I have been putting my name on university assignments even though I know it's not advised. Something to do with unconscious biases.

To me it's a moral principle to write my name on my work which is my way of claiming ownership. It's my work and me putting my name claims that. I feel like putting a number instead puts a sort of a distance.

Some professors have expressed slight disapproval but can they (or should they be able to) do more? I'd tell them that if someone in their position cannot be impartial they aren't suitable for their jobs but I can't really say that.

  • 1
    since when do you have a "right" to use your name? Just put the number and move on.
    – Esther
    Oct 20, 2022 at 19:08
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    That is too particular to your uni for us to answer anything. Also, which country? That might also help making this be answerable
    – jDAQ
    Oct 20, 2022 at 19:08
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    To clarify: you've been instructed to use some sort of anonymous identifier number on your assignments, rather than your name. However, instead or in addition to this anonymous ID, you are writing your name, and want to know whether you have the right to do this in contrast to the instructions you are given?
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 20, 2022 at 19:08
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    "I'd tell them that if someone in their position cannot be impartial they aren't suitable for their jobs" No offence intended, but this is a textbook example of confusing an ideal with reality. I recommend to beware of this confusion - taking ideals rather than reality as premises for your decisions will often lead to situations where you feel to be right rather than get what you want. Oct 20, 2022 at 19:33
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    "I'd tell them that if someone in their position cannot be impartial they aren't suitable for their jobs but I can't really say that." This is wrong, pretty much everybody is affected by unconscious bias issues. You can look up research on that. It is not a personal problem of specific professors but rather a well known general effect that is addressed by anonymous marking. Oct 20, 2022 at 19:52

3 Answers 3


There is a rule in your university that you don't write your name on assignment but instead some anonymized number. You don't like that rule and choose to break that rule and still put your name on your assignments. Now your question is: can there be consequences for me breaking that rule? What do you expect? Of course there can be consequences for breaking rules. It is the possibility of a sanction that makes a rule a rule. A rule is a set of actions that other are supposed to take or not take plus the implicit or explicit understanding that not doing so will have consequences.

What those sanctions are in your case depends on the local institution. That can range from being invited for a stern talk, to a reduction of your grade, to your work not being graded at all. They may decide that what you did is not worth the hassle of a sanction, but there is no guarantee.

In essence you have chosen a specific form of protest by breaking it: civil disobedience. You break a rule that you believe is unjust and accept the punishment to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of that rule. Choosing this form of protest means that you are willing to bear the consequences of your actions, not that you are protected from those consequences.

There were probably more effective ways of protesting open to you. There is probably a complains procedure. There are probably various committees you could go to. You can talk to the department head. Typically you would first organize multiple students to join you.

Than there is the question whether you are right. It may be helpful to look at the pros and cons for putting your name on an assignment.

The pro You are proud of your work and you feel that putting your name on it is more personal than a number. So the benefit for putting your name on those assignments is the feeling of pride in your own work that you get from putting your name on it. Your feelings are yours and legitimate and real. So that is a real benefit. Moreover, I think you are right that your achievements should be celebrated in some form.

The cons Subconscious bias is real. Remember that teachers are human, and unconscious bias is deeply ingrained in society. It is not something that can be easily overcome, and you can make a valid argument that it is impossible to completely overcome. Educators should take action to reduce their subconscious bias, but grading assignments anonymously will provide an extra layer of protection for students against unconscious bias. It also protects the teachers and the institution against accusations of bias.

So whoever made that rule had to balance your feeling of pride in your work against the protection of the students, the teacher, and the institution. I think they made the right decision by saying the protection is more important.

If you choose a very confrontational way of protesting that decision, then the likely outcome will be that they explain to you why they think they made the right decision, and that will be the end of it. The rule will stand, and if you choose to break it you will be sanctioned. If you choose a more constructive form of protest, then the rule will in all likelihood still be maintained but they may look for alternative ways of celebrating your work.

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    Concerning uniqueness, there is a certain anonymity in being named Bob Brown. :-)
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 20, 2022 at 20:04

Surely the more genuine issue is have a unique_identifier for students, so that (for example!) people with exactly the same name can be distinguished!

And, at least for convenience of computerization and so on, the system for assignment of unique identifiers may need to be done centrally, not by individuals self-assigning a (hoped-to-be unique) identifier. The potential anonymizing aspects are not necessarily connected to this uniqueness issue.

Abstractly, not in any particular system, if you want to add your real-life name, in addition to the unique identifier for the situation, I'd not see an objection.

Concretely, I can imagine that graders might complain that, when you de-anonymize yourself, you create the possibility that they will be accused, by you, of acting prejudicially.

  • Let's just use ORCiDs instead, yes yes!
    – Lodinn
    Oct 23, 2022 at 9:27

I'll guess that you have no basis for a complaint unless you can show some real, tangible, harm that arises from such a regulation and that the harm accrues to you. Your "desire" to behave otherwise has little standing.

No one is using this system to "steal" your work, I assume. Somewhere there is a correspondence between the id number and your name, so your "authorship" is easy to verify.

Such regulations normally have a purpose, in this case attempting to assure, perhaps imperfectly, fair grading. Unless you have a specific claim that this does you harm, you are better to go along.

Also note that no one here has the authority to give you permission to break university (or course) regulations.

  • 2
    The cynical observation would be that, if OP's gender, ethnicity, social class etc. are such that they would be likely to benefit from the most common unconscious (or not-so-unconscious) biases, then tangible harm does indeed accrue to them from action to reduce unconscious biases, but they won't wish to make that explicitly the basis of their complaint. Oct 21, 2022 at 9:10

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