Trustee Richard Ryskamp challenged the college’s continued funding for the Diversity Lecture Series at Monday’s Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees Meeting. He questioned the legality of paying Jose Antonio Vargas, the last speaker in the series and a confessed undocumented immigrant.
“It’s certainly a fact that he is an illegal alien, and it’s certainly a fact that the college was aware that he is an illegal alien,” said Ryskamp, who attended Vargas’ lecture. “…If you know that the person who’s going to come do the work for you is illegal, it’s a violation of the law.”
However, even though the Board is just now approving the $12,500 payment to Vargas’ booking company, Vargas already gave his lecture earlier in October.
“I don’t know what happens if we vote ‘no’ (on) approving this expenditure, but I feel that the law trumps those considerations,” Ryskamp said.
However, GRCC President Steven Ender was prepared with a response. He told the board that the college consulted with a local law firm multiple times on the matter.
“They assured us that we had broken no laws,” Ender said. “So I think that board members that believe they are breaking a law by voting for this should relieve their conscience of that thought.”
Ryskamp was not persuaded.
“What we have done may have been legal, but it does seem to be like getting around the law and not consistent with the spirit of the law,” he said.
The vote proceeded, passing with Trustees Ryskamp and Dr. Richard Stewart dissenting.
During his opening remarks, Ryskamp also announced intentions to further debate the continued funding of the Actors’ Theater, the Diversity Lecture Series and the Diversity Learning Center.
Vargas could not be reached for comment.