SC House budget writers want to cut $70,000 from next year's budgets for USC Upstate and the College of Charleston because of gay-themed books 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 lesbian radio show. The College of Charleston required students to read "Fun Home", an autobiography by a lesbian about growing up with her closeted-gay father.
Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, heard from a constituent whose daughter goes to USC Upstate. He says the father was appalled by the content of the book the school was requiring his daughter to read, especially because the book attacked their Christian faith. Smith says, "He said it says in 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, which writes the state budget. He got a proviso passed as part of the budget that cuts more than $17,000 in USC Upstate's budget next year and $52,000 from the College of Charleston's.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, voted against the proviso. "I am very concerned about not only lawmakers defining curriculum but what you might want to appreciate about that amendment, or proviso, is that it is requiring institutions of higher ed to define values," she says.
But Rep. Smith says, "This is not about curriculum at all, because that is not what I'm trying to do. What I'm trying to do is question them about whether this is appropriate or not."
He says the schools should have offered or allowed students to read an alternate book.
A spokesman for the College of Charleston says the school understands the concerns about the book it chose and, because of that, has expanded 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 funding from USC Upstate because they disagree with the selected text for first-year reading program is very disheartening. From the University perspective this action is punishing the very students the legislators claim to be protecting in the first place.
"To target funding for a particular program because it doesn't align with certain beliefs and judging it in terms of specific content instead of the discussions the content promotes is perhaps a bit shortsighted. Indeed, controversial issues are essential in creating levels of discussion and student engagement that cannot be generated otherwise. We see such engagement as essential to the educational process."
The budget cuts are not certain yet. The budget still has to be approved by the full House, then the Senate and then the governor.
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