U. Mass. Will No Longer Admit Iranian Students to Graduate Schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences (Updated) (Again)

by Corey Robin on February 13, 2015

This announcement was recently posted on the website of the graduate school of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst:

The University has determined that recent governmental sanctions pose a significant challenge to its ability to provide a full program of education and research for Iranian students in certain disciplines and programs. Because we must ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, the University has determined that it will no longer admit Iranian national students to specific programs in the College of Engineering (i.e., Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering) and in the College of Natural Sciences (i.e., Physics, Chemistry, Microbiology, and Polymer Science & Engineering) effective February 1, 2015.

The full announcement and reasoning—namely, that the university is trying to act in accordance with all the twists and turns of the US sanctions regime—behind this new policy can be found here.

I’m waiting to hear back from some experts on the US sanctions policy as to whether the University is fairly grappling with constraints imposed by the US government or just going rogue.

But while I wait to hear back, I can’t help being reminded of the shitshow we saw when American Studies Association voted for an academic boycott of Israel.

You’ll recall that many self-proclaimed defenders of academic freedom at the time made a lot of noise about the threat that the boycott posed to academic exchange and international conversation. Even though nothing in the ASA vote precluded the exchange of individual scholars or students between the United States and Israel and the organization took great pains to stress that they were calling for institutional boycotts rather than a boycott of individuals.

Well, we don’t need to reprise that argument here. Because now we very clearly have a public university, claiming to act in accordance with US policy, officially banning Iranian national students from applying to entire graduate schools.

Will those putative defenders of academic freedom from the BDS fight speak out against this policy—and speak out far more forcefully than they did then— since this policy really does threaten academic freedom in the way they imagined the academic boycott did?

Or will they defend the university’s decision on the grounds of national security or the need for universities to act in accordance with US law? If they take that path, they’d be admitting a point many of suspected all along: that academic freedom really is not their highest value at all.

What will those defenders of academic freedom say—and, more important, do—now?

While we wait and see what they do, it’s very important that we get word of this policy out. Someone emailed me about it tonight, and I looked all over the internet and could not find a single mention of it. Do other universities have similar policies? Let’s try and gather information and make sure that people in the media and academia and civil liberties organizations know about this.

Updated (February 13, 12 pm)

So I’ve spoken with a few sanctions experts. More on that in a minute. First, some other updates.

1. Turns out that Kaplan, which is a US-based educational company, is implementing an even more draconian version of the policy over in Britain. For similar reasons as U. Mass. And it’s caused some problems.

Kaplan, a US-owned education provider in the UK, is refusing students who are residents of Iran enrolment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects as well as any of its post-graduate courses, citing US sanctions.

Applications for more than a dozen Iranians students have been withdrawn since autumn 2013 because the company felt it had to comply with the US regulations and sanctions policy regarding the country.

Critics say sanctions were put in place to punish Iranian authorities, not ordinary people, and that such interpretations were based on a misreading of the policy.

Iranian students studying in Britain’s public universities can generally take such courses.

 


2. The Washington Institute on Near East Policy, which generally takes a strong pro-Israel line, has a paper on the larger issue of Iranian nationals seeking an education in the US. On pp. 34-38, they explicitly take up the questions addressed by the U. Mass. policy. Amazingly, they come down in favor of a policy of more open access and against collective punishment. Though the specific issue they consider is that of the US government’s multiple-entry visa policies versus single-entry visa policies, the basic point of their conclusion is that the government’s visa regime is already strict enough without requiring further and more general forms of discrimination against all Iranian nationals.
The broad denial of multiple-entry visas to Iranian students in the STEM disciplines—who constitute not only the majority of Iranian students in the United States but the highest percentage of STEM students from any country—reflects a disproportionate response to a geopolitical situation in which most Iranian students have little involvement. More than any other challenge Iranian students face, the denial of multiple-entry visas—especially after announcement of the initiative to issue them—causes significant hardship, in addition to hurting Iranian goodwill toward the United States.

Another apparent incongruity involves the overlap between U.S. law and visa-issuance policy. For instance, Section 306 of EBSVRA affirms that no individual from a state sponsor of international terrorism can receive a nonimmigrant visa to the United States, except if it can be guaranteed that such an individual does “not pose a threat to the safety or national security of the United States.” Moreover, Section 501 of the 2012 Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act affirms that a visa must be denied to any Iranian citizen who “seeks to enter the United States to participate in coursework at an institution of higher education…for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran.”

