Kal Penn to cost CMU $30,000 as keynote speaker

Actor and keynote speaker Kal Penn will be paid $30,000 as a guest of Central Michigan University for Asian Pacific American Heritage month.

CMU will be responsible for his first-class airfare, hotel stay and transportation, according to documents obtained by Central Michigan Life under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Penn, 34, will be speaking twice to open audiences, first at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, followed by a meeting at 9 a.m. Friday.

Discussion in regard to Penn’s visit to CMU dates back to November 2011.

“Any funding support that you and your college can provide would help us to bring these well-known personalities and trailblazers in academe, civil rights, cinema and politics to campus,” Denise Green, associate vice president for Institutional Diversity, wrote in an email to Salma Ghanem, the dean of the College of Communications and Fine Arts.

Green asked Ghanem for support in paying for the semester’s speakers from the CCFA, including Lani Guinere ($1,000), Dick Gregory ($1,000) and Penn ($4,000), but Ghanem said she wouldn’t be able to provide much monetary help.

“As much as I would like to help out more, I am a little strapped for now because of budget cuts, taking Opus on the road and upgrading our broadcast equipment,” Ghanem said in an email sent on March 26.

Green said on March 23 that many of the campus co-sponsors originally anticipated to help did not come through, one of which was expected to pay almost $10,000.

Penn was originally scheduled to speak March 29 and 30, though his visit was rescheduled to work around Penn’s filming schedule, Keisha Janney, assistant director of Multicultural Academic Services, told CM Life.

Steve Berglund, director of University Theatre, had other worries about having the event scheduled on Friday morning, suggesting in an email on Jan. 16 that the department would struggle to get students to attend a Friday morning meeting with Penn, which would be embarrassing.

Penn will speak about his acting and political career in Warriner Hall’s Plachta Auditorium, followed by Friday’s event in Moore Hall’s Townsend Kiva. Both events will be free to the public.

He is most commonly known for his role as Kumar in the “Harold and Kumar” franchise, along with appearances in “House M.D.” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

Penn’s political resume consists of time volunteering for President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, as well as two years as the Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement between 2009 and 2011.