Gender Identity and Preferred Names

Project Description

In May 2016, the Department of Education released a letter reminding institutions that Title IX protects all students from sex discrimination. This includes supporting a student’s preferred name, gender identity, and consistent pronouns. None of our current ERP systems support this well, so institutions have been developing new processes and hacking their systems to support this requirement. This is not sustainable and creates a large burden and cost to every individual institution and distance from our vendor partners.

We propose to bring together representatives with different perspectives from many sectors of higher education, along with partners from each of the major ERPs used by us, to communicate needs and identify barriers and how to overcome them. We plan to coordinate with the AACRAO and other groups who are also engaged with this effort. Our goal is to collaboratively develop recommendations for gender identities, designated pronouns, and preferred names in ERP systems. This will include broad guidelines for appropriate levels of confidentiality of this information. We will suggest next steps to make changes to benefit our students. These recommendations would then be used to improve the ERP systems for everyone. By creating a good approach in the core ERPs, we believe that other satellite systems will, over time, follow the recommended practices.

While some vendors partially support the use of preferred names, support for gender identity and preferred pronouns is, at present, incomplete or unavailable. As a result, many institutions have found it necessary to develop their own solutions as customizations or add-ons and have taken on both development and ongoing maintenance costs. A key goal, therefore, is to build consensus on essential functionality to be provided by vendors of student records systems to fully support the collection, storage and controlled display of names, gender and preferred pronoun information. With the likely exception of sex at birth, most of this information can change over time, so storing a history of changes may also be an essential requirement.  It’s hard to predict how institutions will decide who can access this information. For example, one university might choose to limit access to sex at birth information to health services and the registrar’s office, while another might want to restrict legal name access to financial aid, campus safety and payroll. With this in mind, a role-based approach to access control may also be a fundamental requirement.

Student system vendors will take different approaches to meeting these requirements, so defining broad, functional requirements will be more useful than crafting detailed specifications. If vendors of core administrative systems can implement roughly equivalent changes, the likelihood increases that satellite system vendors (e.g., health services, student conduct, student housing) will follow suit.

Audience/Who Should Participate

The working group will be made up of invited EDUCAUSE institutional and corporate members. Additionally, liaisons from similar efforts in related organizations may be added.


  • Recommended categories for:
    • Gender Identity
    • Pronouns
    • Preferred name
  • Confidentiality recommendations for each


  • January-February 2017: Finalize proposal; recruit working group chairs/members
  • March 2017: Working Group kick-off call; homework
  • April 2017: Project Outline completed
  • May 2017: Initial drafting
  • June 2017: First draft complete
  • July 2017: Edits based on feedback; final draft complete
  • August 2017: Publish