During his closing statement at the end of the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees meeting today, Trustee Richard Ryskamp suggested that speakers presented by GRCC have more diverse viewpoints, following the speech given by journalist and gay rights activist LZ Granderson on Feb 13. at Fountain Street Church as part of the Diversity Lecture Series.
Though he said he does not object to Granderson or other controversial speakers being invited, Ryskamp said it would be fair to present more opinions on these issues.
“How about next time that we have a speaker on this topic, that it be a speaker who has a different opinion on this topic,” Ryskamp said, “perhaps a speaker who has tried being gay but now regrets that path or is trying to walk a new path.”
He said having speakers from all parts of the controversial topic’s spectrum would help GRCC comply with the Academic Freedom Policy, which requires that GRCC “purposely invite speakers who espouse a range of opinion,” as quoted by Ryskamp.
Ryskamp read a list of five past Diversity Lecture speakers, including Granderson, who spoke on the same topic and shared similar views.
“If the college were to invite a speaker or two or five to balance things out against the five speakers that we’ve already had to present the opinions from the other side, then you’d have a range of opinion,” Ryskamp said. “Then the college would be showing an example of compliance with the policy requirement that you could then present to the board as part of next year’s Academic Freedom monitoring report.”
When he was done speaking, Trustee Richard Stewart made a statement in response.
“In (relation) to what Dr. Ryskamp just said, I’m not sure that if, unless we provide that full spectrum on…controversial topics, we’re not teaching critical thinking,” Stewart said.
Granderson could not be reached for comment after the board meeting.
To view the statement by Ryskamp, click here and skip to time 1:16:30.
GRCC is a community college, its purpose is to educate and prepare students for their next step in life. I feel Mr. Ryskamp’s suggestions are more about promoting his individual viewpoints rather than educating students. In offering the Diversity Lecture Series, GRCC is providing students opportunities to hear from individuals whose lives may be different from their own. This not only presents students with another point of view, it also prepares them for life outside of West Michigan. As a trustee, Mr. Ryskamp should look beyond his personal beliefs and see that bringing in speakers with the same viewpoints as the majority of this area does nothing to promote diversity.
Should we ask for a speaker with a “differing viewpoint” on topics such as racial equality, or women’s lib? Hell no! Bigotry has no place in an academic setting. Make no mistake, gay rights are human rights.
It’s unfortunate that we are so closed minded that we won’t listen to the journey the speaker has been on. Just because the gay life works for some doesn’t mean it works for everyone. This is not bigotry it’s listening to and trying to gain understanding of another human being and offering the acceptance the LGBT community desires. If you want to be educated and diverse make sure you listen to all sides.