February 13, 2015, Washington, D.C. – In a recent statement, University of Massachusetts Amherst announced they will no longer accept Iranian nationals to their engineering and natural sciences programs due to their concerns in complying with the Iran Threat Reductions and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. PAAIA is concerned that UMass Amherst’s potential broad interpretation of the law will negatively impact Iranian students during the admissions process and could lead to similar policy decisions by other U.S. universities.
The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, passed by the House of Representatives by a margin of 421-6, includes a provision to exclude Iranian citizens from participating in coursework at U.S. institutions of higher education who are preparing for a career in the energy sector or nuclear engineering fields of Iran.
According to the Department of State, U.S. Consulate Officers will review each visa application submitted on or after August 10, 2012, to determine if the applicant is ineligible for a visa under this provision.
In their statement issued on February 6th – which was later taken down from the University’s website – UMass Amherst informed that they will no longer be admitting students to engineering and natural science fields due to the restrictions that the law has placed on full participation in these programs. Furthermore, current Iranian students in these fields will be required to submit written acknowledgement concerning the law’s sanctions.
More than 10,000 students from Iran came to the U.S. during the 2013-2014 academic year, making Iran the twelfth highest leading place of origin for international students studying in the United States. The vast majority of these students are in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). UMass Amherst’s new policy to exclude Iranian students coming from these fields will greatly diminish the Iranian student body on campus and create a precedent for other universities to follow suit.
As an organization that represents the interests of Iranian Americans, PAAIA is concerned that UMass Amherst’s new policy will inadvertently punish Iranian students wishing to study there. PAAIA urges American universities to support academic exchange between Iran and the U.S., which will uphold positive features of American society and help cultivate the goodwill of the Iranian people towards the United States.
PAAIA will contact the UMass Amherst to discuss our concerns with their proposed policy and will continue to monitor this story and keep the public aware of any new developments.