Last semester, in a meeting with one of my professors, I casually mentioned my work for a little publication called The Hofstra Chronicle. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Upon showing said professor my byline on the front page, I realized that the name I publish under and the name I used in that class up to that point were not the same. Thankfully, the incident proved largely uneventful aside from that flub, and that professor now uses my actual name whenever we correspond.
After that, though, I wondered how much of my work would go unrecognized because of the name issue. Any journalist knows that the byline is one’s bread and butter; your name is your everything. I resolved to once and for all make usage of Hofstra’s preferred name policy, even though I was scared to take the next plunge. Regardless, I sent it at the beginning of January, hoping the change would be processed by the time school resumed.
I only received a confirmation email about the name change form after I sent a follow-up two weeks after my initial email, and I only received a real, non-copied and pasted response after I sent that late night second follow-up. Oh, and most crucially, I only received this response after I tweeted about the incident, tagging the official Hofstra account in the process.
I spent the night before the beginning of my senior year on the verge of a panic attack, sending frantic emails explaining my name and the pronouns I use, despite the fact that I submitted the form three weeks in advance specifically to avoid this situation.
Meanwhile, I started an internship at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. Within the first 10 minutes there, I clarified that my name was James, contrary to the name I’d interviewed under, and without even batting an eye my supervisor told me that all of my account information would be updated accordingly by the afternoon, which it was. Somehow, my information as a temporary worker at a non-profit was updated before my information as a student who is paying thousands of dollars to the University. So clearly, this kind of attention to detail within an institution is possible. Hofstra just isn’t making it a priority, which is in line with the way Hofstra treats queer people in general.
As an idealistic high school senior, the supposed queer-friendliness of Hofstra was one of the factors that drew me most strongly to the school. While it is true that Hofstra does have a sizable queer population, the lack of institutional support for the needs of queer students is truly sad, especially for a private university that claims to be “progressive.”
Gender neutral housing here is limited, inaccessible and cost-prohibitive to many, especially after last year’s exorbitant raise in housing prices. The preferred name policy is a great first step, but I know that I am not the only person who has had to go through leaps and bounds to actually get it implemented, and I’m still waiting on a new ID card. I’ve heard horror stories of trans people being discriminated against by public safety, being deadnamed while trying to acquire what little healthcare we can here and so on and so forth.
This treatment is a far cry from that which can be found at New York University (NYU), also known as “the Hofstra first-choice school” and “the school Hofstra loves to remind us that it was originally a part of.” A glance at their website reveals a comprehensive overview of trans/gender-nonconforming specific healthcare, ranging from the cultural competency trainings their staff must undergo to the provision of hormone replacement therapy.
Meanwhile at Hofstra, we have ... “all gender” bathroom signs on the laundry room bathrooms, which are one stall anyway? Thanks, I guess?
In all seriousness LGBTQ+, especially trans, students at Hofstra deserve much better than a rainbow mural on the Unispan and vague, PR-friendly declarations of equality and acceptance for all. The University has certainly made leaps and bounds since my freshman year here, and I don’t want to discredit the incredible work of students, faculty and admin at all. Still, Hofstra has a long way to go and it’s imperative that we continue to push them to be better. Especially if they want to have any hope of being even a slight competitor to NYU.