WASHINGTON, February 21, 2014 —Two public colleges in South Carolina are facing large budget cuts because of gay themed books they required incoming freshman to read.
University of South Carolina Upstate is facing budget cuts of $17,000 for requiring the incoming students to read “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” the story of South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show.
But The College of Charleston is facing a larger amount of criticism and even higher cut of $52,000 from next year’s budget because it required the incoming students to read “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, a critical and commercial success written in the style of a graphic novel. The novel is an autobiographical story of a lesbian coming to terms with her sexuality.
A conservative group in South Carolina, Palmetto Family Council, first brought their concern over the book choices to light after allegedly receiving complaints from its supporters.
“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” said Oran Smith, director of Palmetto Family Council to the Associated Press. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.”
Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville is on the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the state budget. He says that he received a call from a constituent whose daughter attends USC Upstate who was upset over the book that the school was requiring his child to read.
Rep. Smith was able to have provisions to cut the state schools budget attached to the state budget.
Critics of the proviso say that they are concerned about lawmakers being allowed to define school curriculums as well as putting the colleges in the positions to define morals.
Rep. B.R. Skelton, a retired Clemson professor, has put forth his own proposal to make a point and to show his dismay over the school funding, his amendment states:
Since legislators want to get so involved in college book selections, they should be responsible for approving every book on a college reading list. This proposal would give that responsibility to the Ways and Means subcommittee on which Smith sits.
The professor who oversees the College of Charleston’s summer reading program is concerned over the punishment of the entire school and its students over one summer reading book.
Christopher Korey defended the books choice in an email to South Carolina’s newspaper The Post and Courier, “The (school) committee recognized the book might be controversial for a few readers, but the book asks important questions about family, identity, and the transition to adulthood. These are important questions for all college students.”
Korey continued by expressing concern over the lawmakers decisions, “I’m concerned that some members of the (L)egislature believe their duties include deciding what books should and should not be taught in a college classroom … I believe that 18-year-olds benefit directly from reading and discussing difficult topics in their courses.”
The College of Charleston hasn’t yet chosen next year’s summer reading book but the school has changed the process by which it will choose next year’s selection.
Supporters of the ban believe that the students should have attritional book selections to chose from but those against it believe that reading “Fun Home” will not be the provocative thing that a college freshman will encounter at university.