Listen to this article

URBANA — At next year’s University of Illinois commencement, graduates may be able to choose a name other than the one on their birth certificate to get printed on their diploma.

Students voted 6,231 to 1,103 in favor of the change this spring, and UI trustees will take up the matter at today’s board meeting.

“This request came out of an initiative at Urbana, but it’s supported by students from all three universities, and it would allow students to request that their preferred name be put on their diploma rather than their legal name,” Executive Vice President Barb Wilson said at Wednesday’s Academic and Student Affairs committee meeting. “The legal name will continue to be used on transcripts and other kinds of documents. This would simply be for the diploma, and students would have to have their requests reviewed and approved.”

The change would allow students to use a middle name instead of a first name, an abbreviated name or Americanized name they prefer, or a name that better reflects their ethnic, racial or gender identity, according to the agenda item.

Wilson said allowing this is “increasingly allowed by institutions across the country,” including at the University of Minnesota, many of the University of California schools and the University of Colorado system.

Trustee Ed McMillan said he was concerned about the change.

“I understand this is a different world, I just hope that we don’t someday regret that we are diminishing the significance of a degree at the University of Illinois,” he said.

Trustee Ricardo Estrada said that while he had “some reservations, as well,” he added his mother’s last name on one of his degrees.

“She wanted her name on it, which is very common in the Latin American culture — to have both names,” he said. “It wasn’t that big of a deal. It was a simple change to reflect that I have a mom.”

Trustee Jill Smart said she likes that the name-change requests would be reviewed.

“Maybe even someone like my son would want to do something really stupid that he’d regret years later,” she said.

But she said she supports the change.

“I guess after all the hard work in getting that degree, they should be able to put the name on it that they want,” Smart said.

Also at today’s meeting, the board is expected to approve a policy that prohibits faculty and staff from having intimate relations with undergraduates and those they supervise.

The intimate relations policy would allow for exceptions, but those cases would require developing conflict-management plans.

The UI is also planning to conduct background checks of job candidates to look for findings of sexual misconduct, which could lead to a candidate being withdrawn from consideration.

The two proposed policies stem from a set of recommendations approved by trustees in November that are aimed at preventing sexual misconduct.