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Name change and bureaucratic issues - how insistent to be?

(18 Posts)
ARoseByAnyOther Fri 23-Jan-15 15:08:07

Hello all!

A few months ago I posted a thread on here about changing my name back to my original name after initially changing it when I got married. My DH had a double barrelled name of which I was planning to drop one half and add my original surname to instead (e.g. Smith-Brown to Smith-Horton).

Well, I have since changed it! Indeed, following on from some thoughts raised by the thread, I decided go the whole hog and just have a totally different name from my DH - no barrelling, just the surname I was born with. I'm extremely happy with my decision! grin

Anyway - then began the gargantuan task of taking my deed poll (as usually you need a decree absolute to revert to your original surname...) around getting the name recognised. I have run into something of a problem with the University which I am currently a PhD student at.

University email addresses at my institution are based on a username which is based on your initials and a number to distinguish you from people with the same initials. So the username assigned when I started was, say, "rsb21". I imagined that on changing my name my username and therefore my email address would change to reflect my new initials ("rh32"). As I want to be able to hand out an academic email address to students, new colleagues, and people I meet professionally outside of the university, it matters a lot to me that it 'matches' the name I have chosen to be known by.

I have since been told that this is "just not done" at my university. Apparently, "ladies" who change their name when they get married just stick with the same username - but, most people do so are staff members, who use a different email system which allows them to have an alias -- so to all intents and purposes they could change their email address, they'd just use their old initials when logging in to things on the intranet etc. However, as a student I apparently can't get an alias.

So, my question is, how stubborn should I be on this? Every sign points to the change of username being possible but fiddly -- and because it "isn't usually done" they are reluctant to open the floodgates. I feel as if the staff in the IT office feel that I am being unreasonable and making a fuss over nothing, but I feel really incredibly strongly about this. Am I being ridiculous to want my email address to be made up of the initials of the name that I want to be called? Or am I just being over-emotional at the end of the week?

DPotter Fri 23-Jan-15 15:23:11

It's an email address; over your career you will have several and different institutions have differing policies on how those user names are constructed. I can understand and applaud your revision to your original name and if it were a bank refusing to change your account or your university insisting your married name went on your PhD certificate I'd say push for the change. However it's not an address you will have forever.
I usually list email addresses under the person's proper name so Joe Bloggs is 'Joe Bloggs' but his email might be so the detail would be lost on me at you would be listed as Arose Byanyother on my email system, irrespective of the actual address.

YonicScrewdriver Fri 23-Jan-15 15:56:43

OP, I think it's fair enough and the system ought to be able to accommodate name changes for whatever reason.

Would they give you a second email address instead ie rh31 and then forward on your first emails for three months then close that account? Then there's no "change " just a new account!

YonicScrewdriver Fri 23-Jan-15 15:57:21

I mean forward on rsb25'semails

moresnow Fri 23-Jan-15 16:03:56

It's clear to you that the initials don't match your new identity, but it's not really going to be obvious to most other people. As PP said, you'll be listed on recipients' systems as 'Byanyother, Rose' in any case. I would let it go, and instead find some reason (are you teaching undergraduates who need to be able to contact you easily? are you helping out at a conference?) why they should give you a proper alias, which would look much more professional than any set of initials.

ARoseByAnyOther Fri 23-Jan-15 16:16:13

Yonic - I have suggested setting up a new account but they haven't responded yet. I think the problem is that everything is inter-connected - i.e. to have a university email account, you have to have a username. I don't know if a "free-floating" email account (that doesn't come with a username) can happen.

The other issue is that the email system they used won't even recognise the name change from a surface POV - so in the internal address book, and in the full name that comes up beside any email I send to anyone within the university, I'm still showing as "Rose Smith-Brown".

Moresnow - The alias thing is what I suggested from the start but apparently only staff can have aliases, because they get assigned to a different (less shiny, to be fair) email system which allows aliases. I've already asked and they won't switch me onto the staff system. I do teach, and I am running a conference and various workshops within the university, so I do need to be contacted easily.

I guess I just really wanted to make the whole switch as clean and total as possible.

YonicScrewdriver Fri 23-Jan-15 16:18:36

Rose, I think you would only have one account and username (your new one) then admin would own your old account and username and set it to forward all emails. Then they would deactivate it after 3 months.

ARoseByAnyOther Fri 23-Jan-15 16:25:33


For whatever reason they just won't do that. Even when people leave the university and then come back, when they return they get the same username back (my DH was a student and is now a staff-member). I think from what the IT people have said that the username is basically attached to every single university record, access permission, etc, to do with me. If they gave me a new username (and new account) they'd have to copy over all the data, which I think from a university perspective would mean creating a second person if that makes sense.

My frustration is that I don't understand why they can't just change the username at the top of all those records - I've even said that if it's a case of contacting all of the different departments holding records on me then I'd be happy to do that myself. I've been told that it is 'possible but difficult', but they just don't want to do it.

