NORTH ADAMS — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts said it has apologized to some students for “deadnaming” them at graduation — meaning they were called by their given or former name, rather than the name they use.
The college found out soon after graduation that some transgender and nonbinary students incorrectly were deadnamed, Bernadette Alden, a spokesperson for the college, said in a statement.
“We felt strongly that students should be able to choose the names they wanted to be called at commencement, so we provided an opportunity for students to indicate that decision,” Alden wrote. “We do know that some trans students made different choices based on whether it was safe for them to be out or not. We have reached out to the individuals who were impacted by this misstatement to apologize and make amends.”
“This has reminded us that with any new processes we might implement — even temporary ones such as virtual commencement — we must ensure that the process is inclusive. We appreciate the advocacy as we work to remain accountable to our stated commitment to equity and inclusion,” Alden added.
An online petition with more than 400 signatures asks MCLA to apologize about the recent virtual graduation ceremonies because some queer and transgender students were deadnamed.
“Many queer students at MCLA took to social media to bash the college for making their last celebration an embarrassing one,” the Change.org petition reads.
The petition also complained that a robotic voice mispronounced some students’ names. Alden said that “as part of the service provided by the vendor who ran the virtual commencement ceremony, there was an option for students to provide information as to how their names were pronounced.”
Recent graduate Madi Gigliotti signed the petition.
“It was mostly because I have friends who were deadnamed during that video, and it’s just not right,” Gigliotti said. She also was disappointed that graduation was not in person as ceremonies at some other schools, like the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, were held in person this year.
Another recent graduate, who asked not to be named, wrote to the college in May, raising the same concerns that the petition raises.
“I am disappointed and embarrassed at how this event was handled by the school, especially the school administration,” the student wrote. “My hope is that the school will work to correct their wrongdoings, starting with some statement concerning their blatantly transphobic behavior during these events.”