SC House budget writers want to cut $70,000 from next year'sbudgets for USC Upstate and the College of Charleston because of gay-themedbooks they required their freshmen to read.
USC Upstate required first-year students to read "Out Loud:The Best of Rainbow Radio", a book about South Carolina's first gay and lesbianradio show. The College of Charleston required students to read "Fun Home", anautobiography by a lesbian about growing up with her closeted-gay father.
Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, heard from a constituentwhose daughter goes to USC Upstate. He says the father was appalled by thecontent of the book the school was requiring his daughter to read, especiallybecause the book attacked their Christian faith. Smith says, "He said it saysin the book that, because of her faith, that she and her faith are terrorists.So that's the problem that we have."
Rep. Smith is on the House Ways and Means Committee, whichwrites the state budget. He got a proviso passed as part of the budget thatcuts more than $17,000 in USC Upstate's budget next year and $52,000 from theCollege of Charleston's.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, voted against theproviso. "I am very concerned about not only lawmakers defining curriculumbut what you might want to appreciate about that amendment, or proviso, is thatit is requiring institutions of higher ed to define values," she says.
But Rep. Smith says, "This is not about curriculum atall, because that is not what I'm trying to do. What I'm trying to do isquestion them about whether this is appropriate or not."
He says the schools should have offered or allowed studentsto read an alternate book.
A spokesman for the College of Charleston says the schoolunderstands the concerns about the book it chose and, because of that, hasexpanded the number of people giving input into which books are chosen.
Tammy Whaley, spokesperson for USC Upstate, says,"The fact that South Carolina legislators want to withhold $17,142 in fundingfrom USC Upstate because they disagree with the selected text for first-yearreading program is very disheartening. From the University perspectivethis action is punishing the very students the legislators claim to beprotecting in the first place.
"To target funding for a particular program because it doesn't align withcertain beliefs and judging it in terms of specific content instead of thediscussions the content promotes is perhaps a bit shortsighted. Indeed,controversial issues are essential in creating levels of discussion and studentengagement that cannot be generated otherwise. We see such engagement asessential to the educational process."
The budget cuts are not certain yet. The budget still has to be approvedby the full House, then the Senate and then the governor.
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