The Association of American Universities will be taking a group of six university presidents to Iran next month (press release .pdf). The conservative Lounsbery Foundation will pay most of the group’s travel expenses. The AAU press release describes the trip this way:
“We believe it is important to maintain and 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.”
Those university presidents making the trip include:
Jared Cohon of Carnegie Mellon University;
David Leebron of Rice University;
J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida;
C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park;
David Skorton of Cornell University;
Larry Vanderhoef of the University of California at Davis.
Ironically, an art professor from one of the six schools, Carnegie Mellon, just last year, organized a global exhibition of photographs taken by artists from around the world imagining what Iran actually looks like, titled, “Never Been to Tehran.” Assistant art professor Jon Rubin was quoted as saying,
“In a time when governments and media outlets are constructing a simple, polarized and distancing image of Iran and the city of Tehran, perhaps the most radical act is one of empathy.”
We professors who work with Esha also believe in exchange of knowledge as one of the tenants of our work. That’s why Esha’s research is important and that’s she should be released. She, too, is aiming for greater understanding between two cultures.