PAAIA Welcomes UMass Amherst’s Reversal on Ban of Iranian Students

February 18, 2015, Washington, D.C. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst today announced that they have reversed the ban on Iranian students from their science and engineering programs.

The policy reversal comes after UMass Amherst faced strong opposition to the university’s February 6th statement which announced that Iranian science and engineering students would no longer be offered admission due to their concerns in complying with the Iran Threat Reductions and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (Pub.L. 112-158, August 10, 2012).

Critics of the UMass Amherst policy argued that the university had taken an overly broad interpretation of the sanctions law that bars Iranians students who are only preparing for a career in Iran’s energy and nuclear sectors from U.S. universities.

PAAIA also expressed its concerns to the university that a blanket prohibition on Iranian students from science and engineering programs would inadvertently punish Iranian students wishing to study there and could set a bad precedent by encouraging other U.S. universities to adopt similar policies.

PAAIA appreciates and recognizes that the sanctions law poses significant challenges to U.S. universities in providing a full program of education and research for qualified Iranian students in certain disciplines. At the same time, we believe that it is important for institutions of higher education to not let the complexity of these sanctions lead to confusion and misapplication of the law.  Such actions not only disenfranchise students from Iran but also run counter to our interest as a nation.  

It has been the policy of the U.S. government to engage the Iranian people directly, and to encourage Iranian students to come to the U.S. for their education. As the potential future leaders and innovators of Iran, it is of particular importance that these students are allowed to study and have a positive experience with America.  

 After consultation with the State Department and outside counsel, the university decided to revoke the ban. Instead, UMass Amherst will develop individualized study plans for Iranian science and engineering students to comply with federal sanctions law.

“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.”

PAAIA commends UMass Amherst for reversing a policy that would have disenfranchised qualified Iranian students from its programs. 

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