I can find no independent confirmation of this story, which is posted at MehrNews.com in Tehran. But if it's true, it will be another shameful chapter in the history of Middle East studies at Columbia University.
The title sums up the story. Apologize to a man like Ahmadinejad? Whatever one thinks of Columbia president Lee Bollinger's remarks during his introduction of Ahmadinejad last fall (and Campus Watch does not take positions on campus speakers), that Columbia professors would grovel at the feet of such a regime--if this story is true--is further evidence of the intellectual and moral collapse within certain quarters of the American professoriate.
Here is the full text of the article; no professors are named.
NEW YORK (MNA) – An academic delegation of Columbia University professors and deans of faculties plans to visit Tehran to officially apologize to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The delegation plans to express regret for the insulting remarks Columbia University President Lee Bollinger directed at Ahmadinejad on September 24 in his introductory speech, the Mehr News Agency correspondent in New York reported.
Since the incident, the deans and professors from the faculties of history, anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy, and Islamic studies have criticized Bollinger's behavior toward Ahmadinejad.
A member of the delegation, who requested anonymity, said the main goal of the visit is to meet the Iranian president and officially apologize to him.
"The delegation has also prepared its itinerary," he noted.
He went on to say that the delegation also plans to visit Iranian universities in various cities and to hold talks with professors and students, and may even sign memoranda of understanding with some universities. He also said the delegation is interested in visiting seminaries and the shrine city of Qom.
However, Bollinger has warned the delegation that their trip to Iran should be a private visit and should not be undertaken as an official visit endorsed by the university.
Bollinger has so far refused to meet the Mehr News Agency correspondent to explain his disrespectful behavior toward Ahmadinejad when introducing him to the students and professors at Columbia.
Update, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008
Today's New York Sun carries an article by Peter Kiefer in which Gary Sick of Columbia states: "There is no truth to it whatsoever."
Richard Bulliet, another professor of Middle East studies there, says he hasn't heard of it, and that "There is no intention on the part of the Columbia administration to authorize a delegation."
And a school spokesman, David Stone, told Kiefer: "The university has no knowledge or information about the claims being made in the Iranian media."