The text of these laws makes clear that no student deemed a threat for technology transfer can be issued a visa in the first place, a measure that starting in 2012 was even extended to students studying petroleum engineering.


3. Last night, after my post went up, the National Iranian American Council issued a strong statement against the U. Mass policy.
The University’s actions constitute an overly broad interpretation its obligations under sanctions….

4. Which leads me to the experts.

One expert on the sanctions regime I spoke with is Tyler Cullis, a legal fellow and policy associate at the National Iranian American Council. I asked him whether and to what extent U. Mass’s policy was necessitated by the government’s sanctions regime. This is what he wrote back to me:


If you look at the provision at issue (Section 501 of the Iran Threat Reduction Act), it doesn’t obligate universities at all:




SEC. 501. EXCLUSION OF CITIZENS OF IRAN SEEKING EDUCATION RELATING TO THE NUCLEAR AND ENERGY SECTORS OF IRAN.


(a) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of State shall deny a visa to, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall exclude from the United States, any alien who is a citizen of Iran that the Secretary of State determines seeks to enter the United States to participate in coursework at an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a))) to prepare the alien for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran.


(b) APPLICABILITY.—Subsection (a) applies with respect to visa applications filed on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.


It obligates the State Dept. to deny visas to “aliens who are citizens from Iran” and who participate in coursework to prepare the “alien for” certain careers in Iran. If a visa is issued for an Iranian national to study at a US university, then the State Dept. has made the determination at issue.

The only issue I see arising is one that UMass cites: Iranian students being denied reentry after traveling abroad. If that’s the case and students are being denied reentry for taking coursework in the fields UMass cites, then the problem is the State Dept.


In a second email, he clarified further:

(I want to be clear, however, that I believe this was a misreading of the statutory provision. I haven’t seen the State Dept. read Sec. 501 as broadly as UMass suggests.)


FYI: Here’s a proper reading:


The University of Pennsylvania’s policy is consistent with what Tullis says: there is no need for additional measures by a university. If there is a problem with reentry, that ought to be tackled through the government, not through blanket bans by a university.


I got a much different response from Sam Cutler, who is a policy advisor, not a lawyer, at Ferrari and Associates, a law firm whose sole focus is sanctions policy. I had asked him if “this policy is indeed truly necessitated by the sanctions program or not.” The following exchange ensued (I am reproducing it with Cutler’s permission).


Cutler:



Thanks for the inquiry. The answer is probably – Iranian students in the United States are authorized to perform the activities for which their visa has been granted and U.S. persons are authorized to provide services to Iranian students consistent with those visas. Pursuant to Section 501 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, the State Department is prohibited from granting visas to Iranian students seeking access to higher education in order to “to prepare the alien for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran.” UMass likely concluded that they were therefore prohibited from teaching i.e. providing a service, to Iranian students for courses that are directly relevant to these prohibited industries.


Additionally, my understanding is that for certain advanced classes or research, certain technology and/or software is used that would require a license from the Commerce Department to provide to an Iranian, which would require specific authorization.


I’m actually a bit surprised it took UMass this long, I’ve heard a number of schools cut off Iranian students from these types of classes a while ago.


 Me:


When you say “the answer is probably”: do you mean that it probably is truly necessitated by the sanctions program?

Cutler:


I believe that there is a chance it could be interpreted by OFAC as a violation and since that is the case, most institutions will do whatever they can do comply.

Me:


So I’ve been checking around and it seems like most institutions, particularly the top ones, have no such policy. Folks at MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, Michigan: no one can find anything remotely like this. In fact, this is the only university where we can even identify something like this. If it’s such a rational response of universities to the sanctions regime, why is no one doing it (assuming I’ve got that right)?

Cutler:


I can’t speak for those universities but I can tell you we’ve advised universities on this specific issue before. Some schools may not have official or publicized policies but I can tell you that it is happening.

Regarding timing, it’s possible that they are worried that if there is no nuclear deal that Treasury is going to be looking for scalps.

Me:



Do you mean that you’ve advised universities to adopt these policies?

Any sense of which universities have adopted these policies? Or how many?



Cutler:


We’ve advised on the requirements of the law and potential risks in the event OFAC determines that there is a violation of the law.

