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A South Carolina university that came under fire over the summer for including the gay-themed Fun Home as recommended reading for incoming freshmen now may see its state funding reduced for the decision.
The Charleston Post and Courier reports the state House Ways and Means committee on Wednesday approved a budget that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston’s summer reading program in retaliation for recommending Alison Bechdel’s Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir as part of “The College Reads!” (Contrary to widespread reports, the graphic novel wasn’t required reading.)
According to the newspaper, the 13-10 vote came after a lengthy debate in which “some House members accused the college of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students.”
The University of South Carolina Upstate also faces a loss of more than $17,000 for assigning Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show. The figures represent the amount each college spent on the programs.
“One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt,” state Rep. Garry Smith, a Republican from Greenville, is quoted by The State as saying. “I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom. … This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved.”
Fun Home, Bechdel’s acclaimed account of her childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, was labeled last summer as “pornographic” by a conservative Christian group that proclaimed, “If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper.”
State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democrat from Orangeburg, called the committee’s decision an embarrassment to South Carolina.
“We are now in a posture where individual moral compasses and beliefs are being pushed down on our institutions of higher education,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “Do you think for one minute some companies are going to look seriously at us, when they think about their workforce coming to a state like this, with members of a Legislature who believe their job is to pass judgment on colleges of higher learning to dictate what books people are going to read?”