College lacks bureaucratic efficiency for legal name changes

Raquel Santiago has faced challenges with regards to permanently changing her name in City College Admissions and Records. "It detracts from my school work because my energy is focused elsewhere," she said. PHOTO BY FRANK LADRA / THE GUARDSMAN

By Elliot Owen
The Guardsman

Raquel Santiago, a City College male-to-female transgender student, had her name-change process finalized last week by Admissions and Records after a five-year battle that included four court orders.

Although Santiago legally changed her name in California in May 2007, her home state of Missouri has yet to recognize it, which prevents Santiago from obtaining a California ID. Without proper identification, City College refused to acknowledge the name change even when Santiago presented four court orders decreeing her name change valid.

“CCSF said it would conflict with records, that there were legal issues,” Santiago said. “Some instructors had issues with the name change on their grade slips. Sometimes I was told that they just didn’t want or have to.”

At the request of Santiago, Liberal Arts Dean Bob Davis became involved in creating an administrative response to Santiago’s situation.

“City College dropped the ball on Raquel. They made up the rules as they went along with no coherent agreement on policies,” Davis said. “I don’t think it was transphobia, everybody was just trying to be a good bureaucrat.”

The apparent lack of cohesion could be attributed to City College’s use of various computer and information technology systems, which operate separately. A change made within one system does not necessarily mean it will be applied throughout all systems.

The City College email database and the library’s computer system have caused Santiago particular frustration. Although Admissions and Records have agreed to recognize her name change, her City College email and the library have not.

“There are all these different steps students have to go through when one step alone should do it,” Santiago said.

One step is all it took for SF State to change Santiago’s name. Even though she enrolled under her birth-name, State changed Santiago’s name to her name-of-choice after seeing the first court order.

Davis, in addition to representatives from Admissions and Records/Registration, the Financial Aid Office, Curriculum, Instruction, Faculty Evaluation, Tenure Review, Information Technology Services and City College legal council, have held a series of meetings to draft new policies to deal with name changes.

The goal of the meetings “is to sunshine new processes for transgender and international students who wish to use new names,” said Davis.

The first meeting took place in November 2010 and Davis hopes to have the new policies finalized by Spring 2012. Davis said the complexity of the issue is responsible for the slow pace.

“There are certain technicalities we have to take note of,” Davis said. “The name issue affects all kinds of government and legal systems and we have to be in compliance with all of them.”

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