By Jacquelyn Zeman – Managing/News Editor
Voters will be electing two new board trustees today in an election that affects every Grand Rapids Community College student. One current trustee took a personal interest in financing a candidate with thousands of dollars.
GRCC board of trustee member, Dr. Richard Ryskamp, with his wife Anne, donated $10,810 to candidate James Harvey’s campaign. Harvey received the most significant financial support from a current board member, and also received the most attention from faculty at GRCC from the candidate forum.
In Kent County elections, individual donations to candidates are limited to $6,800. As a couple they can contribute up to $13,600.
Harvey explained that he has known Ryskamp for the past few years.
“I am deeply appreciative of Dr. Ryskamp’s contributions to my campaign and those of his wife,” Harvey said. “As I have come to know him…he became aware of the extensive background I have in the community college and in higher education nationwide, no one on the board or running for the board even comes close to having that kind of expertise and experience.”
“Dr. Ryskamp loves GRCC and wants to see it fulfill its potential, and believes I can help them achieve that end. I also happen to share Dr. Ryskamp’s worldview, which we believe is under represented on the board given the broad religious community served by GRCC here in the greater Grand Rapids area. I’m thankful for his friendship and confidence shown in me by his contributions.”
Ryskamp said he believes Harvey is very qualified to serve on the GRCC board of trustees due to his background in education, and his previous experience as the president of Prince George’s Community College in Kettering, Maryland.
“No other GRCC trustee or trustee candidate has anything close to these credentials,” Ryskamp said. “I did not endorse anybody, I gave a campaign donation. I think his qualifications are enough, they are amazing.”
At the Oct. 21 forum, Harvey’s book, “Letters from Perverse University,” and his general worldview raised many questions and concerns from faculty.
Board of trustees member, and candidate for re-election, Debra Bailey, also received $200 from board chairman Bert Bleke, in addition to several other small donations from other GRCC community members.
“I think that Dr. Ryskamp is certainly entitled to his point of view,” Bailey said. “He certainly is a tax payer as well in Kent County, and that was really his personal decision to use his funds in that manner.”
Bleke said that it is difficult to endorse someone who is running for the board while you are a member of it.
“I would say that when you are board member you need to be thoughtful if you are going endorse anyone,” Bleke said. “Just because you are a board member does not mean you forfeit your right to support someone…in the end we will all have to work together.”
While the positions are not compensated, the trustees make major decisions that financially impact the college: tuition, parking, and budget related matters.
The following candidates will voted on today:
- Debra Bailey of Grand Rapids, Bailey is currently the Director of Global Corporate relations at Steelcase.
- Cynthia Bristol of Grand Rapids, Bristol is a retired music professor from GRCC.
- James Harvey of Caledonia, Harvey is the former president of Prince George’s Community College in Kettering, Maryland.
- Mike Paskewicz of Grand Rapids, Paskewicz is currently the superintendent of Northview Public Schools.
Any registered voter in the Kent Intermediate School District is able to vote for the GRCC board member election.
A full list of polling locations can be found here.