I obviously can’t disclose past clients and couldn’t give you a number on universities that have policies specifically related to this issue. However, every university has an export controls and sanctions policy.



And Cutler again:


Just to clarify, we have not been formally retained by any universities to advise on this issue, but we’ve provided informal guidance to compliance personnel at universities.

So that’s it.


Hard to know how to read all this. Cutler’s part of a firm that advises universities on compliance, and can’t give me a list of other universities that have implemented a policy like U. Mass’s. Thus far, I haven’t been able to find any written policy like U. Mass’s.


Oh, wait, there’s one more thing:




And when you go to the link where the full policy was stated previously, you see the following:


Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.56.19 AM




Will keep you posted.





Updated (February 16, 2:45 pm)


As I reported over the weekend, the website is back up. Also, the State Department expressed puzzlement over the university’s policy, seeming to suggest it was not required or warranted. The real problem, I suggested in this post, may be this freelance “advice industry” that serves as the go-between the government and the academy.

Today, in Inside Higher Ed, UMass announces that it is sticking by its policy. The online magazine also reports that two other universities—Virginia Commonwealth and Rennselear Polytechnic Institute—have similar policies.

Here’s a taste of what these policies might mean in practice.


{ 55 comments }

1

Edward Collins 02.13.15 at 2:51 am

But why Mass?

2

Behrouz 02.13.15 at 3:43 am

I have heard from a reliable source that RPI has a similar policy, although not spelled as boldly as UMASS. Nevertheless, they mentioned in their undergrad admission website that applicants of certain nationalities including Iran (even born in Iran which includes many US citizens) should “contact the Admissions Office at Rensselaer prior to applying”
http://admissions.rpi.edu/undergraduate/admission/international/index.html

But again, I believe that there is a strict unwritten law enforced in that university.

3

peggy 02.13.15 at 4:05 am

This seems to be a general policy as a result of US sanctions against Iran.
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/26/iran-students-kaplan-uk-stem-course-block-us-sanctions

Scientific publications are embargoed if the authors include government employees.
http://news.sciencemag.org/2013/05/scientific-journals-adapt-new-u.s.-trade-sanctions-iran

4

Kenny Easwaran 02.13.15 at 4:37 am

Why should defenders of academic freedom complain to the university – shouldn’t we all be complaining to the US government for the new sanctions policy that has this effect?

5

Corey Robin 02.13.15 at 4:51 am

It’s not yet clear whether the university really had to do this or not. But, yes, if it turns out that it’s really entailed by the government, then by all means.

6

ChrisH 02.13.15 at 5:19 am

I used to work with a woman who is an Iranian national and she recounted all the insanity she’s dealt with. Banks have randomly frozen the accounts of Iranian students. She tried to set up a brokerage account to invest some of her income and they waited until her check cleared before freezing that account and forcing her to drive 3 hours to a corporate office to prove in person she had a US residence for the privilege of them returning her money and closing the account. Sending gifts to family members back in Iran can become a legal minefield.

I don’t work with her anymore because some projects at my company brush into security clearance issues and the legal department freaked out a year into her service and decided she couldn’t be in the same physical space where such projects were being worked on. She was removed from her cubicle, had her email cut off and was banished to the HR department until they ‘sorted out the permits.’ 8 months without everything being sorted led her to find employment elsewhere.

7

Hindu Friend 02.13.15 at 5:19 am

This seems pragmatic and should probably be implemented for Chinese (mainland) as well. Why do we want to share tech with avowed enemies? Silly.

8

Zamfir 02.13.15 at 5:27 am

There was uproar about this in the Netherlands some years back. Apparently, there is a UN resolution 1737,which calls in countries to prevent transfer of (potential) nuclear weapons knowledge to Iran. This is always sensitive subject here, since the Pakistani enrichment program was once upon a time copied from the Dutch program.

The Dutch goverment reacted to the UN resolution with a not very specific warning to universities to guard against knowledge transfer to Iran. I think the idea behind this was that universities were in a better position to judge the relevant fields.

Some universities in turn response with a blanket ban for Iranian student on a wide range of topics, including for students with a dual Dutch and Iranian nationality. I am not sure, but I heard rumours that universities were worried to get on the receiving end of United States sanctions, and therefore overreacted. This is common for companies doing business with Iran.

