For years now, the United States has been trying to prevent Iran from developing and producing nuclear weapons. This has led to sanctions since 2012 that excludes Iranian nationals from studying at American universities if they intend to work in the science and nuclear fields. While most universities seem to have responded by allowing the federal government to take the reigns on this initiative and screen candidates, in the past couple weeks, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst took some steps further. They reported that it was becoming increasingly difficult to comply with the government regulations, so instead, they just made a general ban on Iranian nationals from their graduate programs, including physics, chemistry, microbiology, polymer science, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical and industrial engineering.
While the ban was said to have been prompted by a student inquiry, the Iranian community at UMass was outraged and responded to the new ban strongly. As a result, and after consulting with the federal government and multiple lawyers, UMass has decided to reverse their decision and continue to allow Iranian students into their science and engineering programs. Though UMass has gained the most notoriety on this ban in the past few weeks, they are not the only school with related policies to the 2012 sanctions. Virginia Commonwealth University does not accept Iranian citizens into their mechanical and nuclear engineering graduate programs or in “programs that have nuclear content,” but they announced that they were open to reevaluation of their policy. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute also requires prospective students from sanctioned countries to contact the admissions office prior to submitting an application and actually reports that they have no plans for reconsideration.
With over 10,000 Iranians studying in the US and 61% pursuing science and engineering degrees, these restrictions have an effect on a large amount of people. Universities will have to be aware moving forward of the communities they are building and what falls under the federal government’s jurisdiction as they develop their own policies on national matters.
Contributor: Raina Searles