UMass to stop admitting Iranian national students into certain programs

By Aviva Luttrell

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Engineering Lab II at UMass

Engineering Lab II at UMass

The University of Massachusetts announced it will no longer admit Iranian national students into certain graduate programs in the College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences to avoid violating United States sanctions against Iran.

The decision, effective Feb. 1, comes in response to sanctions imposed by Congress in August 2012 – the “Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012,” which bans Iranian citizens from education in the U.S. if they plan to focus on nuclear or energy related research in Iran.

All currently enrolled Iranian students will also be required to certify their compliance with the restrictions imposed by the 2012 sanctions in writing, according to a document on the UMass website.

“The University has determined that these sanctions pose a significant challenge to our ability to provide a full program of education and research for Iranian students in certain disciplines and programs,” the document said.

Those programs include chemical engineering; electrical and computer engineering; mechanical and industrial engineering; physics; chemistry; microbiology; and polymer science and engineering, according to the document.

However, the National Iranian American Council has concluded that the University’s policy is an overly broad interpretation of the sanctions and has called for UMass to reverse its decision.

“This is a major problem for UMass Amherst, which risks doing real damage to itself as an institution,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said in a press release. “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 University said in a statement Friday that officials recognize that UMass’ policy may create difficulties for Iranian students, which they regard as “unfortunate.”

“Furthermore, the exclusion of a class of students from admission directly conflicts with our institutional values and principles,” the statement continued. “However, as with any college or university, we have no choice but to institute policies and procedure to ensure that we are in full compliance with all applicable laws.”

At least one faculty member in the College of Engineering, Assistant Professor Yahya Modarres-Sadeghi, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Iran, according to his profile on the UMass website.

“Of all the people to hurt with sanctions, punishing students and undermining educational exchanges is a particularly damaging act,” Parsi said in the release. “The people of Iran have positive views of the United States, and higher education is one of the best forums to foster important relationships with young Iranians that can help improve ties and even prevent conflicts.”

The University could not immediately be reached for further comment Friday.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @AvivaLuttrell.

See related: UMass’ decision to ban Iranian students from certain programs sparks outrage, debate