At this point it became a political hint, opposition parties accusing the government of discrimination. The government then made a statement that universities should be hesitant to ban Iranian students unless there was a clear connection to nuclear weapons.

9

Meredith 02.13.15 at 5:53 am

I’m just glad that my Iranian daughter-in-law and her brother hold Canadian passports in their pot-pourris of such things.

Why are so many in the world afraid of Iran? Because it actually has so many talented and buoyant people, buoyed by several thousand years of institutional history?

My guess is that UMass is laying down the plank, a challenge rather than a retreat.

Must add, in the midst of recent conversation with son and daughter-in-law (in the Bronx now, not Worcester and Boston: they have tried to imagine their former addresses in all this MA SNOW). I tenderly remember my not-yet-daughter-in-law, once of Esfahan and Tehran, sawing away at that Christmas tree in Vermont we wanted, but only she could fit to do the sawing.

The world is a large and generous and loving place, if we let it be.

10

Phil 02.13.15 at 9:17 am

“What’s that, Skippy? Will… you… condemn…”

11

Salem 02.13.15 at 11:14 am

Or will they defend the university’s decision on the grounds of national security or the need for universities to act in accordance with US law? If they take that path, they’d be admitting a point many of suspected all along: that academic freedom really is not their highest value at all.

I’m sympathetic to BDS’s aims, although less sure about the specifics. But this is silly. Academic freedom is not my highest value, and I doubt it is anyone’s. I wouldn’t prioritise academic freedom over stopping WW3, and neither would you; that doesn’t mean I don’t value it. In the real world, most attacks on academic freedom are bullshit. I do not believe there’s a real national security need to exclude all Iranian nationals from U-Mass. There’s no conflict between believing, as I do:

1. U-Mass ought to act in accordance with US law.
2. If this isn’t actually US law, U-Mass is acting wrongly.
3. If this is actually US law, the law is wrong.
4. The US federal government may have a legitimate interest in preventing certain people (e.g. Iranian agents) from undertaking certain studies which may override academic freedom in a very limited way.

12

novakant 02.13.15 at 11:20 am

Well, I think BDS sucks and the sanctions against Iran are a crime against humanity.

13

Ze Kraggash 02.13.15 at 11:20 am

“Why are so many in the world afraid of Iran?”

Who is afraid of Iran? Only the merkin government, as far as I know. Because it’s an independent country and a civilization of its own, obviously, that’s why. And it’s been like this from the times immemorial, from ancient Greece and Rome.

14

rea 02.13.15 at 12:34 pm

U Mass isn’t declining to admit Iranian students generally–it just won’t admit them into programs where the sanctions regime precludes them from taking all the courses necessary to earn a degree. Any other approach amounts to taking money from Iranian students under false pretenses. Blame the sanctions regime; don’t blame UMass.

15

Brett Bellmore 02.13.15 at 12:44 pm

“Who is afraid of Iran? Only the merkin government, as far as I know. “

No, I’m pretty sure that the country Iran has threated to erase from the map is also, if not “afraid”, at least rationally concerned.

16

milx 02.13.15 at 12:52 pm

“Why are so many in the world afraid of Iran? Because it actually has so many talented and buoyant people, buoyed by several thousand years of institutional history?”

No, because since 1979 it has hosted an anti-Western (‘gharbzadegi’) authoritarian theocratic regime that has funded proxy militant groups throughout the Middle East, including a dictatorship in Syria that has killed over two hundred thousand people, and has at various times seemed committed to developing atomic weapons. You don’t do reconciliation or understanding any favors by glossing over reality.

17

stubydoo 02.13.15 at 1:07 pm

I’m not sure whether or not UMass is correctly interpreting the law, but in any case this is probably the way sanctions should work, once you’ve decided to have sanctions.

Sanctions always block trade in goods, and by doing so they deprive some innocent deserving people of those goods. Why shouldn’t that also apply to trade in services.

Sure sanctions regimes generally end up having some loopholes here and there. But when people treat this case as one that should be a loophole as a matter of course, I think they’re doing so because they identify strongly with the effected demographic. But if you are an well educated westerner and you believe in sanctions at all, you should take the opposite tack – you should want the sanctions to hit home for the Iranians most like you, because the Iranians most like you are the ones more likely to take domestic action in response to the sanctions.

