The University of Massachusetts Amherst dug itself into a hole when it announced a new policy banning Iranian students from graduate programs in STEM fields. 

The University of Massachusetts Amherst immediately reversed an illegal ban it imposed on February 12 to prevent future and current Iranian students from participating in graduate programs in science, technology, engineering, math, and natural science fields.  

According to CNN

"UMass Amherst based its decision on a law Congress enacted several years ago, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, which restricted Iranian citizens from education in United States if they were preparing for a career in energy or nuclear science in Iran.  The thinking was that those students could then go on to work on Iran's nuclear program."

According to Mic.Com,

"The policy is bullshit — and illegal.  By the federal government's own admission, the UMass policy isn't actually required by any currently enacted U.S. law or policy.  The school has more or less gone out of its way to strike at Iranian students on its own volition based on an interpretation of U.S. sanctions that appears to be improper."

NBC News reports that the responsibility of weeding out risky students lies with the State Department not universities. 

The UMass policy generated so much backlash from the community that it quickly backpedaled and reversed the ban just days later, on February 18.  Opponents of the policy feared it would set precedent for other universities and establishments to create their own discriminatory policies. 

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