#WeAreAllUMass: Why Schools Are Turning Away Iranian Nationals

The University of Massachusetts is receiving well-deserved backlash over a decision to stop admitting Iranian nationals to certain engineering and service programs at its Amherst campus.

The ban stems from The United States' efforts to prevent the Iranian government from further developing nuclear weapons.

As a result, in 2012, a law passed that excludes some Iranians from studying in America if they plan on working toward a degree in nuclear or energy fields.

The enforcement of this law is generally implemented by the State Department, which issues visas, as well as the Department of Homeland security, which investigates threats.

Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

But, the University has decided to take these matters into its own hands, stating that compliance with the government sanctions was getting increasingly more difficult, and it would simply ban all Iranian nationals from enrolling in certain graduate programs in its College of Engineering and College of Natural Sciences.

Simply ban all Iranian nationals from enrolling in certain programs ... as if the decision was a no-brainer.

The University listed several programs in which Iranians are prohibited to study, including physics, chemistry, microbiology, polymer science, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering and mechanical and industrial engineering.

UMass informed its student body of the new policy on February 6 on the university’s website. It took students by surprise, and understandably angered many.

The university deleted the policy off its website after receiving criticism, then later reposted it and informed news outlets and its student body it will stand by the decision.

It seems to, like we have been taking far too many steps back into the past, and it scares me to think about what is yet to come.

Imagine growing up with a dream career in mind, working diligently during high school to get the grades that would help get you into a prestigious American university, only to get your dream turned down because of where you were born.

Have we seriously become the country that steals away the privilege of learning and advancing intellectually?

The Iranian Graduate Student Association and the Persian Student Associations at UMass set up a Facebook page to help drum up their voices. The hashtag #WeAreAllUMass has also been established by students who feel the policy is excessive in nature.

Denying Iranian students from studying in their desired fields seems to me like collective punishment, hindering an entire group of people because of a selective few with whom they may have no relationship.

Although the University of Massachusetts is not the first educational institution to restrict Iranian students (schools like Virginia Commonwealth University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have implemented restrictions), many fear this will be a new founding pattern for institutions nationwide.

What other universities will start to adapt this policy? Will workplaces follow and turn away Iranian nationals, too? And, will other nationalities and educational majors be the next target? How far are we willing to let this go before we let it get too far?

Denying these students an education seems extreme and inhumane. It is a threat to the future of academic freedom and education.

#WeAreAllUMass and we deserve an education.