Dear FIRST, mind explaining what's going on here?

Circa January 20th, 2022, the first name field looked like this:

Today (February 22, 2022), it looks like this:

Now, I know Manchester haaaaaaaates talking to its own community and all, but do they mind explaining why there’s no longer a preferred name field?


I’ve been getting on FIRST to try and fix this kind of thing for months. The adult profiles this year now include the ability to set a preferred first name (see attached photo), and the wonderful news is that VMS actually respects that very well in the web interface, only showing the legal name in a few reports (not in the volunteer info panel) and always explicitly as “legal name”. Unfortunately, the emails that VCs like myself get still only include the legal name. And the fact that youth profiles don’t even have the option of setting a preferred name is just the cherry on top of it. For a program that claims to support their LGBTQ volunteers and participants, they sure do a terrible job of showing it some times. I’ve already brought this up to their attention in the same email thread I’ve voiced my earlier concerns and I’m hoping they finally do something about it.


Similarly to Devyn above, I also emailed them when the season started back up again, or felt like it might.

Here's (essentially) the entire chain.

I will point out that the last email was the end of the chain, and they did not address the question I’d had, being “If a student needed their name changed for reasons similar to mine, would they still have to email one of the FIRST support emails and “out” themselves to have it corrected?”

I was assured by others involved when shown that email chain that this wouldn’t be the case for students, and unfortunately it seems it might’ve slipped through the cracks. The email i sent was in July of 2021, I’ve still yet to get a reply to the last one in the chain.

FIRST, please do better. I’m begging you. For a community that is vibrantly, wonderfully accepting more and more (the amount of pride profile pictures I’m seeing from new folks here, in Discord, and openly accepting themselves and others, has been wonderful), you need to be part of the change too, and not just during pride month.

Is this something @Jon_K and the folks at RSA might be able to help poke at to get more movement?


Yes, I will send off some emails tomorrow to have it looked at.


I know, I’m double posting, but I didn’t want to do this as an edit to my previous post.

In my official capacity as the President of The Rainbow STEM Alliance, I have sent an email to Frank from FRC, JoAnn from FTC, and Dr. Janell Catlin, the Director of ED&I, at FIRST HQ directly asking if this change can be reversed. If not, I asked if they would publicly be willing to state why this occurred in a blog post for the community. There may be legal reasons we are unaware of after all. I also asked about the issues with legal vs preferred names in the VC emails, and an addition of pronouns in the dashboard system.

I also linked to this thread so that they are aware of the conversations happening here. To reply to the OP, HQ “haaaaaaaates talking to its own community and all” is simply not true. There are a lot of staff there, and sometimes things get missed/fall through the cracks.

I know it may seem like HQ doesn’t care some times, but believe me when I tell you, they do. There are a lot of departments, and people who interact with these systems, and not everyone may know why some things were done in certain ways. Ultimately, I suggest we give HQ the benefit of the doubt on this one, and hope that they can continue to learn and grow from feedback given by the community.


This could be useful for many students, not just those who want their name to match their gender identity.

In my elementary school there was a kid named Scott. His real name was Andrew (perhaps Andrew Scott Jr.) but no one knew him as Andrew. Every new school year the students giggled as the teacher took roll for the first time and called for “Andrew” and he had to sheepishly ask to be called Scott.


Echoing this, having a functional “preferred name” field is definitely more than “just” an LGBTQ issue - thinking of immigrants or foreign competitors who use English nicknames.


Yeup. Akash is not even within my legal name.


It’s generally just considered basic human dignity at this point to ask people what name they want to be called.

I am hoping this was just error that happened when someone tried to update STIMS and not an intentional omission.


HQ could go a long way towards showing the community they care by making at least a cursory effort to post official messages in those public forums where their community gathers.


Email HQ if you feel strongly about a topic, as Jon did.


They have always stated that they do not do this. It honestly makes more sense for them not to though. Especially when you have posts like this one about a supplier’s product launch that lead to a fairness issue being brought to light. To me, I would rather they post all their official messages on their own pages and announce them over social media, like they already do. That way the information is always in the same spot, and able to be found by all individuals at the same time. After all, not everyone uses Chief, or checks it regularly. I, honestly, probably wouldn’t have checked this thread if I hadn’t been tagged to begin with.


FIRST posting official messages here doesn’t necessarily mean they always need to be huge statements that would warrant being seen by the whole community. From what I’ve seen recently, all we would need to hear is some basic reasoning on why something is the way it is, what they can do to make it better, and to at least know that they’re listening. That can be done most effectively with a direct address to this section of the community, rather than a broad statement on social media.

This is getting off topic, and probably should be split at this point, but…
So lets say they post something to some obscure forum that none of us know about then why do the participants there get special treatment? Because they tend to be the loud and vocal minority in one specific place? I never go on the discord servers for any of the FIRST programs, but why should they get information that isn’t privy to all the rest of us? You would get annoyed if one specific place got information you didn’t but you wanted to see, wouldn’t you? I know I would, when and if I ever found out about it.

Who is to say or dictate which unofficial channels should get official recognition in such a manner? You get into a lot more rabbit holes that way, which leads to more confusion, etc. vs FIRST HQ putting out blog posts or game updates, or something like that via their official channels.

I will say, in my email to HQ today, I did also ask that they provide an official blog post or similar if the changes are going to stay, explaining to the community what the rational and reasoning are.


FIRST never posts on CD.

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I’m well aware of this. I think that’s a really poor strategic choice on their part.


This is not an official FIRST space. Their existing channels - social media, website, email blast, etc - are.

Speaking from a perspective of community management - as soon as you start designating a channel as even partially-official, as a brand entity - you need to be in charge of its moderation, and everything on the site will be held to the standards & code of conduct for the organization. It’s a quick trip down ‘occasional FRCteams posts on Chief’ to ‘I read this on Chief and it must have been legal, since FIRST posts there!’ to ‘I can’t believe FIRST would allow this behavior on their platform.’

HQ is already strained in terms of their community reach as-is; I don’t agree that taking over spaces that for decades have been unofficial community resources is a good use of their time. (Frankly, I don’t believe their current community and social strategy is working, but - I don’t work there, so my thoughts can go in an email just like the rest of us.)


I really don’t agree that a nonprofit needs to own a space in order to have their people speak in it. That’s cowardly.


I’m not referring solely to nonprofits; this is generic community strategy for brands. In terms of moderation, it’s especially important to oversee moderation wherever you post when your company serves a youth audience.

That’s easy on something like YouTube where you own your own channel’s comments - but then as a brand you don’t engage in unsafe spaces outside your own brand channel. Light comments here and there sure, but ‘official messaging’ stays where it’s owned by the brand.


I guess the thing for me is that I’d like to engage with a program I’m a stakeholder in - rather than with a brand I’m a customer of.

It’s like when my govt representative calls me a “consumer” rather than a “citizen”.