There will be a new in-session feature here at The Iowa Standard. Each week we will highlight a “Legislator of the Week” who we believe goes above and beyond in representing Iowans at the Capitol.
This week, that choice is easy — it is House Republican Holly Brink.
Rep. Brink chairs the House Government Oversight Committee, which hosted representatives from the three regent universities in Iowa for a hearing on freedom of speech concerns.
Representatives from the University of Northern Iowa were there to discuss and answer questions about how a pro-life group at the university was treated in its application process to be an officially recognized student organization at UNI.
Representatives from Iowa State University were there to talk about a professor who wrote in her syllabus that students must not disagree with her on issues like abortion, homosexual marriage and Black Lives Matter.
And representatives from the University of Iowa were in attendance to explain what happened with student Michael Brase from their perspective.
We will have more on all of that later this weekend.
Perhaps the best moment during the committee hearing was when Brink highlighted the hypocrisy of the University of Iowa.
Brase was threatened with a disciplinary hearing, and told he could not have an attorney present or record the meeting.
Yet the University of Iowa made sure to have legal counsel at the House Government Oversight hearing.
“I’m glad you brought an attorney,” Brink said. “As you see, we didn’t deny that. I’m really sad of the fact that when Michael was called in, he was denied an attorney to a meeting. Why was he denied an attorney at a meeting? I think you guys need to maybe re-evaluate your policy on that as well.
“My understanding is you actually have a law school. Maybe you should go down there and they could help you with that — understanding some of the ideas and the First Amendment that was broke. I’m sure they would be more than happy to help you with that.”
Brink closed the committee meeting strong.
She shared stories she has heard from students across the state. A student at Iowa State, she said, stood up for free speech and then a professor put his picture up in a class that the student wasn’t in and labeled it “bigot” in front of all the other students.
She is well-aware of what happened at UNI with the pro-life group. And another student shared their story and told Brink they do not want to be furthered canceled or be subject to any more mistreatment from the faculty and students who disagree with their beliefs.
Brink scolded David Johnsen, the Dean of the University of Iowa School of Dentistry, saying that despite what he said during his own testimony, he had heard about a protest before it happened last Friday. The protest was, in essence, a protest of Brase exercising his First Amendment rights.
“You let that type of behavior happen on someone’s First Amendment rights,” Brink said. “That is concerning.”
Then it got personal.
“I also sit here as a mother,” she said. “And I wasn’t going to take this personal, but I sit here and think as a mother. I have a 17-year-old son and we are talking about the next step in his life. And I realize we’ve made a list of everything that’s important for him — what he wants to do and what he needs in a campus. Momma Bear has her own list as well, but I had to add something to my list today and I’m assuming there are several parents at this table, in this room and online that watched this and we had to add another line.
“Can my child survive with his political ideology at this place? This place is supposed to educate and not indoctrinate. I had to add that to my list.”
Brink questioned if her son could survive because of who his mother is.
“That’s very disappointing,” she said.
Legislators are in Des Moines to do their job as best they can, Brink added.
“If you guys can take one thing away from today, I’d like you to take this. Iowa State, UNI and the University of Iowa — you are here for Iowans, Iowa is not here for you.”
Brink said there will be more conversation in the future.
Here are most of Rep. Brink’s closing comments: