First presidential candidate holds open forum

The first of four candidates spoke today at an open forum just two weeks before the next president is appointed.

Throughout his presentation, Ramaswamy name dropped the students, faculty and staff he met throughout his visit. When asked after the event why he referred to the people he met today on campus by their first name, he said he was a very informal person.

“Call me Sonny,” he said. “You calling me by my first name is not you belittling my accomplishments.”

Sonny Ramaswamy was introduced by Luis Rico-Gutierrez, the dean of the College of Design. Luis began by telling a story that Ramaswamy shared with him earlier that day.

He told Luis that he had a love for motorcycles, a love that he shared with his son-in-law. After the two of them had watched the movie Motorcycle diaries about two men who go on a long distance motorcycle trip, they decided that they wanted to have their own adventure.

Instead of traveling South America, they decided to tour the Himalayan Mountains. Before Ramaswamy left, his wife told him that he had lived a long life, and if he didn’t come back it was okay, but if his son-in-law, the husband of his only daughter, better not be harmed.

While on the trip Ramaswamy and his son-in-law found themselves sliding down a road towards the edge of a cliff.

Ramaswamy thought to himself that this is surely the end. Either I will die here or I will have to face my unhappy wife if my Son-in-law is injured.

Luckily they stopped just before the cliff’s edge and both were unharmed. Ramaswamy describe the trip as a calculated risk. Weighting the value of the adventure against the possibility of harm or worse, his wife’s wrath.

Luis then introduced Sonny Ramaswamy as a calculated risk taker to the audience.  

Each open forum will follow the same theme: “Organizations expect new leadership to help lead them to the next level. What is the next level for Iowa state and how will you help us get there. “

“It would be totally presumptuous of me to answer that right now,” Ramasamy said. “You have a strategic plan laid out. You can not expect the incoming president to have all the answers, but I ask great questions.”

For Ramaswamy the importance of universities is in student success, innovations and discoveries, engagement and campus environment.

Ramaswamy spoke about the importance of transparency. He said he is aware of issues of transparency within the last administration. He noted that sometimes it can feel like there is a firewall surrounding the administration.

“We have to be held accountable,” Ramaswamy said.

Ramaswamy stressed student success and acknowledged what he believes to be the three things that need to happen for students to be successful.

“We must stay true to the land grant mission,” Ramaswamy said. “The best part about this institution, you’re totally unapologetic about being a land grant institution.”

He said that students must be provided with all of the following while at Iowa State: a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, be introduced to practical education and develop military leadership, defined as teamwork and critical thinking skills.

His next point was to increase the percentages of students who graduate on time. Ramaswamy said only 48 percent of four-year students graduate on-time, and 74 percent of six-year students. If appointed, Ramaswamy wants to work to increase these numbers into at least the 90’s to be satisfied.

During the part of the hour where Ramaswamy took questions a faculty member asked how Ramaswamy he would respond to situations on campus with radical and provocative speakers that resulted in situations where students were scared.

Ramaswamy said that whomever we end up having come to speak on cannot insight violence on campus. However the Bill of rights gives us our rights to speak our minds. He noted the importance of balancing constitutional rights and controversial topics that might make the student body uncomfortable.

An audience member asked Ramaswamy why he wants to leave his current job as director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He first explained that his current position is a term position of six years.

He was appointed by former-President Barack Obama, and his term will end on May 6, 2018. Once his term ends he could be asked by current-President Donald Trump to return for another term, and if asked Dr. Ramaswamy said he would have to think long and hard about it.

He said that while he has had a pleasant experience working in the federal government his heart lies in academia.