The only real controversy then should be whether or not sanctions are a valid idea at all. And everyone should be sure to be consistent about it – and choose either an always or a never approach to grumbling about sanctions qua sanctions. Same answer for all of: Iran, Castroist Cuba, Putinist Russia, Apartheid South Africa, and Zionist Israel.

18

novakant 02.13.15 at 1:31 pm

Brett is either ignorant or intentionally spreading falsehoods.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/did-ahmadinejad-really-say-israel-should-be-wiped-off-the-map/2011/10/04/gIQABJIKML_blog.html

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran and McCain thought joking about bombing the country on the campaign trail was a good idea – so much for the war of words.

Oh, and Israel has 80 nuclear warheads ready to go:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.598988

19

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.13.15 at 1:37 pm

Of course, the real motive here is making sure their new hires in gaming journalism ethics have enough parking spaces.

But seriously, the kinds of issues ChrisH notes (problems with banks, freezing bank accounts, &c.) do not just happen to Iranian nationals, but to Canadian citizens and others non-US citizens who happen to be born in Iran.

The text of UMass’s statement seems to broadly ban students from Chemistry, Physics, and Microbiology. Whether or not this is mandated by the sanctions, it goes way beyond not teaching aspiring Iranian scientists how to run nuclear reactors.

20

Mohammad 02.13.15 at 2:07 pm

This against UN human rights to discriminate people in education. This roles has also been implimented in Australian universities. I am a scientist and don’t care about Iranian government, religions, or politics, but born in Iran and have to pay for it. I came abroad to study and serve Australia, but university stopped me doing my PhD, due to my country of birth. Why should I be punished for someone else crimes? What does electronics engineering have to do with sanctions againts Iranian regime? Why shouldn’t I have same rights than my other american or australian friends? I will find my way to contirbute and serve science and society for peace. We will remember this discrimination and will tell our future grnerations. I hope a day to see my kids doing their PhD with others, no one asks them about their father’s country of birth!

21

Donald Johnson 02.13.15 at 3:07 pm

” a dictatorship in Syria that has killed over two hundred thousand people, and has at various times seemed committed to developing atomic weapons. You don’t do reconciliation or understanding any favors by glossing over reality.”

Your statement that the dictatorship in Syria has killed over 200,000 people is wrong, so you might want to be careful about your facts before grandstanding that way. The NYT periodically publishes articles citing the Syrian Observatory’s figures on the death toll and their breakdown always shows that the Syrian regime is only doing part of the killing. They are a brutal dictatorship and they have murdered thousands of civilians, but this simpleminded claim that American politicians frequently spout, that the government killed all these people, is false.

Below is a link to the Council of Foreign Relations showing the breakdown in the figures from last April, when the total was around 150,000. Note that the Syrian Observatory had started counting Syrian rebels as “civilian”.
link

22

Donald Johnson 02.13.15 at 3:16 pm

There is a mistake in that link, however–the rebels are counted separately and I’m not sure why the article claims they aren’t, as the table is printed right there. The larger point is correct–when one hears Americans, especially politicians, speak about Syria they usually spoke as though nearly all the killing was done by the regime, but it’s a civil war, not simply a one-sided massacre of armed forces on one side vs civilians on the other, and if the figures are taken at face value the majority of the deaths are combatants on both sides. Since we are now bombing ISIS I don’t hear people making the claim that it is solely the government responsible for the atrocities–sometimes it’s hard to keep straight whether Eurasia or Eastasia is the main villain.

23

milx 02.13.15 at 3:17 pm

You’re right to point out that I failed to mention that the well over* 200,000 fatality number includes deaths caused by pro and anti-regime actors. My intention wasn’t to grandstand; if the number of regime murders is only 100,000, I think the point still stands. Iran directly supports a regime responsible for many, many murders of both civilians and rebels. I am concerned that your objection is more about trivializing the Assad regime’s crimes (perhaps as to insulate Iran from criticism for supporting them?) and less about accuracy in figures. I’m sorry if I’ve mischaracterized your POV here.

* “After nearly four years of civil war, the death toll in Syria has risen to 210,060, nearly half of whom are civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As shocking as that figure is, the rights group says the real number is likely much higher. The U.K.-based group claims that there have been 10,664 children and 6,783 women among the dead. “

24

Ze Kraggash 02.13.15 at 3:30 pm

“I think the point still stands.”

