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UMass Amherst Reverses Decision to Ban Iranian Students

UMass Amherst / Wikimedia Commons
• February 18, 2015 1:44 pm

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The University of Massachusetts Amherst reversed a decision to ban Iranian students from participating in programs related to nuclear science and other engineering fields following massive pressure from Muslim community groups, according to a statement released by the school.

UMass Amherst announced two weeks ago that it had changed its policies regarding Iranian visa students in order to comply with U.S. sanctions laws on Iran.

"In July 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provided clarification on H.R. 1905, stating that Iranian citizens are ineligible for U.S. visas if they are seeking to participate in higher education in preparation for a career in Iran’s petroleum, natural gas, nuclear energy, nuclear science, or nuclear engineering fields," the university said in its updated policy from Feb. 6.

"Additionally, Iranian citizens seeking to study in other fields, such as business, management or computer science, but who intend to use these skills in Iran's oil, natural gas or nuclear energy sectors, are also ineligible for visas," the policy stated.

Due to these laws, the school "determined that it will no longer admit Iranian national students to specific programs in the College of Engineering (i.e., Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering) and in the College of Natural Sciences (i.e., Physics, Chemistry, Microbiology, and Polymer Science & Engineering) effective February 1, 2015," according to the policy.

Just two weeks later, UMass Amherst has reversed course, according to a statement provided Wednesday to the Washington Free Beacon:

"The University of Massachusetts Amherst today announced that it will accept Iranian students into science and engineering programs, developing individualized study plans to meet the requirements of federal sanctions law and address the impact on students," the statement reads. "The decision to revise the university’s approach follows consultation with the State Department and outside counsel."

"This approach reflects the university’s longstanding commitment to wide access to educational opportunities," said Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement. "We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles. It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy."

The statement continues:

Federal law, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, requires that the U.S. Department of State deny visas to Iranian students wishing to engage in certain fields of study related to the energy sector, nuclear science, nuclear engineering or a related field at U.S. colleges and universities. To comply with the law and its impacts, UMass Amherst will develop individualized study plans as appropriate based on a student’s projected coursework and research in conjunction with an offer of admission. The plan will be updated as required during a student’s course of study.

Published under: Iran, Sanctions