Gender Identity Initiative

Background

MIT is in the process of updating its systems to allow students, staff, and faculty to indicate gender identity (beyond traditional legal definitions), pronouns, and preferred name (other than their legal name). The goal is for such information to be captured and displayed consistently while still ensuring that MIT is meeting any legal requirements for reporting purposes. Due to the complexity of MIT’s systems, this process will take time.

A small group with members from ICEO, IS&T, HR, and OVC is working on planning, implementation, and stakeholder/community outreach. The project is being guided and overseen by:

  • Ramona Allen, Vice President for Human Resources
  • John Dozier, Institute Community and Equity Officer
  • Lauryn McNair, Assistant Dean of Intercultural Engagement for LBGTQ+, Women, and Gender Services
  • Mark Silis, Vice President IS&T
  • Jag Patel, Sr. Director, Special Projects, IS&T
  • Lori Singer, Project Manager
  • Kate Trimble, Project Manager
  • Ian Waitz, Vice Chancellor
  • Eamon Kearns, Associate Vice President, IS&T Operations

As future details about implementation and the timeline become available, they will be posted here. The first phase of this project relates to student data; a small group is working concurrently on updates to processes and systems for staff and faculty. 

The information below currently reflects upcoming changes for students only. The HR phase of the project is in process. To learn more about the status of the project for employees and give your feedback on implementation, please contact Libby Mahaffy or Gabe Campos.

FAQ

What systems are changing?

WebSIS is currently the only system that is adding new input fields for gender identity, preferred name, and pronouns. More information about other student systems, in addition to those affecting staff and faculty, will become available as the project evolves. 

What options are available for gender/gender identity?

Currently, selecting a gender identity in addition to legal sex is optional. An individual may select one or more of these options to identify in the way that feels most comfortable for them. An individual may also check “Another Identity” and write in an answer if it is not listed. These fields were chosen in order to correspond with the data collected through the undergraduate and graduate admissions processes, and in order for WebSIS to remain consistent with other enterprise data systems at MIT. If you would like to make suggestions for how this data is collected, please email GIIMIT@mit.edu.

  • Female
  • Male
  • Trans Female/Trans Woman
  • Trans Male/Trans Man
  • Genderqueer/Gender Non-Conforming/Gender Fluid
  • Unsure/Questioning
  • Prefer Not to Answer
  • Another Identity [enter your own]

What information is required for external reporting?
Students will still be required to enter their legal first name, legal last name, and legal sex to meet federal reporting requirements. These fields are separate from gender identity.

What does “Preferred Name” mean?

A Preferred Name is the name by which a community member wishes to be known by others at MIT. This name is usually different from their Legal Name. MIT’s policy covers Preferred First and Middle Names. Surnames can be changed only with a legal name change.

What does “Legal Name” mean?

A Legal Name is the name that appears on a passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, or U.S. Social Security Card. 

What does “Legal Sex” mean?

Legal Sex is used for legal reporting purposes and benefits records. It may appear on a birth certificate. Due to U.S. federal policies and practices, MIT only collects two options for Legal Sex, female and male. 

How was the list of identity options developed? 

To determine the initial set of options for WebSIS, the Steering Committee (including leaders from ICEO, OVC, and HR) decided to use the set of options added to the Undergraduate Admissions application made live in August 2020. This was decided with the understanding that the list of options would be refined based on feedback. Undergraduate Admissions worked with former assistant dean Abigail Francis from LBGTQ+ Services to identify the set of gender identity options. This initial process involved engagement with students and other MIT community members several years ago.

How will this information be used and displayed? What if I have concerns about usage and privacy?
Currently, gender identity and pronouns recorded in WebSIS are only visible to the student who entered them, and to systems administrators who maintain the WebSIS application. Legal sex is not generally listed in any student system applications, apart from those where it is required by federal law. 

For names, only the preferred name (appearing as name) is displayed in most systems. For those cases where a legal name is required, (i.e., transcripts, federal reporting), only the legal name is displayed. 

At this time, gender identity and preferred name data entered into WebSIS is not shared with downstream applications like Canvas or Atlas and any data use complies with MIT Policies and Procedures. 

How will community members be able to provide input on an ongoing basis? 
Moving forward, based upon feedback, several working groups will be created via the GII Committee during the spring 2022 semester, including ones with voices from current transgender and non-binary student communities at MIT. In addition, LBGTQ+ Services has been included as an advisor to the GII group since December of 2021 to help provide additional insight into the project. LBGTQ+ Services will help identify appropriate student members for the future working groups. The ultimate goal of such feedback is to understand the needs of various communities as well as find ways to implement appropriate changes, especially as more downstream systems are updated.

The ultimate goal of this initiative is to have fields displayed consistently on each of MITs systems of record so that community members will see their accurate identity data even when they are in different systems. 

If you have further questions or concerns about how this data will be used, please email GIIMIT@mit.edu 

Do I have to enter my pronouns/gender identity?
No; these fields are optional.

How should new and existing community members make changes?

Students can edit their responses throughout their time at MIT. For newly enrolling students:

  • Undergraduates already have options via the MIT Admissions application process
  • Prospective graduate students via Grad Apply and Sloan will have more options during the application / enrollment process

For continuing, enrolled students 

  • Visit WebSIS and navigate to the Biographical Information link. Enter or change any values in the new fields (all are optional). The data in these fields can be changed at any time throughout a student’s time at MIT. Development is underway to reflect these fields in relevant downstream information systems. To change your legal name, email a completed Change of Legal Name Form to records@mit.edu
  • To change legal sex, email a completed Legal Sex Marker Change Form to records@mit.edu.  
MIT student on laptop, wearing hijab, looking at screen

For additional LBGTQ+ educational opportunities, programs, and support, please connect with LBGTQ+ Services. This office supports all undergraduate, graduate, and postdoc students at MIT. Their website contains helpful guides and information for transgender and non-binary students at MIT, and they have a growing list of LBGTQ+ resources for anyone who is interested in learning more.