South Carolina House Votes to Financially Punish Colleges That Assigned Gay Books

The South Carolina House refused on Monday to restore book purchasing budget cuts assigned to College of Charleston and University of South Carolina Upstate after the two institutions of higher learning taught literature dealing with homosexual content. Totaling nearly $70,000, the cuts reflect the amount of money the institutions spent on buying texts for the freshman class this year. Some saw the cuts as censorial attempts to limit what can be taught in colleges, while the majority argued vehemently that teaching Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and a book about an LGBT radio station, Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio promoted "a lifestyle" that they do not agree with.

Gildacobb-hunterAssociated Press reports:

When it comes to public colleges, legislators should be debating funding and building construction, not "pushing our own moral agenda on these institutions of higher learning," said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (right), D-Orangeburg.

"Are we saying we don't trust the college students enough to expose them to something they may not have seen before? We can't let you read anything other than what we believe?" she asked. "What about the notion of freedom to have different views? Isn't this what we go all over the globe fighting for?"

Some thought, however, that making the books mandatory reading took it all a step too far.

GarrysmithRep. Garry Smith (right), whose subcommittee made the reductions, said he wanted to make a point after college officials declined to give students an option to read something else. He said he wouldn't oppose the books if they were part of an elective course. He called it promotion of a lifestyle.

"Freedom comes with responsibility. These universities did not act responsibly," said Smith, R-Simpsonville.

Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, said opponents of the cuts argue for a diversity of ideas but don't want to consider conservatives' viewpoint. After House Speaker Bobby Harrell rejected Smith's suggestions to project illustrations from "Fun Home" on the House screen, Nanney said, "It's not appropriate to even put up in this room but we're giving it to 18-year-old kids?"

Sadly, it might just be that Representatives Smith and Nanney are less mature than the "18-year-old kids" who read the texts.

College of Charleston President George Benson said the university is committed to academic freedom, and any university education must include the opportunity for students to engage controversial ideas…

"Our students are adults, and we will treat them as such," Benson said. "Faculty, not politicians, ultimately must decide what textbooks are selected and how those materials are taught."