Name Change Policy
Court-ordered Name Changes
The existing policy with respect to student name changes provides:
RESOLVED, that where names have been changed by court order, all transcripts of records and official statements by the colleges with respect to students or graduates of the schools shall incorporate only the official name as changed by said court order, unless otherwise specifically requested in writing. (CUNY BOT Feb 6, 1940 (cal #6)).
Such a court order may arise in a number of different contexts, including a name change proceeding, an adoption proceeding, a divorce decree, gender reassignment,* or a witness protection program. For this purpose, a marriage certificate should also be treated like a court order.
In all such cases, a student is entitled to change his or her records to reflect the new or resumed name in accordance with the court order. To obtain the change, a student must show an original or certified copy of the order. Thereafter, only his or her new name should be reflected on all transcripts, diplomas, and other records issued by the college unless the student requests in writing that his or her transcript and/or diploma include a reference to his or her former name (e.g., John Doe, formerly known as John Roe).
For record keeping purposes, the student’s name change request and court order should be kept in the student’s file, along with the date of the name change and the student’s former name. The college must strictly comply with the terms of the court order. For example, a court-ordered name change made as a result of an adoption proceeding, gender reassignment, or as part of a witness protection program may require that the previous name be sealed from the public. If there is any question about the validity or scope of a court order, please contact this office.
When a student has changed his or her name in this manner and requests a new diploma reflecting the new name, the college should issue a new diploma upon surrender of the old diploma. In the event that a diploma has been lost or destroyed, a new diploma identified as a “duplicate diploma” may be issued to the student without evidence of such loss or destruction.**
Other Name Changes
Common-law Name Change
In New York, every person has the right to adopt by usage or habit any name by which he or she wishes to be known so long as such name change does not perpetuate a fraud, misrepresent, or interfere with the rights of others. The College should recognize such a common-law name change on all of a student’s official records upon presentation of at least one document bearing the new name. Such documents must be issued by at least one of the following entities: federal, state or tribal government, insurance company, bank, credit card company, union, employer, landlord, education institution, or utility company. Examples of acceptable documents for a common-law name change include, among other things, a voter registration card, professional license, school identification card, employer or union identification card, paycheck, tax form, insurance card or policy, credit card or utility bill, or bank statement or check.
CUNY recognizes the importance that a change of name might have to students during their time with the University. A preferred name is not a legal name, but is generally used to change how others refer to the student. For example, student Jonathan Doe may prefer the name John or student Mary Jane Doe may want to be referred to as Mary Jane or Jane, rather than Mary. Note that preferred names are not limited to variations of a student’s legal name; for example, student Jennifer may request the preferred name David due to a change in gender identity and be unable to present the documents necessary to secure a court-ordered or common-law name change. Students may use a preferred name on all documents and records other than official documents. Documents and records that may display a preferred name include, among other things, course rosters, student identification cards, student email addresses, and honors, awards, and prizes issued by the University. A preferred name will not be reflected on a student’s diploma or transcript.
Changes Due to Typographical Errors
When a student requests a name change due to a typographical or other error in University records, the student’s request should be granted after verification that the name change is due to such error. Documents that can assist a college in making this determination include any of the documents listed as appropriate for a common-law name change.
This office is available to assist with questions on this topic.
* Students should be free to change their gender on all prior, present, and future college records at their discretion. A student’s gender is not included on any official documents and is generally collected for statistical purposes only.
** A Board policy on the issuance of duplicate diplomas adopted on October 23, 1929 (Minutes, p. 384) is limited to lost or destroyed diplomas. It provides:
That in cases where diplomas are lost or destroyed the deans of the several faculties having pedagogical supervision over the courses leading to such diplomas shall be empowered to conduct inquiries and take testimony; and, upon reaching the conclusion that such diplomas were unavoidably lost or destroyed and that applications for duplicates are made in good faith, may in their discretion, subject to the approval of the Board, have prepared, signed and issued such duplicate diplomas which shall be clearly marked “duplicate.”