South Carolina legislators are trying to “punish” two colleges in the state for assigning books they don’t approve of. The College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate incorporated “books on homosexuality” as required reading as part of their new student orientation. The books in question are Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir Fun Home, about the lesbian author’s father and his struggle with homosexuality, and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, which tells the story of South Carolina’s first LGBT radio show.
To exact revenge on the institutions, state House legislators have “tentatively approved” a bill to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from USC Upstate. The amount of funds being cut are meant to be similar to the amount spent on implementing the reading campaigns. Republican Representative Garry Smith of Simpsonville says he set the cuts into motion after the schools refused to offer alternative reading for students.
“I understand diversity and academic freedom,” he said. (Really?) “This is purely promotion of a lifestyle with no academic debate.” Like. He actually said “promotion of a lifestyle.” I just can’t. Smith says he wouldn’t have fought against the books if they’d been assigned for an elective course instead of a requirement for the whole campus.
Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democratic Representative from Orangeburg, felt a bit differently than her colleague:
“We are now in a posture where individual moral compasses and beliefs are being pushed down on our institutions of higher education. … Do you think for one minute some companies are going to look seriously at us, when they think about their workforce coming to a state like this, with members of a Legislature who believe their job is to pass judgment on colleges of higher learning to dictate what books people are going to read?”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.