Skorton travels to Iran with U.S. delegation to meet academic leaders and students

Cornell President David Skorton travels to Tehran Friday, Nov. 14, for a six-day visit with a group of U.S. university presidents working to strengthen ties between educational institutions in the United States and Iran.

The group will meet with Iranian faculty and academic leaders and hold an open forum with students at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which is hosting the visit.

The trip, which is coordinated by the Association of American Universities (AAU), complements existing academic and scientific exchanges between the two countries. Joining Skorton are Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University; David Leebron, president of Rice University; J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida; C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park; Larry Vanderhoef of the University of California-Davis; and AAU president Robert M. Berdahl. The U.S. State Department has approved the visit.

In an Oct. 24 statement, AAU president Berdahl noted that academic ties between U.S. and Iranian faculty have a long history.

"Prior to the Iranian revolution in 1979, a very high percentage of the faculty at Iranian universities was educated in the United States; since that time, and especially since 9/11, that number has declined dramatically," Berdahl said. "We believe it is important to renew academic ties between our two countries as a means of laying the groundwork for greater understanding and rebuilding what was once a very healthy collaboration in science and higher education."

Travel expenses are being paid by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, Washington, D.C., which supports education, research and policy initiatives related to science and technology.

The group will not meet with Iranian government officials or engage in political talks, the participants emphasize. The Iranian government has been harshly criticized for its persecution of intellectuals. In mid-October Esha Momeni, an American-born graduate student at California State University at Northridge, was arrested in Tehran while researching Iran's women's movement. Momeni was released on bail Nov. 11.

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Lauren Gold