Banning group of students demonstrates societal regression

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

As a university that thrives on a foundation of promoting equality, opportunity and inclusivity for all, we like to think that academic institutions exist as a place to provide education for all those who want it. Students come here from different countries, backgrounds and walks of life, but what they have in common is access and opportunity to receive a quality education. Thankfully, after a decision made Wednesday, the same can be said at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Very recently, it was announced that UMass will no longer be admitting Iranian students into some of its graduate programs — namely in the College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences. This decision was based on apparent governmental sanctions that UMass cites from 2012, and it restricts Iranian students from access to chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and industrial engineering, physics, chemistry, microbiology, and polymer science and engineering. 

To say this decision was wrong and unfair is an understatement. In fact, this decision seemed downright ludicrous. It based itself on a matter of interpretation by the university and had a negative impact on an overwhelming number of students who were being denied an education. In essence, this decision was a form of discrimination. As noted by the source Gizmodo, many legal experts debated whether this ban was necessary in compliance with United States law, which means that the ban was based on choice and not strict government requirement. 

The implications of UMass’s initial decision extend far and wide, beyond the concerns of their campus. In a publication released by the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, it is pointed out that over 800,000 international students study at American Universities, one-fifth of around 3.6 million who pursue education in countries outside of their own. Not only does this demonstrate the importance of international education, but the publication states that skilled international graduates also fill employment gaps in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. 

The Washington Institute on Near East Policy is also quoted stating: “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.” 

As students who are fortunate to be able to attend the University of Illinois, we can see no benefit in discriminating against an entire nationality of people by banning their admittance to certain programs at an academic institution. Education is something that should be available to all, regardless of where they come from, and UMass’s decision was one of regression. We are thankful it was reversed.