Student serves administrators with lawsuit

By Ashley Schofield

With commencement just more than a week away, most graduates are
preparing for finals and their next step, but Olympia Tveter, a
graduate urban and regional planning student, has been getting
ready to battle five university administrators in court.

Tveter, a 35-year-old spring graduate, went to court Monday
after a three-year struggle with the university to have her name
officially changed within the academic records system.

Tveter, originally registered as Jared Clifford, wants her new
name – her proper name – on her diploma when she receives it this
month.

Tveter served President Michael J. Ortiz, University Registrar
Maria Martinez, Associate Vice President of Enrollment and
Management Services Kathleen Street, Director of Diversity and
Compliance Carmen Munoz-Silva and former Director of Judicial
Affairs David E. Johnson with nearly a $700,000 name and gender
change lawsuit.

“We should have the right to be able to live and self determine
ourselves, and the government – these administrators – is claiming
to own an aspect of me to challenge my jurisdiction over my life,”
said Tveter.

Tveter has changed her name in pretty much all aspects of her
life, including her financial and medical records, but has been
denied her new title in her academic records.

Her gender has even been officially changed within the
university, but her name has been an uphill battle.

Tveter’s struggle with her name change lies in privacy rights
through common law, which she is suing the university through.

In common law, Tveter’s word is sufficient enough to prove that
she is living in her new name – she has to show no other proof.

The university, however, requires that she show some
government-issued proof of identity, such as a driver’s license,
social security card or passport.

“Students requesting a name change are instructed to submit to
the Registrar’s Office government-issued documentation that
supports their request,” said Street in an e-mail. “This policy is
consistent with the practices at the other CSU campuses and follows
the standards set by the American Association of Collegiate
Registrars and Admissions Officers.”

This information is posted on the Registrar’s Web site under
name changes in the office’s policies and procedures.

“The general policy that is used for all students is that we
require them to show a government-approved document,” said Uyen
Mai, university spokeswoman.

Tveter does not believe the university explicated this
legislation clearly to her in its initial rejection of her name
change request. This is documented in a letter dated June 2005.

Martinez stated in the letter that the reason for not being able
to grant her request was because her financial records would not be
in alignment with her new name, because her federal student loans
and income – Tveter was a student assistant at the time – were
filed under Jared.

Martinez wrote in the letter that the university could only
grant her request with the “presentation of a social security card
that bears [her] new name.” Martinez failed to mention that a
driver’s license or another form of government-approved
identification would be sufficient.

Tveter believes she was lied to in response to her original
request.

She is charging the university administrators with deceit,
conspiracy, widespread racketeering, misrepresentation of identity
and violations of privacy.

“I’m not going to show them my driver’s license,” she said.
“They lied to me. It’s deceit. They are hindering my rights.”

Tveter said she will never show the school any form of
identification to have her name changed, even if she doesn’t
succeed in her suit.

She hasn’t really been thinking about the possibility of
failure, though.

“That’s a good question,” she said of not winning her lawsuit.
“I have been thinking positively.”

The school has never encountered this situation before, said Ron
Fremont, in an article from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune dated
July 2, 2007 who was the associate vice president for University
Relations at the time.

Tveter was granted her gender change by the university that day
after originally being denied the right before she changed her
name.

Mai stated the university does not have as defined as a policy
for a gender change as it does for a name change but could not
speculate on the issue.

Because the litigation is pending, there is not much the
university could share.

“We are working on a resolution on this, and we hope to bring
closure on this issue,” Mai said in a university statement. Tveter
stated in her notes regarding the lawsuit, “I see this as major
progress for them, that they have at least granted me a change in
my gender marker to [male to female].”

Tveter felt the urge for a gender change because of her Mormon
roots.

“My changing genders had a lot to do with my sexual desires to
arouse myself, and in Mormonism, in any sort of arousal – arousing
the self – is considered terrible,” she said. “It’s sin. You are
only to act on such desires within the marriage construct, and such
desires are so strong and I felt so much shame and guilt and it was
terrible, it was absolutely terrible. I had nightmares.

“I thought only if I was different down here, I wouldn’t embrace
it … It really drove me to want to change genders.”

Tveter does not believe in gender constructs because she
believes they restrict peoples’ freedom, but in a society that
functions with them she feels most comfortable as a female.

“I feel like female and male are both oppressive, binding in the
sense that it is one or the other, nothing in between,” she
said.

After receiving her undergraduate degree at the conservative
Brigham Young University, Tveter grew extremely uncomfortable with
her religion and sexuality. Tveter moved away because she felt
herself straying from her male identity, which was not acceptable
at home.

Tveter lived as a transgender for a couple of years, and this
was when she discovered her choice for her new name.

“I wanted something that was a strong name, but something that
was jumping the gender bounds too,” she said.

Olympia proved to be just that.

“I really liked it, and I wanted to go with it.”

During her time as a transgender was when Tveter’s initial
problems with the university began.

Tveter used to work in the University Writing Center as a tutor.
She began wearing transgender clothing, which Tveter parallels to a
Star Wars-type robe.

“[My boss] basically told me you need to go home and change,”
she said. “It was challenging the norms.”

John Edmund, director of the writing center and Tveter’s boss at
the time, said the students evaluate the tutors periodically and he
had gotten some complaints about Tveter’s dress.

“I had a policy – not really a dress code – that the clothing
that staff wore was not to be distracting. So when I hired Olympia
– who was called Jared [at the time] – he was not wearing the
clothes he had made himself … the clothing Olympia made herself I
found distracting,” Edmund said. “Eventually, as I understood where
she was coming from, and we compromised. She continued to wear the
clothing she made.”

During this conflict with the university and her identity,
Tveter went to Johnson, who helped her resolve the problem.

Tveter returned to Johnson when she initially had problems with
her name and gender change, but the second time around she felt he
proved to be of no help.

“I thought he could be helpful again, but there was not even the
thought of pursuing it more,” Tveter said. “It was more like
searching the Internet at his desk.”

Tveter also sought help from the Pride Center on campus, which
she said referred her to different avenues of help, but did not
directly come to her defense.

Fernando Estrada, director of the Pride Center, helped Tveter,
but denied to comment in an e-mail due to the “sensitive legal
nature of this case.”

Tveter officially switched from considering herself an
androgynous person to a female in August 2005.

Tveter now practices her faith in the Episcopalian Church, which
she says is liberal, accepting and she feels comfortable living
in.

“You can believe that Jesus was not the Son of God. You can just
believe that he was a good person that had a good message,” she
said. “The only thing that really holds the church together is a
common belief in Jesus. Whatever the freak that means to you.”

Tveter is very active in her church and occasionally still gives
informative workshops about Mormonism.

She is also a theorist, working on a few books to improve
people’s technical writing, and a dedicated vegan.

“I consider animals to be equal to humans. There are the bird
people, the cat people, the fish people, and there are many
subcultures of those,” said Tveter as one of her reasons for being
vegan. “The fish are people. The birds are people. We don’t speak
their languages.

“There are many people on this planet who are not human
people.”

Student serves administrators with lawsuit

Brandon Tan/Poly Post

Student serves administrators with lawsuit

  • Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

You May Also Like

College of Engineering hosts lecture series

By Guadalupe Pinedo The College of Engineering has been committed to providing students with ...

Red Folder an opportunity to help students

By Daniel Flores The Red Folder, an informational guide given to faculty and staff ...

Faculty and staff attend diversity workshop

By Jessica Wang Cal Poly Pomona faculty gathered for a talk by a prominent ...