Facing Inequality as an Iranian in Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts Amherst has attempted to place a ban to prohibit Iranian students from taking certain science programs, shedding light on some of the struggles that foreign students face while studying abroad.

UMass Amherst campus (Wikimedia)

At the highly acclaimed University of Massachusetts Amherst, a ban was established this month in an attempt to prevent Iranian students from taking certain science programs, including physics, chemistry, and electrical and computer engineering. This form of injustice can easily be seen as a direct result of the federal law that rejects visas for Iranian nationals who immigrate to America to study for a career in Iran related to oil and nuclear energy. Due to the assumption that nuclear weapon programs are taking place in Iran, Iranian students in Amherst are facing disadvantages in forms of limited academic freedom.

The federal law, thankfully, does not expand its scope on enforcement, but UMass Amherst felt it was necessary for themselves to take a leading measure against Iranians, instigating a rise of resentment from local Iranians.

Through social media, the university’s new policy gained attention and UMass officials also heard the acrimonious remarks of the Iranians, as well as those of numerous professors and non-Iranian students. Consequently, on Wednesday, February 18, 2015, UMass authorities decided to revise the policy. The revised policy encouraged “individualized study plans” rather than outright exclusion of Iranian students in certain programs.

(L-R) Nariman Mostafavi and Mohsen Jalali, some of the students who were faced with Amherst’s new policy. (Gretchen Ertl/New York Times)

Still, the incensed victims are nowhere near content. An Iranian studying for a doctorate degree, Mohsen Jalali, expressed his dissatisfaction by saying, “As there has been no new law, we don’t need a new policy.” Like him, many others hope the policy will be taken back rather than revised, for it still restricts the learning experiences of Iranians.

Iranian nationals are not the only ones who are disappointed and enraged by Massachusetts’ renowned university’s regulations. Along with Soroush Farzinmoghadam, a student from Iran, who said, “I feel somehow that the administration and the campus treat me differently because I am from Iran,” professors that attended the Faculty Senate Meeting on Thursday, February 19, 2015, also expressed their discontentment towards the policy. Emery Berger, a computer science professor at UMass Amherst said, “For us, to happen here, the outrage is just compounded.”

At the Faculty Senate, Kumble R. Subbaswamy, the school’s chancellor, apologized for initiating the chaos. Unfortunately, however, it is evident that a single apology is not sufficient to compensate for the degradation that the Iranian students have faced.


Bidgood, J. (2015, February 22). Sanctions Put Academic Freedoms to a Test on a Campus Far From Tehran. Retrieved February 20, 2015.


– Becky Yang (’16)

Header: Wikimedia

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