When Meitham, a prospective PhD student wrote to a faculty member of North Carolina University to enquire about joining his PhD program, he never thought he would be accused of just seeking money.
"I don't evaluate emails. I don't evaluate any unsolicited materials. I am not interested in your CV or your email," the response from faculty member William Rasdorf read. He then suggested that Meitham should apply if he was interested in the program. But then said those who send emails and attachments to professors only seek money. "I do not wish to have such students working with me," he added.
Meitham published an image of the response on Twitter. Over 2,000 liked the tweet and nearly 150 replied to it. Everyone sounded astonished by the rudeness of the response and the allegation that those who email faculty members are not serious and "only seek money".
Some twitterati advised Meitham to apply to the university while others told him he should take up the matter with the university's dean and demand an apology. Some took direct action and protested to the incident in their tweets to the university's official Twitter account.
In response to an email enquiry by Iran International, Professor Morton Barlaz, the head of the department of civil, construction, and environmental engineering, said the university regretted the message conveyed to Meitham and were addressing the matter internally.
"It is not reflective of NC State's attitude toward international graduate students, who are a vital part of our teaching and research programs. We have successful graduate students from all over the world. We've apologized to him and encouraged him to apply," he wrote.
But many other university officials did not respond to Iran International emails and questions, including the spokesperson of the university and the Vice Provost for equity and diversity.
Sending “expression of interest” emails prior to submitting a full graduate studies application is quite common as many students find it unaffordable to pay the $85 fee for every application, particularly those living in the developing world.
For Iranian students the payment of application fees is practically impossible, even if they can afford it, due to US sanctions that have cut off Iran's banking relations with the rest of the world.
"Does the NC State professor know about the cost of applying? $85 is unaffordable for most students of the global south if they have to submit multiple full applications. Why should universities charge such fees while bragging about equity, inclusivity, diversity ...?" Kaveh Madani, research professor at City College of New York and the former deputy head of Iran's department of environment tweeted about the incident.
Madani also pointed out that many like him wrote emails and sent CVs when they applied to graduate school. "We also admitted many grad students who wrote emails to us,"he said in a tweet. Madani urged the university to look into the matter and when the official Twitter account of the university responded to Meitham's tweet and said the situation was being addressed internally and it was a "responsible action".