UMass Amherst lifts ban on Iranian engineering students

Story highlights

  • The ban was put in place to comply with federal 2012 law
  • Students from Iran will be offered individualized study plans

(CNN)The University of Massachusetts Amherst has lifted a controversial ban barring Iranian students from graduate science and engineering programs.

The university faced heavy backlash after it announced February 12 that students from Iran couldn't enroll in specific programs in the College of Engineering and in the College of Natural Sciences.
UMass Amherst based its decision on a law Congress enacted in 2012. The "Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012," restricts Iranian citizens from education in United States if they were preparing for a career in the energy sector or nuclear science in Iran.
    The thinking was those students could then go on and work on Iran's nuclear program.
    After consulting with the State Department and outside counsel, the university now says it will reverse the ban.
    "We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles," said Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement at UMass Amherst.
    "It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy."
    The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans had spoken out against the ban, saying it could "set a bad precedent by encouraging other U.S. universities to adopt similar policies."
    In a statement posted on their website on Wednesday, the alliance said it "commends UMass Amherst for reversing a policy that would have disenfranchised qualified Iranian students from its programs."