Robot 6

SC Senate panel rejects bid to punish colleges over gay-themed books

fun home2A South Caroline Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a plan to cut the budgets of two state universities as punishment for selecting gay-themed books, including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, for their summer-reading programs.

The Associated Press reports that although Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler recommended adopting the House’s $70,000 cuts, the Finance Committee voted 11-7 against the proposal. However, matter is expected to resurface next week as the full Senate takes up the state budget.

In early March the House approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

During debates in the House’s budget-writing committee and before the full body, some legislators accused the College of Charleston of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students (it, however, should be noted that other lawmakers championed academic freedom, with Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter asserting that legislators shouldn’t be “pushing our own moral agenda on these institutions of higher learning”).

The move sparked protests at both universities, and led to a coalition of free-speech advocacy groups, including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, to send a letter to the Senate warning that the proposed funding cuts would open the door to First Amendment lawsuits.

Just last week, Bechdel joined the producers and cast of the acclaimed Fun Home musical to bring the off-Broadway show to the College of Charleston for two performances. State Sen. Larry Grooms, a Charleston Republican who’s been vocal in his opposition to the school selecting the graphic novel, promised to bring up that “protest” in debate, which means we’ll likely hear from him next week.

“If lessons weren’t learned over there, the Senate may speak a little bit louder than the House,” he warned just days before the performances. “There would be a number of members in the Senate that would have a great interest in fixing the deficiencies at the College of Charleston.”

However, Senate President Pro Tem John Courson, a Republican from Columbia, told The AP earlier this week that legislators shouldn’t be micro-managing universities’ curricula. “I think that should be up to the presidents of the institution and the board of trustees which the General Assembly elects,” he said.

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22 Comments

Well, good. Glad to see someone in SC has sense.

Finally some GOOD news.

Glad to see sanity prevail for once.

I don’t know if I should be happy or sad. Can someone tell me?

Tommy Rankin

May 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

For f***s sake, I can’t believe that there are actual debates like this! It just boggles my mind that somebody in this day and age would even dare to propose budget cuts to universities simply for featuring books with homosexual themes as books for students! Come on! You should be embarrassed for even suggesting stuff like this, not be able to have senate vote for it

They did not feature it or reccomend it. They put it to required reading for all students. Also, it is nice how the writer of the article fails to mention that. The best comment was, during the debate, when they asked to show panels from comic they were deemed to pornographic to show.

Liberal gay agenda in full force.

A common first year reading is standard at many schools across the country– there’s nothing controversial about that. And Fun Home most certainly is not pornographic, despite Rep. Garry Smith’s repeated insistences that it was. It’s a honest, ambitious, and groundbreaking graphic memoir about family, secrets, love, and sexuality, and Bechdel is one of the most innovating voices in creative nonfiction and sequential art out there. No thoughtful person would attempt to ban this book, and the idea that a state legislature should get to dictate the curriculum would be laughable were it not so terrifying.

This isn’t a liberal agenda, and it’s not a gay agenda. It’s an education agenda. The goal here is to get students to think about the world they live in, and perhaps consider a point-of-view that may not be their own. Frankly, the idea that being thoughtful and deliberative illustrates a “liberal gay agenda” is pretty ridiculous. I like to believe that my conservative friends are thoughtful and deliberative even if we disagree sometimes. I know if I were a conservative, I’d likely be embarrassed to have my beliefs associated with closed-mindedness and illiteracy.

Mea culpa. Upon brief further investigation, it turns out Fun Home was recommended, not required. The person who claimed otherwise is mistaken. I still maintain that there is nothing wrong with requiring students to read, but that’s not actually what happened in this case.

Also, sorry for the typos in my previous comment. I’m still under-caffeinated.

And it’s not like we’re talking about a high school. These are both universities.

Alas, it was required. The fact that they say it is not, is recent spin. It was required and they said son, University in the beggining of the brouhahah. It was not for a class. Every student was forced to read it.

If you do not see what is wrong with it being required instead of optional, would you be OK if some religiously themed book were required reading. Yeah did not think so.

And you miss the fact that FUN HOME is about a character who used the work in funeral parlr to get to young boys and showing graphic lesbian sex.

Yeah, eduactional part of liberal gay agenda.

Opus, go back and look at “The College Reads!” announcements from past years; the selections aren’t required. And I don’t think anyone “misses” what Fun Home is about.

I gave you the benefit of the doubt and said you were mistaken. If you continue to persist in making this false claim, I’ll have to conclude that you’re being deliberately dishonest. The earliest news reports from before the school year even began, long before state lawmakers decided to punish the school for teaching a book, make clear that the book was not required– I’m looking specifically at this early report: http://www.abcnews4.com/story/22939060/college-of-charleston-freshman-book-questioned .

The facts are inconvenient for the case you’re making, I realize, but they are what they are. And frankly, my feelings would be the same even if the book had been required of all students. It’s literature (as well as visual art) and deserves to be recognized and studied as such. People who have a problem with literature and art probably shouldn’t go to college in the first place– they’re bound to have their delicate sensibilities upset by Joyce’s prose or a Titian painting.

