systems which can accommodate it. The person’s preferred name may be used in University communications and informational materials except where the use of the legal name is required by University business or legal need. Not all University information systems, databases, and processes may be able to display a preferred name, and many uses require display of the legal name; therefore, individuals who utilize a preferred name within University systems should always be prepared to reference their legal name as well and to provide corresponding identification when necessary.

    This policy is not intended to encompass arbitrary or repeated name changes. The University reserves the right to refuse a preferred name. Instances that may result in this prohibition include the use of profane words; names that may be used for fraudulent purposes; cartoon or other commonly known fictional characters; or other situations.

    Except as set forth below, the individual is free to determine the preferred name he or she wants to be known by in University information systems. Only the first name may be designated for the preferred name; the last name must remain the same as the full legal last name in the system.

    The following list provides examples of appropriate preferred name options at this time:

    In the instances where a member of the University community utilizes a preferred name in various University information systems, it should be understood that for University business, it will still be necessary that the legal name be used wherever the legal name is required by University business or legal need. This may include financial, medical, and law enforcement documents, transcripts, diplomas, W-4 forms, I-9 forms, payroll documents, Visa/immigration documents, personnel files, employment applications and related documents, background check documents, insurance documents, etc.


    For the purposes of maintaining accurate University records, members of the Penn State community requesting use of a preferred name for reasons related to gender transition or safety concern must work with the appropriate Penn State office which will provide a recommendation to the relevant information system office. Requests will be considered on a limited basis. Contact offices are:

    The office being asked to provide the recommendation may ask for additional information or documentation. Once the recommendation is completed, the recommending office will contact the relevant information systems offices to implement the change. The preferred name will be added to the University’s Central Person Registry so that the preferred name may be used in additional information systems as they are able to accommodate it.

    Students may use e-Lion to set confidentiality preferences, and use https://www.work.psu.edu to change e-mail alias and name related account settings to reflect the selected preferred name.

    The Alumni Association maintains its own database of alumni and Blue & White Society student members. Updates can be made in three ways:

    In some cases, students may wish to establish a confidentiality hold on their directory information until the preferred name request is processed. Information about withholding directory information is available at http://www.registrar.psu.edu/confidentiality/directory_information.cfm. Once the preferred name request has been processed, the student should release the confidentiality hold on the directory information, which will allow the preferred name to appear. It is important to note that even when a confidentiality hold is in place, the student’s name will appear in ANGEL rosters in courses in which the student is enrolled; the legal name will appear until the preferred name request is processed, after which time the preferred name will appear.

    A preferred name designation is not a legal name change. If a student’s name has been legally changed, see Office of the University Registrar’s policy regarding legal name changes and corrections http://www.registrar.psu.edu/academic_actions/name_change.cfm . Gender designation can also be changed, which requires a government-issued ID card, such as a driver’s license showing the gender. If an employee’s name has been legally changed, Policy HR66, Change of Legal Name of an Employee, applies.


    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact Information Technology Services Office of Identity Services.

    Effective Date: January 27, 2014
    Date Approved: August 26, 2013
    Date Published: January 27, 2014

    Revision History (and effective dates):

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