Our scientific handbook demand that external sources should be cited as precise as possible and should not be modified.
So you cite the policy, and then explore violating this?
For me, DSVA's comment:
This problem also occurs if you change your last name (usually because of marriage). The correct way to cite the old papers is using the old name.
clearly provides the longstanding approach. People being unable to find information in a database is a real, impacting reason to not pretend like history was something else.
Just because Smith made a decision to change his name is not compellingly professional reason to disregard established data entry standards that provide useful benefit.
I present to you an analogy: If United States President Ronald Reagan, in the final years of that person's life (which happened in 2004), quickly completed the official legal process to have that person's name changed to Rhonda Reagan, would you expect historical documents to change? For that matter, would you even expect modern texts to say "Rhonda Reagan won the election and she became the next President"?
Doesn't this student's non-fictional request boil down to exactly the same thing as that fictional scenario, which is asking for reference to what historically happened to be referred to different, based on the person's more recent decisions? Re-writing history is not desirable.
Would a change from G. Smith to M. Smith be acceptable/reasonable?
This change would not be acceptable. Academia has a goal to prepare students to enter a workforce that often has long-standing established expectations that workers are demanded to abide by. This goal permeates academia's culture, official policies, and often even coursework grading criteria. Many students struggle with some of the expected formality, and the demands can feel more traditional than what the students prefer to experience. Yet, students are expected to adapt if they want to achieve high marks (or even passing marks). Changing established procedure about name handling, just to accommodate the author's wishes, goes directly against academia pursuing this goal. That is why this change is not acceptable.
Like other professional environments, academia isn't necessarily the most appropriate platform for people to try to push their own desires, even when those desires may reflect goals that are in line with a currently-popular social stance.
Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation?
Yes. Resist the author's attempts to get you to overlook the person's name at the time of publication. The proper response for improper requests is resist. Decline the request.
Although such a change would be considered desirable by some people, in some environments, academia includes an amount of formality and demands that students accommodate society's expectations, not the other way around.
As policies should be able to be flexible when needed, the motivation of this request may have a significant impact on deciding whether the request should be agreed to. The motivation for this request appears to be driven from personal interests that are off-topic of most academic subject material. Therefore, granting an exception to general policy does not really seem to be in academia's best interest.
If a person wishes to have this procedure changed throughout academic culture, the desirable way to do this is not to make a request that an academic institution change long-standing institution behavior just to make a single individual student happier. So as to not provide an open door welcoming the next person to come up with a reason why policy should be set aside to fulfill personal desires, this request should be declined.