What point? There is a civil war in Syria, and Iran picked a side – oh, how terrible. Your own government has been supporting, organizing, and getting directly involved in atrocities on the scale that’s not even comparable. Why don’t you take that plank out of you eye first.

25

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 02.13.15 at 3:31 pm

Brett is either a) ignorant orb) intentionally spreading falsehoods.

I’m a b) – liever.
~

26

milx 02.13.15 at 3:33 pm

I don’t wonder aloud why so many ppl dislike Americans. Is it because we’re so hardworking and innovative??

27

Donald Johnson 02.13.15 at 3:36 pm

Since I said that the Syrian government is a brutal dictatorship that has killed thousands of civilians , I think it is safe to say that I am not an Assad apologist. I think the regime triggered the war with its suppression of peaceful dissent.

The figures for women and children dead are horrific, of course, since those deaths are generally the result of indiscriminate fire by both sides, but they also reinforce the fact that most of the deaths the Syrian Observatory knows about are men, and the majority of those seem to have been combatants.

As for Iran, I don’t think they should be supporting a horrific regime, but I also think the US government is in a poor position to be criticizing any other government for its support of horrific regimes.

28

Hossein 02.13.15 at 3:55 pm

This post has been removed from the mentioned web page (13 Feb. 2015)!

29

novakant 02.13.15 at 4:06 pm

you should want the sanctions to hit home for the Iranians most like you, because the Iranians most like you are the ones more likely to take domestic action in response to the sanctions.

Yeah, right, let’s make the lives of “Iranians most like us” a hell on earth by destroying their opportunities and their wealth, and then all these nice middle class academic types will rise up and single-handedly topple the regime that has ruled with an iron fist for 35 years…

Great plan! You sound like Alden Pyle in “The Quiet American”. No really, awesome!

30

T 02.13.15 at 4:32 pm

Academic boycotts are a really, really stupid idea. As is this. Is that clear enough?

31

Corey Robin 02.13.15 at 5:14 pm

Everyone should read the update I just did. First, it deals with a lot of these questions about whether this was necessitated by the US sanctions regime or not. But, second, and much bigger news: U. Mass. has taken down the announcement from its website. What that means, we obviously don’t know, but clearly they got very nervous and are doing something.

32

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.13.15 at 5:21 pm

@29 But of course this isn’t an academic boycott, and academic boycotts are nowhere near this harsh: nobody I’ve heard promoting BDS (certainly not the vast majority of proponents) has suggested anything like this claims that Israeli students should be banned en-masse from enrolling in US universities for any area of study. The comparison with academic boycotts only works one way–the UMass policy is (was?) way stronger, and should get a far, far stronger reaction for proponents of academic freedom.

33

Professor Siamak Movahedi 02.13.15 at 6:10 pm

As a UMASS Boston Professor for 44 years, I feel utterly disgusted with the hypocrisy of some of the so-called educational leaders at this university. How can people who “run” a university be so stupid to put this statement on their website? The statement was so disgraceful that they removed it from their website an hour ago. But I am sure the policy remains. There should be no room in an institution of higher education particularly in Massachusetts for this kind of blatant bigotry. The irony is that the university president Robert Caret is on the NPR everyday talking about Abraham Lincoln’s signature to establish this university. Was this Abraham, Lincoln’s vision of a university? I am ashamed of working for a system where characters like these manage its educational policy.

34

CD 02.13.15 at 6:51 pm

legal counsel, Cutler, states:

“Additionally, my understanding is that for certain advanced classes or research, certain technology and/or software is used that would require a license from the Commerce Department to provide to an Iranian, which would require specific authorization.

I’m actually a bit surprised it took UMass this long, I’ve heard a number of schools cut off Iranian students from these types of classes a while ago.”

Yes, UMass is obligated to “cut off” Iranian students from classes, and research, that “prepare the alien for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran,” quoting the language in the Act. The question is why/how is that interpreted to mean entire disciplines are off limits? All of physics, for example.

35

Map Maker 02.13.15 at 6:52 pm

idk, the law is brought down from the government above, the boycott from below. Whether UMass is interpreting the law correctly is a executive decision, not a political one (unless I’m misreading the updates).

Where I stand, I do have concerns about some of the students I see from Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Russia, Belarus, China, etc. We (in the US) are educating the children of the elites in government in countries with weak respect for their citizens’ rights. I think for every 10 students I see from these countries, 9 are related to the 1%.

