UMass reverses ban on Iranians from science programs

UMass reverses ban on Iranians from science programs

University cited sanctions law in its original decision; was accused of discrimination

The University of Massachusetts Amherst. (CC BY-SA Tomwsulcer, Wikipedia)
The University of Massachusetts Amherst. (CC BY-SA Tomwsulcer, Wikipedia)

BOSTON (AP) — The state’s flagship public university confirmed that it won’t ban Iranian nationals from certain graduate programs as it initially said it would do this year but instead will unroll several new measures to comply with US sanctions against Iran.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst had said in February that it would block Iranian nationals from some science and engineering programs, citing sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program. The sanctions, enacted by Congress in 2012, deny visas for Iranian citizens preparing for careers in Iran’s nuclear or energy fields.

But amid backlash days later, the university consulted the Department of State and reversed the decision, assembling a panel to study the issue. The university’s leader, announcing the group’s findings this week, said students of all nationalities are welcome at Amherst.

“UMass is committed to non-discriminatory admissions and to educating every student without discrimination in all areas of the educational process, in the classroom and in every course of study or degree,” Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy said in a statement.

To comply with sanctions without discriminating against Iranian students, the university is adding broad, new training programs.

In many science departments, all faculty members and graduate students will be required to take annual training on US sanctions and export laws. University officials will individually notify all international students about federal rules that could affect their visas.

Before traveling to foreign counties, international students in some fields now must submit brief written statements about their research.

The changes align with what had been recommended by the university’s Iranian Graduate Students Association.

“We are happy to see students, faculties and staff will receive the required information about all these policies and prospective students will not be rejected only based on their nationality,” a past president of the group, Ali Rakhshan, said in an email.

The university, which has nearly 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students, added that it won’t restrict or monitor regular coursework for international students but might review certain projects. Over the next year, the university will decide whether to expand training to others on campus, too, the chancellor said.

University officials said the original ban was the result of legal murkiness over sanctions and it never lined up with the university’s values.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.

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