UC Boulder Labels "Illegal Alien" A "Problematic Phrase"

Authored by Grace Gottschling via Campus Reform,

The University of Colorado-Boulder has removed the term  “illegal aliens” from its library catalog in favor of “more ethical subject headings” to foster an “inclusive atmosphere.”

Library subject headings are used to help researchers find relevant material by using certain keywords. Now, at UC Boulder, student researchers can use terms like “noncitizen,” and “undocumented immigrants” to find documents that previously were only identified by the legal designation of “illegal alien.”

The library, which changed 5,367 records, has opted for “more ethical subject headings” rather than the “problematic” phrase “in an effort to foster diversity and inclusion,” according to its website. 

The change is part of the university’s Libraries’ Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 which seeks to “provide services, spaces, and collections that foster belonging, curiosity, openness, discovery, creativity, and reflection,” according to the strategic plan.

The American Library Association resolved to change the subject heading in 2016, but the U.S. House of Representatives voted to keep using the phrase “illegal aliens.” UC Boulder decided to follow the ALA resolution, according to Candace Smith, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategic Media Relations.

“There were about 5,500 bibliographic records that were enhanced with the ethical subject headings, and the updates are done on a monthly basis,” Smith told Campus Reform. “There are no plans to phase out “illegal aliens” as a search heading, so long as it remains a subject heading in the Library of Congress Subject Headings.”

“We support open access, open data and open educational resources in an effort to support access to information and knowledge,” Smith added. “Our exhibits and events also embody our inclusivity efforts, such as the Libraries’ upcoming welcome event for transfer students, many of whom are veterans.”