South Carolina House Budget Punishes Universities For Assigning Books With LGBT Themes

University of South Carolina Upstate
Image: Think Progress

A proposed South Carolina state budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes nearly $70,000 in funding cuts for two public colleges that assigned books addressing gay and lesbian themes. State Representative Garry Smith (R) originally advocated the measure that would take away $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate. The House passed its full $24 billion budget with a 115-2 preliminary voteTuesday and approved it for the Senate on Wednesday.

For its first-year summer reading program, the College of Charleston assigned Fun Home, an illustrated memoir that documents the writer’s experience coming to terms with her sexuality in small-town Pennsylvania. A 2006 piece in The New York Times Book Reviewdescribed author Alison Bechdel’s memoir as “a story about a daughter trying to understand her father through the common and unspoken bond of their homosexuality.” Bechdel’s father, a closeted gay man, dies in a car accident after his daughter comes out to him.

Students at South Carolina Upstate read Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a collection of stories about the state’s first gay and lesbian radio show. A summary on the university’s first-year program page recalls an enthusiastic opening segment on the station: “For far too long, talk radio airwaves have been dominated by the people who talk about us. Starting this fall, we speak for ourselves!”

Smith told the The State newspaper that the books imposed a perspective on students rather than promoting dialogue: “One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt,” he said. “I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom … This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved.”

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