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Our lives matter: Iranian admission policy shows UMass isn’t working in good faith on diversity

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(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

On Oct. 16, 2014, the University of Massachusetts community united in the Student Union Ballroom for the first Diversity Strategic Planning Steering Committee Town Hall Meeting. Outraged students occupied the room wearing black t-shirts bearing the phrase “UMass stands against racism” and demanding change. The meeting was held in regard to recent hate crimes and death threats on campus targeted at Black and Latino/a students.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy called on the committee to create a plan of action by the end of fall semester, congruent with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Enku Gelaye’s words, “Hate speech and intolerance is unacceptable in our community.”

UMass failed to meet Gelaye’s pledge as the University is no longer admitting Iranian nationals into certain programs in the Colleges of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

During the October town hall meeting, graduate student Durryle Brooks expressed how “campus leadership must be accountable in its response to racism on our campus.” Now campus leadership is responsible for racial discrimination, and has left it to the victims to hold them accountable.

A UMass news release acknowledged that the new policy forcing “the exclusion of a class of students from admission” conflicts with “institutional values and principles.”

Without previously informing the Iranian community of its decision, UMass managed to “recognize that these decisions create difficulties for our students from Iran,” and described the policy as “unfortunate.” The University’s attempt to avoid violating U.S. sanctions against Iran is “rare if not unique among U.S. universities,” and succeeded in “(catching) the U.S. State Department by surprise,” according to the Boston Globe.

The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 declares Iranian citizens ineligible for U.S. visas to seek higher education in energy-related fields, clinging to the fear and assumption that every Iranian science student dreams of building a nuclear bomb. Yet, “U.S. law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals coming to the United States for education in science and engineering,” according to a U.S. State Department official in an interview with the Globe, because “each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

The State Department itself is confused as to why UMass has barred Iranian students from continuing their educations despite there being no such changes in federal policy. Administrators in Whitmore have overzealously portrayed legal compliance to the federal government and opposition to the policy toward their marginalized students.

As an Iranian-American student at UMass, the recent policy changes don’t surprise me, just as the administration’s inaction on racist death threats didn’t surprise Durryle Brooks last semester when he said, “The recent hate crimes on campus are evidence of an epidemic present in our communities and our nation as a whole, which if ignored will continue to destroy us all. These heinous acts are but symptoms of an illness that circulates through the veins of our society.”

Americans connote the Middle East with terrorism. “Muslim,” “Middle Eastern” and “threat” have become interchangeable, represented by brown skin, thick eyebrows, large beards or hijabs.

National arrogance and racially motivated moral superiority were brutally exposed on Feb. 10, when Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were shot to death near the University of North Carolina campus. Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, allegedly murdered the three Muslim students in cold blood over “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” according to Lt. Joshua Mecimore. The failure to label Hicks a terrorist and his acts a hate crime are the result of a societal epidemic.

American’s religious arrogance separates Islam as the exception – other religions aren’t automatically viewed as violent or fundamentalist.

It is this bigotry that scrutinizes Yusor and Razan for wearing hijabs, portraying a “Muslim,” but immediately perceived as a “threat.” It is this bigotry that excludes people from higher education, and sends Iranian students home.

The UMass news release states the “University is also obliged to respect laws passed by Congress that restrict the definition of admissible students,” but their adherence to the law is not an obligation.

The University has gone above and beyond to wrongfully appease federal law while already under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases and non-compliance with Title IX.

Instead of protecting their students, an administration that held a town meeting on diversity, equity and inclusion just last semester was more concerned with protecting the University on its brochures.

UMass has fallen victim to national bigotry toward the Middle East and possibly set a precedent for other universities to follow. I’ll see everyone at the next town hall meeting.

Alisina Saee-Nazari is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

13 Comments

13 Responses to “Our lives matter: Iranian admission policy shows UMass isn’t working in good faith on diversity”

  1. Dav McLa on February 17th, 2015 12:39 am

    it is very telling that UMassA has volunteered, officially, not now to have certain advanced engineering classes to include students thought thoroughly Iranian and plausibly most questionable respecting potential security interests. this can therefore only likely prompt experts’ consequences amidst many who are able, on campus and beyond, and now all the more willing, to address troubling academic and related issues if exacting student journalism also might yet thrive among them, etc.

  2. bill on February 17th, 2015 7:54 am

    This isn’t a matter of Diversity. It’s a matter of a specific country with sanctions against them. They’re not saying this applies to all people of a certain religion, or all people of middle eastern descent. Please don’t cry racism here.

  3. mehrdad on February 17th, 2015 11:44 am

    bill if you read the article you realize sanctions and law don’t force UMASS. UMASS is using law and etc. as an excuse..

