HOT SEAT: Regents Nominee Faces Uncertainty

Two of Governor Terry Branstad’s nominees for the Iowa Board of Regents faced more than an hour of questioning for the Senate Education Committee, although one received far more scrutiny. Dr. Subhash Sahai, a Webster City physician, attended all three public universities over his academic career. He is a Democrat and answered far fewer questions and received favorable treatment from all who questioned him.

For Robert Cramer, a construction engineer from Grimes, it was a much different story. Cramer faced repeated criticism for his past opposition to gay rights as a member of the Johnston City Council and for working to ban several books that he didn’t feel appropriate for students. He is also a board member for the Family Leader, a politically active anti-same-sex marriage group that campaigned statewide to oust three justices in 2010 for their roles in legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

Democrats questioned whether Cramer could separate his personal feelings while serving on both the regents and the Family Leader. Senators wanted to know if he would work against gay rights while serving as a regent. Cramer said, “If you brought me a policy that was trying to promote, to endorse and encourage homosexual behavior, I’d say, no, no, I don’t think that’s the place for the university. If you brought me, trying to promote, proselytize people even on a conservative issue, I would say, no, no, the university is not the place to promote or proselytize. It’s place to be fair and treat people equally, but not try to promote.”

Senator Herman Quirmbach, an Ames Democrat and Iowa State University professor, asked Cramer, “The office of LGBT affairs at Iowa State University, would you be opposed to their existence because you think they are proselytizing, they’re recruiting gay people?”

Cramer responded, “I honestly have no idea what they’re doing. If they’re just providing a service to homosexual students and that’s their current policy, then that’s fine. If they’re out there trying to promote and encourage behavior, then, I don’t think that’s the role of the university.”

Quirmbach said the senate ethics committee will vote on the governor’s regents’ nominees Wednesday at its next meeting.

Current Regents President Craig Lang faced a fiery round of questioning by the committee Monday.

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