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Learner II

Display Name / Privacy Question

Hello Community,

We are working on successfully adhering to U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students.  I am curious what other schools, using Canvas, have implemented in regards to what information is being populated into the Display Name?  We were planning on using the preferred first name for the display name for the student's privacy. But, now are getting some push back from our faculty on civility issues.

Thank you for any input!

Kari Johnson

18 Replies

At my institution, user accounts are provisioned via API from our identity management system which feeds and updates data as necessary. Connected to our SIS is a custom web form that we call our "preferred name change" form. Users can update their name using that form, submit, and it will filter through the SIS and down to our identity system, which will then push the update to Canvas.

Hi  @shane_ohara ​,

Any chance you could share what that form looks like?  We are working on this naming issue in Canvas right now.

Thank you!

I wish I could, however, the form sits in our SIS system's (Banner) web interface. Students can access it from the same location as course registration, grades, etc. Faculty and staff have to go through HR to get the preferred name set. Since I am not a student, I cannot grab a screenshot for you. Apologies.

Nuts - but thanks anyway.  We don't have a campus policy on this yet so no guidelines to follow and I was hopeful we could glean some from it.  🙂 

Does the SIS info change just the Canvas Display Name or also the Sortable Name and Full Name.  We did some testing yesterday and if you only change the Display Name, there are places where the legal name still pops up for other students to see.



The preferred name request is processed and fed from the SIS to our Identity Management (IdM) system. IdM then populated the new first name out to all systems, so in Canvas it will update the Full Name so it's correct in all areas of the system.

Thank you!


Sections 5 and 6 of the Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students, which appears to be a complementary document to the "Guidelines" you mention, outlines the policies of a number of education authorities.

Generally, it looks like the policies are to update (or add a preferred pronoun) in the central/authoritative database (e.g. the SIS) and that change should be reflected in the other systems (e.g. the LMS).

My reading of the guidelines does not treat the preferred pronoun as a privacy issue, but rather the transition itself is the PII, and is already covered under FERPA.  That info shouldn't (as in there's no mechanism for adding it) be pushed/displayed in Canvas.  So you didn't state if you are asking on behalf of a school, but I'd see if your district or state has a policy already.

IANAL Smiley Wink

Learner II

By default our user (instructors included) names are pulled from the SIS/Banner system. Users are then free to change the display name in Canvas as they wish.

For credit courses, we have a customization where the display name is displayed along side the Full Name in the PEOPLE list so instructors know who is who if the student decides to change their display name in Canvas.

Community Member

I'm intrigued by the "civility issues". (The current trend in higher education is that civility requires us to to address a person by the name and pronouns that they prefer.)

At any rate, Columbia University allows students to specify a preferred name, which is pushed to all systems that do not require using the legal name. Canvas is among the systems that use the preferred name. Preferred names are not only for transgender students, but for any student who wishes to use one. They seem popular among students from East Asia. FAQ for Columbia’s Preferred Name Policy | Office of the University Registrar

I work at Columbia Business School, and we have some systems separate from the University, including a separate Canvas instance. We also have a separate SIS (which does exchange data with the University SIS). We have been implementing preferred names in-house by overwriting the name in our student database. As part of ongoing improvements, we will be scrapping our own preferred name solutions, and will be pulling the name data from the University's SIS. We will use the preferred name in Canvas, the online student directory, and other systems. We also store the legal name (from the University SIS) in our database to facilitate name searches by admin staff.