Preferred names on UNI issued IDs in effect January 2023


For more information about getting your preferred name on your university ID, please contact [email protected].


Coming January 2023, students, faculty, professors, and staff will now be able to change their IDs to their preferred names. This was a challenging process, as there was much pushback from the administration for many  years. “It’s been in the works for quite a few years. The main reason it hasn’t happened until now is that the university administration was telling us that we can’t change having the legal names on university IDs because students could use them for voter identification. However, with the last legislative session in Iowa, they created new voter identification laws that no longer allow our IDs to be used even if they have our legal names on them. So that completely cleared that hurdle. So it was just so at first, Kalyani and I were talking with Nick Rafanello, University Housing and Dining VP. 

It kind of got gridlocked at one point. I didn’t understand. I was also a sophomore and didn’t know how things worked then. Kalyani told me that The upper administration denied it for no reason.” Sam Caughon stated. 

Sam currently sits as the speaker of the senate for the Northern Iowa student government( NISG). His role is to lead the senate meetings and is in charge of the senators and make sure they are doing their job. This initiative is essential for Sam because he has seen firsthand the effects of students not being able to use their preferred names. ” I have seen firsthand the negative implications of only using the legal name on ID from peers in the LGBTQIA + community. So I think that’s the main reason I got involved because, coming from that community, I feel like, in my position,  I am a voice for all students. And a part of being a voice for all students was getting that initiative passed and I know it’s been worked on before, and it got nowhere. So I am proud of every initiative I’ve worked on in my term.” Caughon stated. 

Sam started as an at-large senator during his first year and has worked his way up. Sam has had much success during his time at NISG. 

” I’ve been in a leadership position for quite a long time. In every initiative I’ve worked on, none of them has failed. I’m very proud of that. And I will keep that going in as I continue through Student Government. My first semester of the first year was the pronouns project, when professors received their class rosters and included a student’s pronouns  on it. So I was like, why not? You know, so I’m just carrying on the work from two presidents ago. So I decided to carry it on and get it implemented. All the student bodies can benefit not only the community I’m from but also communities outside of the university at large and then connect it to projects I’ve already worked on.” 

To Sam, this is not just another win under his belt but a change affecting the entire community to which he belongs. This initiative will allow people’s voices to be heard. Caughron notes that it was not just him who fought for this initiative, but Kalyani Kannan and Heather Harbach played a massive role in the success of this change. As stated previously, the process for this initiative took work. ” Kalyani told me that It was straight-up denied by the upper administration for no reason. So when  Dr. Harbach came into her position, I formally wrote her an email. I wrote that I want to start this initiative where UNI students can change the name on their university ID. I was like, there should be a way that they can change it. The replacement should be at no cost. And we should implement a policy that uses the preferred name from here on out for all university IDs since we no longer use them to vote. It should be in such a way that the parents at home do not know that this change was made  because, for certain students, it can endanger their lives.”

 For everyone working on this initiative, it was important for people to access this resource at no cost and for students to feel safe while making this change. Unfortunately, not all students have the opportunity or privilege to feel safe and supported by family or their community when making a big transition like changing their name. 

 “I’m an LGBTQ plus member myself and I’ve heard stories of people scratching out their names on their IDs. They were constantly being reminded, which shouldn’t be a thing.” There was a long pause before Sam or Kalyani would hear anything; however, on the back end Dr, Harbach was working hard to ensure this initiative would get passed. “On Tuesday of Election Day. Dr. Harbach emailed me and was like we’re getting it done. The only thing is there have been a few hiccups. Unfortunately, they will not start using preferred names and cannot change IDs until January of ’23. I wish this process could be done soon, but it won’t be implemented fully until 2023. But GSS and NISG are planning on collaborating to release graphics explaining how to do this. And then every semester following that, all the  first-year students will be given University IDs; they use their preferred name.” 

This initiative took years to complete. There were a lot of no’s in the process. However, Sam Caughon’s passion for helping others and influence for people like Kalyani kept him going.” Just helping and benefiting people is mainly what kept me going, and I kept seeing how long Kalyani had worked on it. That’s also what kept me going. And, you know, when it comes to initiatives like this, I know, despite university administration, a lot of them are older, they’re from a different generation. I know what my generation needs and what the people are asking for. And I know, even if they aren’t directly asking for it, how they can benefit from it. So if there are no adverse effects, I will go through with it no matter how many know right, no matter how many people say no, because that’s just in student government. That’s just the work. That’s just part of the work you’re going to get. You’re going to fall flat on your face, and you’re going to fail and you’re going to be told no, over and over and over and over again. And I think it’s important that just it’s really cliche, but like Get back, get off up, get up, get back on your feet and keep going and keep fighting because there are people who need you to keep fighting right, and that’s I’m proud to do the work. I’m thrilled to do the work, and I’m very honored and proud to be a voice for not only the LGBTQIA community but for the people in my grade level. For the university at large, for other minority populations and just everyone, faculty, staff and students.” Sam stated. 

There are a few important things to note about this process. First, people will not be able to use their new IDs as a form of voter ID anymore. This initiative is important for everyone to use. “  It’s important not only for LGBTQIA plus non-binary students if their legal name is not the name they identify with or the name they are. It’s also important that anybody can use it, and it doesn’t matter if you’re from the community or outside the community. You can benefit from it doesn’t hurt anybody. There are no negatives to the program, right? Because you can still use your legal name if you want to. It’s universal, and there are no negatives.” Sam stated. Sam has aspirations to be the student body president and is highly considering running for office next year.