Published March 19, 2014
Nearly $70,000 will be cut from two public universities in South Carolina after the South Carolina House of Representatives approved the cut in retaliation over reading materials with homosexual themes.
The College of Charleston will get $52,000 in cuts and the USC-Upstate will get $17,142 in cuts. These cuts are equal to the cost of the schools’ required-reading programs.
The College of Charleston’s program picks one book for the entire campus to read, and this year it was Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which chronicles the lesbian author’s life growing up in rural Pennsylvania. USC-Upstate picked Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, which is a compilation of stories shared on South Carolina’s first LGBT radio station.
Advocates for the restoring of the money say students go to college to get experiences different than those they get at home.
“Are we saying that we don’t trust the students in the state to expose them to something they have not seen before or expose them to an ideology that may be foreign to them?” asked state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg.
Retired Clemson University teacher, Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Pickens, worried about the cuts as well.
“We’re saying, ‘This is what you’re going to do and if you don’t, we’re going to punish you,’” he said.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, rejected being shown pages from Fun Home in the House chamber during the debate.
“It’s not appropriate to put up in this room, but we’ll give it to 18-year-olds?” Rep Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville asked.
Democratic Rep. James Smith said he believed that “academic freedom needs to be preserved.”
“Book banning and censorship offends the most fundamental values we hold dear as Americans,” he said. “Silencing opinions we disagree with is counter to everything institutions of higher learning stand for.”
Republican Garry Smith, however, said that the House isn’t banning the book and therefore there is no censorship.
The English department at USC-Upstate defended the book.
“We recognized that the book might invite some controversy, but we also understand that recognizing the gay and lesbian population in the United States is a contemporary civil rights issue,” the department said in a statement.
Betsy Teter, executive director of the publishing company behind Out Loud, said her company has been “surprised and disturbed” over the outrage the book.
“It is a terrific overview about how ordinary people are dealing with the civil rights issue of our time,” she said. “And I think if college students cannot read and discuss the civil rights issue of our time, there is something way wrong.”