In August, Lehigh announced that members of the Lehigh community have the ability to update their personal pronouns and gender identity in Lehigh’s Banner system.
Scott Burden, director of the Pride Center, said the university is still working out all of the places where personal pronouns will be visible.
However, Burden said gender identity will not be accessible to anyone outside of system administrators who will largely use the information for data purposes.
Burden said the goal of Lehigh’s chosen name and gender identity group is that chosen names will appear across the university databases, barring instances where legal identification documents are involved.
He said the group is meeting in the upcoming weeks to establish the timeline for the chosen name update, which is predicted to come in the near future.
Burden said he thinks the update will have a significant impact on the Lehigh community, both by assuring people that who they are is accurately reflected in Lehigh databases and by creating a campus culture of respecting personal pronouns.
Kai Davison, ‘22, recently updated their pronouns in Banner.
Davison said they don’t anticipate the update changing anything because they don’t think people will pay attention to the changes they made.
Dom Ocampo, ‘22, said while the update felt good in small ways, they think there is still a lot to be changed and learned on campus regarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ community members.
“If it were around when I was dealing with changing names and pronouns, it would have made my life a lot easier,” Davison said.
Ocampo said that while they believe the update was an important administrative decision, the change feels surface level.
“In a lot of ways, it feels like Lehigh is only catching up because the world is getting louder,” Ocampo said.
Davidson said it’s hard for them to feel seen when they’ve had to push for years for this one small thing.
Alex Cubbage, ‘24, said that while the update is great to help validate different gender identities on campus, this update was the bare minimum.
Cubbage said it’s always too little too late when it comes to the administration’s actions.
“They never do anything when everyone else is doing it. They’re always the last ones to show up, and so it feels like an obligation at that point. It doesn’t feel authentic,” Cubbage said.
Burden said the update is absolutely overdue and that many other colleges and universities have gone through similar processes in the past couple of years.
Cubbage said it will take more than this update to create a safe environment for LGBTQ+ members of the Lehigh community, particularly those who identify as transgender or gender-conforming.
“It’s validating for the people who need it, and it’s very important to have, but it’s not going to change the culture,” Cubbage said.
Ocampo said there are other ways the university should be supporting their LGBTQ+ community, such as queer and trans-inclusive training at the Counseling Center and having gender-inclusive bathrooms in every building on campus.
Davison said they would like to see community member’s chosen names reliably show up everywhere and educational resources for faculty, staff and students to prevent prejudice towards transgender and gender-nonconforming students.
Cubbage said there is more work to be done to make Lehigh a safe environment for its LGBTQ+ community.
“Don’t congratulate Lehigh on this,” Cubbage said. “Bring it to attention that they added this option, but don’t pretend that they did something great.”