South Carolina Legislators Punish Colleges For Assigning LGBT Books

  @ericbrownzzz on February 20 2014 12:37 PM
fun home
A Panel from Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" Houghton Mifflin

The South Carolina House of Representatives is moving to cut funding for a pair of public colleges as punishment after they assigned LGBT-oriented material to freshman students.

According to the Associated Press, the House Ways and Means Committee tentatively approved a 2014-2015 spending plan that cuts $52,000 from the College of Charleston and an additional $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate. Rep. Garry Smith (R), who introduced the proposal, says the colleges’ budgets have been cut because they assigned material concerning homosexuality to freshmen.

Over last summer, the College of Charleston assigned its incoming freshmen Alison Bechdel’s award-winning graphic novel “Fun Home,” which describes Bechdel’s coming out as a lesbian and her relationship with her closeted gay father. The University of South Carolina Upstate, meanwhile, assigned “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” a collection of stories from the state’s first LGBT radio show, in a course required for all freshmen.

Smith says that if the universities offered students who might be offended alternatives to the requirements, he would be okay with the assignments. As it stands, though, Smith believes that the universities are pushing agendas on students.

"I understand diversity and academic freedom," Smith told the AP. "This is purely promotion of a lifestyle with no academic debate."

In a pair of tweets, Smith stated that “Fun Home,” which won the Eisner Award, the GLAAD Media Award, the Lambda Literary Award and was named the best book of 2006 by Time, would be considered “pornography” if he gave it to a minor. Though “Fun Home” contains nudity, it is not considered pornographic in nature by publishers or libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smith’s fellow Republicans don’t all agree with his decision to punish the colleges, however. Rep. B.R. Skelton introduced a proposal to restore the money, but was voted down 13-10 by the Ways and Means Committee.

"If we're going to begin funding institutions on the basis of books they've assigned, we're going down a road we don't need to go down," Skelton, a retired Clemson University professor, told the AP.

Skelton later mockingly introduced an amendment that would require the Ways and Means Committee to personally approve every college’s reading list. He withdrew the proposal before it came to a vote.

Another Republican, Rep. Jim Merrill, says he’s torn on the issue. He voted against Skelton’s amendment to restore the money, but said that even though he is bothered by the reading lists, it’s better to address the issue with college boards themselves.

"This might make us feel better, but it's kind of stupid," Merrill said.

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