K-State student forced to drop classes due to Trump travel ban

Farzaneh Ziaee, graduate student in physics. (Photo Courtesy of the K-State Physics Department)

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 3 to clarify why Farzaneh Ziaee was in Iran.

One Kansas State international student, who is in Iran on her way back from conducting research in Germany, cannot return to Manhattan to continue her studies due to President Donald Trump’s executive order travel ban.

Farzaneh Ziaee, graduate student in physics, is in Tehran, Iran. She went to Germany for an experiment involving her adviser, Daniel Rolles, assistant professor in physics, and DESY, a German research center. Before returning to Manhattan, Ziaee stopped in Iran for her husband’s Ph.D. defense in Tehran.

Now, she can’t return to Kansas, even though her visa was approved before Trump’s Friday executive order that bans nationals of Iran and six other countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days.

“Renewing my visa to come back to the U.S. underwent an extreme administrative processing, and unfortunately it was approved a few days before the executive order signature,” Ziaee wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Because of this, the issuance my visa, which was approved, already is suspended.”

“The day after my visa was approved, I got to know about the president’s order, and the released draft was showing that there would be a suspension in getting my visa to come back to the U.S.,” Ziaee continued.

Ziaee said her visa application took five months to be approved. Now, a 90-day wait period to re-enter the country has already affected her and her husband’s education and research.

“Waiting for at least three more months for a graduate student doing her research could have detrimental consequences,” Ziaee wrote. “Moreover, I had to finish my core courses. At the beginning of the semester, I had registered in two of them that, due to this problem, I dropped them as there was no anticipation of how long it would take to be able to attend the classes. In addition, my husband was supposed to work as a post doctoral scholar in the department of chemistry, which is suspended, too.”

Myers: ‘We cannot achieve our goals without a diverse population’

K-State President Richard Myers told the university community and international students, faculty and staff in a letter Tuesday that a diverse population is necessary to achieve the university’s goals.

“You are invaluable members of this university,” Myers wrote. “Your contributions enrich our experiences, knowledge and ability to view the world through a global lens. We want you and your families here with us and will support you any way we can.”

“To remain focused on becoming a top 50 public research university, we must continue to work together on global problems and have an impact around the world,” Myers continued. “We cannot achieve our goals without a diverse population that includes international students, faculty and staff.”

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President General Richard Myers watches the halftime show performed by The Pride of Wildcat Land in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Oct. 22, 2016. (File Photo by Austin Fuller | The Collegian)
The letter came four days after Trump’s executive order that bans citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days.

In a statement on Sunday, the university said there are 63 students and three scholars from those countries at K-State. Others may also be affected.

The university said it will post updates at www.k-state.edu/media/update/international.html and students, faculty and staff who may be affected can contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

Myers is a retired Air Force general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he served as the principal military adviser to former President George W. Bush during the earliest stages of the War on Terror and 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, issued a statement on the executive order on Monday.

“Keeping Americans safe should be our federal government’s top priority,” the statement said. “Strengthening our immigration system is critical to that end, and it’s common sense to have appropriate vetting procedures in place for individuals wishing to travel to our country.”

“While I support thorough vetting, I do not support restricting the rights of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents,” Moran continued. “Furthermore, far-reaching national security policy should always be devised in consultation with Congress and relevant government agencies.”

Research, religion and politics

Ziaee said in her email that she does not believe Trump’s ban was motivated by religion.

“I do believe that this order is rooted from political views rather than religious points of view,” Ziaee wrote. “But unfortunately, this will affect the academics in a very broad sense. If you just have a look at Iranian scholars in the U.S. academics, you might conclude about the undeniable role of my country-mates that have been working for the United States by their hearts. This does not relate to the religion at all. The U.S. has been the country where no one asks about your personal beliefs as long as you are following the Constitution.”

If she were able to tell Trump what she thought of his travel ban, Ziaee said she would remind him of former President Barack Obama’s advice: The U.S. government, the largest organization on Earth, can’t be managed the same way as a family business.

Ziaee said she chose to study at K-State because of the physics department’s reputation as one of the best optical sciences programs in the U.S. However, her research will be disrupted because of Trump’s executive order.

“I am hired in the United States to make progress for this country, and any disruption would cause many irrecoverable impacts,” Ziaee wrote. “Very soon under this condition, elites and scholars would choose another country for conducting their research.”

“As a graduate student who did her trip for the sake of improvements in our experimental research we are doing in the department of physics, this political decision was very, very disappointing and discouraging,” Ziaee continued. “I chose to study in the United States due to this fact that it gives more weight to science, but I doubt these kinds of decisions are American.”

If you or someone you know is affected by Trump’s executive order and would like to talk with a Collegian reporter, email news@kstatecollegian.com.

Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.