Rich irony at a local school was one person from a middle east country protesting lack of gay civil rights protection in my state, while this (son of a state energy company executive) wasn’t touching the death penalty for gay citizens in his country. nor will he. He has money, education, and presumably permanent residence in this country.

36

Fuzzy Dunlop 02.13.15 at 6:58 pm

We (in the US) are educating the children of the elites in government in countries with weak respect for their citizens’ rights. I think for every 10 students I see from these countries, 9 are related to the 1%.

This is so completely untrue for Iran I’m tempted to ask how much you’ve been drinking, or more charitably, if you have some reliable source of data to back that up. Higher ed is how Iranian students get away from a horrible political system. It’s even been suggested that one of the reasons for such high female college enrollment in Iran is that it’s the only way for women to maintain some autonomy.

37

T 02.13.15 at 7:05 pm

@31

You can spend your time calibrating just how much academic freedom is violated by any and all infringements including this one. And I’m just guessing that BDS will fall under your threshold. Prove me wrong.

38

Roger Gathmann 02.13.15 at 7:21 pm

The idiocy of the sanctions policy comes home once again. It is a bipartisan idiocy – Carter started the double Persian Gulf sanctions regime in the seventies. It is always necessary to remind ourselves that before Khomenei’s statement about wiping Israel from the map was taken as an actual threat, Israel took it as empty rhetoric, which is why Israel armed Iran during the war with Iraq and why, in 1987, Rabin argued that Iran was a geo-political ally of Israel and that Reagan should seek a dialogue with Iran. Those interested in the period when Israel was Iran’s ally should look up Trita Parsi’s comprehensive article from 2005, “Israel-Iranian Relations Assessed: Strategic Competition from the Power Cycle Perspective,” Iranian Studies (June 2005).

I’d actually be more shocked about the Massachussetts stupidity if it occurred in a real democracy, such as you have in Europe. In the US, a post democracy with a Jim Crow mass imprisonment policy and an establishment that is complacently plugged into the petro-arms industry on a scale that threatens everyone, it is par for the course. The question is, of course: should Americans be banned from taking graduate courses in engineering in universities around the world?

39

Adam Bradley 02.14.15 at 6:21 pm

The sanctions policy is back online. Has it changed dramatically from before? Or was this just a website glitch, or did they perhaps take it down briefly to correct a typo?

40

Corey Robin 02.14.15 at 6:57 pm

It’s the same as it was before. Have no idea what went on with it going offline.

41

LFC 02.14.15 at 11:47 pm

R. Gathmann @38:
It is always necessary to remind ourselves that before Khomenei’s statement about wiping Israel from the map was taken as an actual threat, Israel took it as empty rhetoric, which is why Israel armed Iran during the war with Iraq and why, in 1987, Rabin argued that Iran was a geo-political ally of Israel and that Reagan should seek a dialogue with Iran. Those interested in the period when Israel was Iran’s ally should look up Trita Parsi’s comprehensive article from 2005, “Israel-Iranian Relations Assessed: Strategic Competition from the Power Cycle Perspective,” Iranian Studies (June 2005).

This is interesting. It shows, among other things, that the U.S. and Israel backed different sides during the Iran-Iraq War. That in turn is a reminder, if any were needed, that Israel conducts a foreign policy that does not always dovetail w U.S. interests and positions. This is something that Ze Kraggash, whose trollish comments divide the world into countries that are “independent” of the U.S. and those that are not, should note. What Ze Kraggash doesn’t seem to understand is that while there are of course hierarchies, patron-client relations, and alliances in int’l politics, they don’t always guarantee that the ‘client’ will do what the ‘patron’ wants.

42

Roger Gathmann 02.15.15 at 12:59 am

LFC, actually, the Reagan administration armed both sides – you remember the Irangate thing, the missiles for hostages. Israel openly supported the Iranians.
I think it was Kissinger, with his usual dr. strangelove sense of humor, who said that the US interest was that both sides would fight to the death.
A low low moment in American foreign policy, comparable to the “tilt” to Pakistan and the accessory role America played in the mass murder in Bangladesh.

43

LFC 02.15.15 at 1:12 am

actually, the Reagan administration armed both sides – you remember the Irangate thing, the missiles for hostages.

Very true. How cd I forget that!

