University Walks Back Plan That Could Have Punished Students And Staff For Using People’s Legal Names

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The University of Toledo walked back a potential policy which would have required faculty and students use an individual’s “chosen name” after the First-Amendment watchdog group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) accused it of violating free speech rights.

The proposed policy, introduced in February, attempted to mandate the use of a name an individual “choose[s] to be called in day-to-day life” in all verbal communication and on all documents where a legal name is not required such as on course rosters, university identification and directories. FIRE, however, accused the policy of being in violation of the First Amendment for policing speech.

“FIRE sent multiple letters to the University of Toledo explaining that the proposed policy would violate the First Amendment by compelling students and faculty to use individuals’ chosen first names in all communications,” Aaron Terr, FIRE’s director of public advocacy, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The proposed policy’s language was unconstitutionally overbroad, sweeping in large amounts of speech that does not fall within any exception to the First Amendment.”

The University of Toledo revised the policy three times to meet the threshold of constitutionality, FIRE reported. The university first implemented the policy in September to “strongly recommend” using chosen names, but still required they be used “in verbal communication.” (RELATED: Michigan Public School AppearsTo Hide ‘Gender Support Plans’ From students’ Parents)

FIRE then sent a third letter to the university to demand it revise the policy in November, to which it reportedly obliged “soon after” receiving the notice.

“We’re glad to see the university remedied the policy’s constitutional defect after FIRE’s intervention,” Tear said.

Laramie LGBTQ resident and University of Wyoming Alumni Ray Kasckow holds pins about gender pronouns, on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie, Wyoming, on August 13, 2022. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Meghan Cunningham, University of Toledo’s executive director of marketing and communication, told the DCNF that the new policy “respects and affirms the identity of all University of Toledo community members in accordance with [its] commitment to fostering an environment of inclusivity.”

The updated policy outlines how students can change their chosen names in the university system. Students can also report their preferred pronouns and “self-identify in the LGBTQA+ community.”

The purpose of the policy is to respect and affirm the identity of all UToledo community members in accordance
with our commitment to fostering an environment of inclusivity,” the policy, obtained by FIRE, reads. “Affording students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to identify their Chosen First Name, pronouns, and identity in the LGBTQA+ community affirms that we recognize sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as key aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

This story has been updated with comment from the University of Toledo.

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