  4. John on February 17th, 2015 12:35 pm

    From what I’ve seen, this decision was a misguided, ham-handed attempt by administrators in charge of compliance- not diversity- to ensure compliance with federal law. The issue here is one of legal misunderstanding and overly swift action, not diversity, and it doesn’t seem another town hall would help with this.

    I fully expect them to reverse course on this.

  5. Scott on February 17th, 2015 1:34 pm

    “Americans connote the Middle East with terrorism. “Muslim,” “Middle Eastern” and “threat” have become interchangeable, represented by brown skin, thick eyebrows, large beards or hijabs.”

    “American’s religious arrogance separates Islam as the exception – other religions aren’t automatically viewed as violent or fundamentalist.”

    Not ALL Americans feel this way. America is a melting pot mind you. You can’t just use “Americans” because it generalizes all Americans, whether they were born here or nationalized (That means Muslim-Americans themselves would fall into this category). Unless you meant to classify these Americans as White, or Christian, but that would just mean you are stereotyping those groups as well, which makes you no better than those who stereotype Muslims.

    “National arrogance and racially motivated moral superiority were brutally exposed on Feb. 10…..”

    You can believe what you like but it was labeled a dispute over a parking spot. I do however believe it was racially motivated and I am 100% on board with calling it that. I am also 100% on calling the Nidal Malik Hasan and Alton Nolen incidents “Hate Crimes” and labeling them “terrorists”.

  6. Ben on February 17th, 2015 9:21 pm

    Scott, how would you respond if I told you that birds fly? Would you say that was false? Penguins, ostriches, kiwi, none of them can fly. So is it wrong to say that birds fly? No. Why not? Because I never said all birds. Neither did Alisina say all Americans. Grammatically, ‘birds fly’ is ambiguous, and could mean either ‘some birds fly’ or ‘all birds fly’. English is not a programming language. We rely on critical thinking and reading comprehension to get the right message across. There’s no need to nitpick like that.

  7. Craig on February 17th, 2015 10:39 pm

    Mehrdad:
    No one is forcing UMass to ban Iranian students from some graduate engineering and science courses, they are doing it as good a American citizen interested in the security of our nation. They did not mention anyone’s religion, but it should not escape even the most misguided liberal that 99.999% of terrorist acts are committed by young to middle age Middle Eastern males who are Muslim. Not a bigoted or racists remark….just a fact. Study your recent history.

  8. Scott on February 18th, 2015 6:08 am

    Ben:

    What was written: “Americans connote the Middle East with terrorism. “Muslim,” “Middle Eastern” and “threat” have become interchangeable, represented by brown skin, thick eyebrows, large beards or hijabs.”

    What should have been written: “There is an increasing number of U.S. citizens that connote…..”

    What was written: “American’s religious arrogance separates Islam as the exception – other religions aren’t automatically viewed as violent or fundamentalist.”

    What should have been written: Those who express religious arrogance separate Islam as the exception…”

    And it’s just that simple.

    It has nothing to do with “nitpicking”. If you are going to write something with any sense of intelligence and integrity you should adjust for all errors that could be mistaken for misinterpretation as much as possible. Why? Because it simply doesn’t sound right does it?

    Example: “Muslims are responsible for the terrorists acts committed in today’s society” Oh boy……..that doesn’t sound right…….but maybe I shouldn’t correct it. You’re a critical thinker so I think you have the comprehension to figure out the right message.

    Have a nice day Ben.

  9. Arafat on February 18th, 2015 8:21 am

    “Americans connote the Middle East with terrorism. “Muslim,” “Middle Eastern” and “threat” have become interchangeable, represented by brown skin, thick eyebrows, large beards or hijabs. ”

    +++

    OMG! Why would Americans ever think this? LOL

  10. Arafat on February 18th, 2015 8:24 am

    “American’s religious arrogance separates Islam as the exception – other religions aren’t automatically viewed as violent or fundamentalist. ”
    ++
    Just because Islam is violent – and has been violent since Mohammed’s days of rape, carnage and torture – does not make it violent. Do I have this right? LOL

  11. Noman on February 18th, 2015 11:47 am

    Craig, please site your sources on this 99.999% statistic. Oh, that’s right. It does not exist. Please refer to this article for more accurate statistics:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/14/are-all-terrorists-muslims-it-s-not-even-close.html

    Ta da! It’s less than 2 percent. I ask that you please do some research and study YOUR recent history before posting such ignorant and baseless “facts.”

  12. Craig on February 18th, 2015 7:46 pm

    the part of the world I fought in, it was 99%, so I’ll accept your thanks for keeping the wolf away from your door and providing you with the right to be as liberal as you care to be. Wake up and smell the coffee, kid.

  13. Craig on February 18th, 2015 8:10 pm

    Good source Noman. The Daily Beast, a liberal rag known for its plagerism. Get real.

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