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UMass-Amherst lifts ban on Iranian national students studying science and engineering

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UMass-Amherst / Twitter

Following wide attention being brought to the university's discriminatory and seemingly unnecessary new policy, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has decided to lift its recently instated ban keeping Iranian citizens from enrolling in many of its science and engineering courses. The university initially pointed to a 2012 US law that prevents Iranian citizens from receiving visas if they intend to visit the US to study and then head back to Iran to work in energy, nuclear, or related fields.

"It is now clear ... that we can adopt a less restrictive policy."

The law doesn't, however, appear to have any bearing on a school's ability to teach Iranian citizens who have been approved for visas, despite the school's belief that it would be putting itself at risk of "significant" civil and criminal penalties by doing so. It appears that the school was wrong: it consulted with the State Department, and after doing so, then chose to revise its policies.

That all said, UMass-Amherst isn't entirely lifting its restrictions on Iranian students. It notes that it will instead "develop individualized study plans" with those it admits. That certainly sounds like it has the potential to be similarly limiting, but it's also possible that this will merely be a more careful way of steering its students clear from violations of law. "We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles," Michael Malone, the school's vice chancellor for research and engagement, says in a statement. "It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy.”