Short-Term Work Group on Names and Pronouns

MSU is committed to increasing diversity, ensuring equity, promoting inclusion and eliminating disparities on our campus and beyond. Language is always shifting and changing, and people hold multiple identities including name and gender identity. We are committed to an environment built on respect and dignity that supports and values diversity as a central component of inclusion and excellence. As such, MSU has explored how names and pronouns can be captured accurately and utilized consistently across various systems and process to support inclusion and success of all community members while maintaining privacy.  

In April of 2021, Melissa Woo, Ph.D. (she/her), Executive Vice President for Administration, and Jabbar R. Bennett, Ph.D. (he/him), Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, charged a short-term cross-campus workgroup to propose a set of university-wide standards regarding the collection and use of name, gender and pronoun data of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors. Using input from students, faculty and staff, as well as looking at current best practices, the workgroup developed a statement of expectations, data and privacy policy and system implementation guidelines for consideration. 

Executive Summary 

A statement of expectations was developed which strongly encourages every member of our community to acknowledge and respect pronouns, names and honorifics and more broadly help ensure the dignity, safety and well-being of all Spartans. This document, which will inform future university policy, also encourages data system owners to begin implementing updates to unit developed applications and vendor products using the guidance below. The following terminology has been provided in support of the data and privacy policy: 

  • LEGAL NAME: The name that appears on an individual’s legal documents (e.g., passport, driver’s license, Social Security card) 
  • LEGAL SEX: This is the gender marker on a person’s government issued ID (e.g., driver’s license or passport) 
  • NAME: The name used by an individual for daily self-identification and should be used to refer to that individual unless legality requires otherwise. 
  • GENDER: A person’s deep-seated, internal sense of who they are as a gendered being, specifically, the gender by which they identify themselves 
  • SEXUAL IDENTITY: Identities related to a person's feelings of attraction towards other people
  • PRONOUNS: Linguistic tools we use to refer to ourselves or others 
  • HONORIFICS/PREFIXES: A title used before a person's name (e.g., Mr., Ms., Mx., Dr.) 

The data and privacy policy statement include all data values for each of the terms identified above. The privacy portion includes a disclaimer requirement for all data collection forms regarding why and how the information will be used. Additionally, it outlines data access and disclosure requirements.  


To realize and support an inclusive campus community, where everyone feels welcomed, supported, valued, safe and respected, the following university recommendations have been identified for our services: 

  • Initiate an awareness campaign regarding the terminology, data and privacy policy and expectations for campus community members 
  • Incorporate adoption of the terminology, and data and privacy policy during business cycle reviews and as changes occur 
  • University business and technical owners of data and application systems must implement updates to data models and interactions, where technically possible, utilizing the system implementation guidelines 
  • These guidelines include prioritizing updates for systems of record that feed data to auxiliary systems and auxiliary systems that utilize the data in question to facilitate interactions of large groups of faculty, staff and students; updating systems during planned upgrade cycles or contract renewals; and ensuring implementation of the updates upon purchase or development of new systems 

Recommendation Documents

Workgroup Objective and Committee Members

The Short-Term Work Group on Names and Pronouns focused on immediate actions to better and consistently capture and utilize names and pronouns in existing university systems and various processes. The purpose is to acknowledge and support how students, staff and faculty at Michigan State University choose to identify. 

The work group made recommendations for future policy considerations that protect individual privacy and promote best practices in the collection and use of this information. 

The work aligns with and will inform the university’s ongoing and longer-term diversity, equity and inclusion strategic framing and planning processes.  


To explore how names and pronouns can be captured and utilized consistently across various university systems and processes.


  1. To identify and potentially connect systems that capture names and pronouns; 
  2. To provide options within each system to input and access self-reported data, e.g., honorifics, gender identity, sexual identity/orientation, pronouns; and 
  3. To explore the creation of university policies and communication which support the consistent use of names and pronouns in written and oral communication. 

Executive Sponsors 

Melissa Woo, executive vice president for administration and chief information officer 

Jabbar R. Bennett, vice president and chief diversity officer 


Elisa Landaverde, librarian in special collections at the Main Library 

Stacia Moroski-Rigney, assistant professor and affiliated graduate faculty in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures in the College of Arts and Letters 

Kris Renn, professor of higher, adult and lifelong education and associate dean of Undergraduate Studies for Student Success Research in the College of Education 


  • Meagan Abel, executive Board Member, Council of Graduate Students
  • Tina Alonzo, diversity, equity and inclusion administrator, Office of the Executive Vice President for Administration
  • Patrick Arnold, member, Employee Pride and Inclusion Coalition; undergrad/grad advisor, Center for Gender in Global Context 
  • Bethan Cantwell, director, Institutional Research 
  • Melissa Del Rio, chief of staff, Graduate School 
  • Donna Donovan, chief of staff, Human Resources 
  • Clay Griffith, member, Associated Students of Michigan State University and Alliance
  • William Horton-Anderson, member, Employee Pride and Inclusion Coalition; Assistant Director, Academic and Student Affairs 
  • Valentine McWilliams, member, TransAction, Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and Council of Progressive Students 
  • Kristine Moore, associate general counsel, Office of the General Counsel 
  • Nick Royal Sr., senior civil rights investigator, Office of Institutional Equity 
  • Steve Shablin, registrar, Office of the Registrar 
  • Melissa Sortman, director, Academic Human Resources 
  • Scott TerMeer, assistant director, Information Technology 
  • Bob Thomas, executive director, marketing and communications, Advancement 

Advisory Resource  

The Gender and Sexuality Campus Center