UMD urges 'inclusive language' to avoid offending illegals
The University of Maryland has created a website to welcome illegal immigrant students and teach the campus community to use "inclusive language" so as not to offend them.
The site, which is funded by the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion along with several other administrative offices and departments, offers resources for both faculty and staff to create “a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, including undocumented students.”
“The term ‘illegal alien’ can make students feel unwelcome.”
The page goes beyond providing resources and information for undocumented students, and includes a list of things that faculty and staff can do to “create a welcoming environment for undocumented students.”
Notably, the list (which is also available as a flyer) promotes “inclusive language” because “the term ‘illegal alien’ can make students feel unwelcome.” In place of “illegal alien,” UMD suggests alternative terms such as “undocumented student,” “undocumented immigrant,” “people without documents,” or “people without legal status.”
Furthermore, it is not acceptable to “inquire about a student’s immigration status,” according to the guidelines, because “educators and other personnel should not make assumptions about students’ immigration status.” Faculty are encouraged, however, to download and print an “unafraid educator” sign that states “I am an unafraid educator, with and for undocumented students!”
The UMD administration has also established UndocuTerp, a “comprehensive education program that will provide staff and faculty with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to effectively respond to the needs of undocumented students at University of Maryland.”
The two-part training is offered several times throughout the school year. The first session explores “terminology and policies related to undocumented students,” while the second session “will have undocumented students share about their experiences at the University of Maryland.”
UMD students and groups have commended the site, including Student Government Association president Katherine Swanson, who applauded its launch on Facebook, saying she was “so very excited and happy” for this “step in the right direction.”
Similarly, the student group Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society (PLUMAS) called the web page “amazing” in a post on its own Facebook page, encouraging peers to spread the word as well.
“Undocumented students, who often face barriers and challenges as they navigate campus policies, require support services that address their unique needs,” UMD explains, saying that several university offices along with “allies” joined together “to increase institutional support for undocumented students, providing advising related to financial aid and admissions.”
“Ultimately, the university strives to provide resources and guidance to support the advancement of undocumented students during their time at Maryland,” the overview concludes.
One section of the site provides background on current immigration policies related to education, such as the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which permits illegal immigrants who arrived as children to avoid deportation, and the Maryland Dream Act, which assists illegal immigrants in affording an education.
“Undocumented students are a vital part of our community,” the page asserts, boasting that “this site will serve as a resource for current and prospective undergraduate students.”
The site’s creation earlier this month comes shortly after a coalition of more than 25 student organizations released a list of demands related to diversity and inclusion, although the list itself is not mentioned on the site.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ericabau2