PetraDelphiki Fri 23-Jan-15 16:35:02

It is almost certainly because whoever designed all the databases around the university used that username as the primary key to the relevant database tables (you should never use anything meaning full as a primary key for exactly this reason ) which means it probably can't be edited through any of the programme they use for data entry and no one wants to have to go through every system in the uni to change it directly in the database... Which if they have linked databases/, tables would have to be done in the right order too!! Have a unique constraint on username by all means but primary key skills be an autogenerated number... It's a pet peeve of mine!!!

(Take developer hat off)

YonicScrewdriver Fri 23-Jan-15 17:06:31

Ooh, thanks Petra!

OP, when your DH left, did he get a different alumni email address?

ARoseByAnyOther Fri 23-Jan-15 17:44:08


Thankyou so much for the explanation! That makes a lot of sense and really helps me understand where the IT are coming from.


DH was at the university as a year-abroad student, so never technically 'graduated', so no - but I've just looked it up and they do offer an alumni email service. I do see where you're going with that! The only thing would be that the addresses are - but I imagine it wouldn't be impossible to drop the "alumni."?

Actually, I know they can create email addresses that aren't attached to individual records, because I had a temporary job that it's own email account ( attached to it. So I'm going to pitch for getting a separate email address ( and just setting up forwarding from my old one.

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 23-Jan-15 20:10:01

How obvious is it to someone outside the uni that your initials are in there too? I had a uni address that had a course code, then admission year, then initials. Everyone else thought it was a random jumble! (I thought, btw, that this type of address wasn't much used any more. Is it still in academia?)

ARoseByAnyOther Fri 23-Jan-15 20:36:40


The thing is (ugh, I'm drip-feeding, but mainly because I was trying to keep the first post as simple as possible!) that the username I was originally assigned is a bit unusual in that it doesn't have a number - it has the initials of my first name, middle name, and the two parts of my DH's double-barrelled name. So a username based on my 'new' name would almost certainly have numbers after it, but as I'm apparently the first person to have, let's say, "RBSB" as my set of initials on entering the university, my original username only includes those letters. As one of those letters matches my first name it seems fairly 'visible' that the username is made up of initials. Does that make sense?

And as for the type of username/email address in general, 2 out of 3 universities I've been at take the initials plus numbers (if necessary) approach, which as you say is pretty outdated...!

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 23-Jan-15 20:56:03

Ah, I see. It's hard to tell without seeing the name (I'm not asking to !!). I just wondered if it was one of those things where you knew but no one else would ever tell.

Gosh, I never realised that they still did that. Now, I know that they have lots of people and so even more issues with name duplication than large companies. But I assumed it would be like or something.

EBearhug Fri 23-Jan-15 23:45:55

I must say, as a sys admin, that it is a lot of hassle when people change names. But it can be done - we assign numeric userids as a primary key. But I am quite in favour of people never changing their names, even if I've now documented our process.

HR's systems needed recoding to cope with with someone changing from male to female, though.

EBearhug Fri 23-Jan-15 23:49:38

P.S. It's been ages since there were 8 characters limitations on usernames, though some places might still use old kit. But sys.admins can be creatures of habit, and things like naming standards tend not to get revised, even if there's no technical requirement for restrictions any more.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Sat 24-Jan-15 09:10:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ARoseByAnyOther Mon 26-Jan-15 09:30:35


Thanks for those thoughts - they're really helpful! I've emailed IT explaining why the email issues are a problem from a practical POV, and am hopefully meeting with someone in the department which is helping me run various workshops to see if they have any advice (as my name needs to go on their website etc for people to contact me!)

So, IT did the thing that they thought would cause the email address book etc to show up my new name, but it hasn't worked. I think this has something to do with the fact that they use a version of Gmail for the student email accounts so it's partly an externally-managed system. It seems they have never encountered someone using the (quite new) student email system wanting to change their name. I've since managed to change the settings internally so that when I've sent an email my name shows up as my 'new' name but the address book etc still has my old name.

I guess I feel frustrated because their logic is that when people in the past have changed their name it's been fine because, as staff members, they've been able to change their aliases. This isn't possible for me because of the different email system they have for students. I don't necessarily want them to change the username but I'm sure there must be a workaround that can have the same result (i.e. me having an email address that reflects my name). I don't feel like I'm asking for special treatment -- just for them to accomodate the problems in the system that prevent my name change being as straightforward as those of staff members. I'm also annoyed because I put this ball in motion two weeks ago, thinking it would be sorted by now, and now it's the start of term and the complications with the email system mean that I can't really formally 'switch' without causing a lot of confusion. Argh!

I don't know -- you're right that there is a big aesthetic / emotional investment, which makes it harder to discuss this with IT from a dispassionate point of view.

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