University of Massachusetts bans Iranian students from select STEM degrees

AMHERST, Mass., Feb. 18 (UPI) — The University of Massachusetts Amherst is not accepting Iranian applicants into its graduate school in select science and engineering fields, citing U.S. sanctions.

The university posted the policy on its website for graduate admissions.

The University has determined that recent governmental sanctions pose a significant challenge to its ability to provide a full program of education and research for Iranian students in certain disciplines and programs. Because we must ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, the University has 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.

The sanctions in question stipulate that Iranians cannot be issued a visa to study in the United States if they plan to enter the nuclear or energy fields. The 2012 law is an attempt to curb the development of the nuclear program in Iran.

The ban, however, includes more fields than those typically associated with nuclear engineering.

“This is a major problem for UMass Amherst, which risks doing real damage to itself as an institution,” said National Iranian American Council President Trita Parsi. “It’s also a problem for the U.S. government, which only undermines American values and influence when it prevents universities from reaching out to young Iranians.”

The U.S. State Department said a blanket ban is a misinterpretation of the law as applicants can be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. An official told NBC News they plan to reach out to the university to discuss the ban.

“We always felt like an integral part of the university community. Now we’re just kind of confused,” said Shirin Hakim, an Iranian-American who graduated last year. “We want an explanation for all this, and we don’t think it should be tolerated, because it’s clearly discriminatory against Iranian nationals.”

After receiving backlash for the ban, the university called on the State Department to clarify the language of the sanction before they possibly consider revising its policy.

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