University Bans Iranian Students From Science Programs, Stirring Backlash

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst has announced a new policy that would restrict foreign students from Iran from graduate programs in several science-related fields, including physics, microbiology and chemistry.


The university says it is enacting this policy to comply with a 2012 sanctions law that was designed to place pressure on the Iranian nuclear program. Yet no one in the federal government has said that such an extreme move is necessary in order to comply with the law. The university appears to be taking interpretation into its own hands.

The Iranian Graduate Student Association and Persian Student Association put out a statement exclaiming shock at the move:

"We are in a state of distress, feel betrayed, and are worried for our friends and families who can no longer pursue their dreams of coming to America for an education. Coming to America as an Iranian is already difficult, and now UMass has made it much more intricate, with little explanation. UMass Amherst is voluntarily punishing us as a collective, because of what our home government does. We strongly believe UMass Amherst's recent policy implementation is arbitrary and discriminatory, and should not be tolerated."

Some at the university have announced their intent to resist the policy. Professor Emery Berger, who is the admissions chair for graduate computer sciences, tweeted his opposition:

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In a statement to NBC News, the State Department wrote, “U.S. law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals coming to the United States for education in science and engineering. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. We will reach out to UMass Amherst to discuss this specific decision.”

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