UU promotion through video conference due to Trump’s travel ban

Promoveren via Skype met links de commissie en op beeld de inmiddels gepromoveerde Bahar Rezaei, foto Bas Schreiner

It was a unique meeting in the University hall’s Opzoomer room.  There was a committee present for the promotion, entering the room behind the beadle, but not a PhD candidate. Bahar Rezaei defended her thesis through Skype, all the way from Santa Monica, CA.

Rector Bert van der Zwaan made the exception for the scientist with Iranian roots, who’s been living in the United States for several years. Because her new visa application is still being processed, the economist doesn’t dare leave the country. The travel ban ordered by president Trump refuses the right to enter the United States to people with an Iranian passport.

Bahar Rezaei, who has been connected to the UU since 2011, obtained her PhD on Essays in Information Economics. It’s innovative research, her supervisor Stephanie Rosenkranz from the Utrecht School of Economics says. It’s part of research into behavioral economics, in which the psychological and social factors relevant to making economic decisions are explored. The innovative part of Rezaei’s research is that this non-rational behavior can be used in an economic model in which the risk of strategic abuse of emotional decisions can also be embedded.

According to Rosenkranz, the ceremony had a pleasant ambience. The technology faltered for a little while, which caused some delay, and the PhD candidate herself had some issues trying to properly hear what the committee members were asking, but both the committee and the candidate handled the situation well.

Rezaei moved to the United States for love, and finished her dissertation there. Her visa expired at the end of last year, and she applied for her new residence permit before Trump’s inauguration. Rezaei is still waiting to hear the decision on her application, and therefore doesn’t dare to leave the country at this time. She’s afraid she might not be able to get back into the United States, and will lose the chance of getting a job as a scientist in the USA. Because of this, she asked the rector to make an exception and to let her defend her dissertation through a video conference. The rector agreed because the Trump travel ban is a threat to science. Another promotion ceremony like this one is likely to follow shortly.

Iran is one of the six countries named in Trump’s travel ban. The ban was ordered by Donald Trump shortly after his inauguration as the USA’s president. Several UU scientists have already experienced negative consequences of the ban. Rector Bert van der Zwaan has publicly stated his disgust with the ban, which threatens the freedom of science. Professor Rosenkranz agrees the travel ban is ‘terrible’. “It obstructs the mobility of highly skilled people, which is necessary to share and spread knowledge.”

Tags: PhD | iran