A low low moment in American foreign policy, comparable to the “tilt” to Pakistan and the accessory role America played in the mass murder in Bangladesh.
Yes. I reviewed a while ago at my blog Srinath Raghavan’s 1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh. A pretty good book, though Gary Bass’s The Blood Telegram, published around the same time, got a bit more attention and is probably freer about expressing outrage. Raghavan’s account damns via relative restraint, so to speak.

44

LFC 02.15.15 at 1:14 am

p.s. didn’t read the Bass; remark about it based on what I inferred from reviews.

45

LFC 02.15.15 at 2:44 am

Not sanctions exactly, but I see the U.S., citing terrorism-funding issues, has cut off remittances to Somalia from the U.S., potentially causing severe hardship:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/us-banks-cut-off-cash-transfers-to-somalia-amid-terrorism-concerns/2015/02/13/f95c696c-b155-11e4-854b-a38d13486ba1_story.html?hpid=z8

46

LFC 02.15.15 at 2:46 am

(comment with link in moderation)

47

TM 02.15.15 at 5:45 am

A few years ago, I heard a compliance person at a public University explain that under the sanction regime, just giving an Iranian (same for North Korea and maybe Cuban, not sure) student access to certain sensitive research equipment – in fact just letting them have a look at it – could be interpreted as a violation and even result in major criminal charges against the professor. And the class of equipment in question is rather broad. I’m pretty sure Universities take this threat seriously.

48

TM 02.15.15 at 5:47 am

re Somalia:

The US government, it seems, couldn’t care less if it causes a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world’s poorest nations.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 11th February 2015
http://www.monbiot.com/2015/02/10/unremitting-pain/

49

TM 02.15.15 at 5:48 am

Sigh. Moderation robot lost it again.

The US government, it seems, couldn’t care less if it causes a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world’s poorest nations.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 11th February 2015

50

Minnow 02.16.15 at 12:44 pm

“If they take that path, they’d be admitting a point many of suspected all along: that academic freedom really is not their highest value at all.”

And if they don’t take that path, will you return the compliment by altering your position on the boycott of Israeli universities? Or will you admit the point that many suspected all along: opposition to injustice in Palestine was not your highest value at all.

51

USG is the guilty 02.16.15 at 7:00 pm

Corey,
{It’s not yet clear whether the university really had to do this or not. But, yes, if it turns out that it’s really entailed by the government, then by all means.}

This is most ignorant statement to make. The university is under pressure to do harm to Iran and Iranian people. Are you telling me you don’t know this SIMPLE FACT. Then why are you doing here????????????? Why University should be acting stupid and against its OWN INTERESTS?

.

52

Freedom 02.18.15 at 1:08 pm

This has nothing to do with a boycott of Israel by universities. And even if it is so what? Sanctions or not, this is a decision any university can make (just like divesting from Israel if they choose). It’s also smart and universities and corporations for that matter should think twice not only about Iranian students but Chinese students as well who regularly do turn around and work against us with knowledge they get from us, and also by stealing it from corporations and bringing it back to their homelands. Look case after case of this up on the internet – I don’t feel like doing your homework, this is a comment not a blog post. It’s about time we stopped the “invite the world, invade the world” policy, and if we did, everyone would be better off. And aren’t Iranians smart enough to come up with these ideas on their own? ;-)

53

Ricky 02.18.15 at 1:20 pm

White people aren’t even trying to hide their fears anymore lol.

54

Isabella Favakeh 02.18.15 at 5:41 pm

This is horrifying. As an Iranian American, I am disgusted with the way an institution can single out a race of people and not allow them to graduate in these fields of study. Racist institutions should be dismantled completely. I am disappointed that this was allowed and that the government sanctions actually enforced this. This is a step backwards for America as a whole.

55

Map Maker 02.18.15 at 8:12 pm

“This is so completely untrue for Iran I’m tempted to ask how much you’ve been drinking, or more charitably, if you have some reliable source of data to back that up. Higher ed is how Iranian students get away from a horrible political system”

I was talking about students getting college education in the US, not Iran. AFAIK, about 6,000 students from Iran are studying in the US. How many of them are children of military, industrial and religious leaders? No idea. But I do know the vast majority of our foreign students are not receiving financial aid. From economic statistics I see, not many people in Iran, Libya, Nigeria, etc. can afford +$60k a year to send children to the US. Those who can tend to be part of the government or rent seeking from it.

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