And of course I would be okay if a religiously-themed work of literature were assigned reading. For heaven’s sake, I teach Leo Tolstoy, Andre Dubus, Flannery O’Connor, Bret Lott, and Dinty W. Moore in my own classes– all of these writers write about faith and spirituality. And they do it really, really well. Students need to be exposed to all sorts of literature. As long as it’s well done, the subject matter doesn’t really concern me. Faith, politics, sexuality, death, family– the point isn’t the subject matter so much as the craft on display. Now, I wouldn’t teach a Joel Osteen or Jerry Falwell book, but then again, I wouldn’t teach a V.C. Andrews or E.L. James book either. Again, the point is literary merit. And Fun Home has it.

Actually, I should amend something I wrote:

“People who have a problem with literature and art probably shouldn’t go to college in the first place– they’re bound to have their delicate sensibilities upset by Joyce’s prose or a Titian painting” sounds snobbish. In fact, those people absolutely should go to college, in order to understand why literature and art have value. It’s possible they may be to stubbornly closed-minded to appreciate the experience, but it’s also possible they’ll have a new world open up for them as a result of experiencing something new.

State legislators who have no use for art or literature, on the other hand, shouldn’t presume to have a voice in the curriculum. They’re woefully out of their element, and a deep embarrassment to their constituents. They’ve brought disgrace upon their state.

Bradley, sorry but I do not care what would you teach or not in this matter, ( nor do I see how anything Tolstoy wrote could be pecrceived as religious book ), and faith and spirituality does not equal religious, or you could claim that ( plagiarism masterpiece ) Life of Pi is a deeply religious book ( which it is not ). Unless you are somehow responsible for what students in SC havbe to read to. I know I am not, so I do not insult people who have different reading preferences – both in their art and their morals -than mine. This is all about university forcing a propaganda, and getting comeupance for it.

Anyhow, I danced this little dance before. I provided the links in previous discussion that show that I am in the truth and that it was required reading. I am following this long before CBR or its associates decided to pursue it. Last time – my post with links – misteriously was not shoved, not until I complained. CBR I dubbed Christians Bashed Daily, and with good reason.

College was in the wrong here. If it is state funded it should be mindfull of the fact that it could get punished by cutting budget. And sorry but I fail to see what expirience could I gain by reading Fun Home, ( except hoping to get Russia styled laws for prohibiting gay propaganda asap ). Did you read it? Would you force your students to read something that is not on official curriculum knowing that reading it it would deeply insult and hurt them? You do understand that htis is what iti is all about, right? Students enrolled agreeing on the curriculum. This was added later and forced upon all of them.

They put it as required reading, now they backjtrack it. The biggest insult – and this is I think about the other book that is mentioned – was that if someone do not wish to read it is free to change a course. That means it is not optional, last time I checked.

In short, gay liberal propaganda. They got caught red handed. Made spectacle of bringing the play. Frankly I am tired of all of this. I hope they will get budget cut in the next session.

( To show that it was required, here is a little bnugget to ponder. The college bougth copies of the book, for all the new students. That is how they got the amount for the budget to be cut. Unless you can point that college bought equal amount of any other book to give to students as another option, I will bow to you. )

Literature does not equal propaganda. I’m sorry. And I’m sorry that you feel like Catholic writers such as O’Connor and Dubus are somehow “not religious.” I suppose, for you, religion is limited to only what you, personally, believe in. I find that rather sad, actually.

I also feel badly that “The Death of Ivan Ilych’s” deeply religious, deeply beautiful themes seem to have gone over your head. You should re-read it. It’s one of the greatest, most moving stories ever written.

Yes, I’ve read– and taught– Fun Home. I’ve also read– and written extensively about– her follow-up, Are You My Mother? (which I find to be the superior book, though most scholars and critics disagree with me on that one– that would be why Fun Home is almost universally-accepted as a college-level text by people who know about these things). I have no idea what you’re talking about when you say “official curriculum”– professors usually choose the texts they teach, unless the text is for a course that has an assigned common reader (in the case of many freshman composition courses, for example) or when the book is for some type of extracurricular activity or event (in which case it’s usually decided upon by a committee of faculty and/or administrators). To be clear, though– state legislators should not get any voice in this decision. These are decisions for knowledgable experts to discuss and decide upon. There is already a great deal of curricular oversight on college and university campuses nationwide– but the oversight is performed by people who actually know their fields, not people from outside their fields who don’t know what they’re talking about (such as anyone who would mistakenly claim that Fun Home is pornography– that’s just absurd).

Anyway, as far as whether or not the reading was required, it doesn’t really matter, except that your constant repetition of a lie undermines any moral authority you’re trying to assert in this discussion. But it is very telling that you want to punish the students of College of Charleston just because they were offered the chance to read and discuss a widely-celebrated book that contains themes you disapprove of. I’m not in favor of monomania, adultery, or pedophilia myself, but I still believe students ought to have the opportunity to read Moby-Dick, Ulysses, or Lolita. But I’m one of those people who think that reading makes us smarter– and potentially better– people.

Believe it or not, I don’t hold any ill-will towards you (although repeating something that’s been demonstrated to be false isn’t endearing). I understand that you care deeply about this. But I’m afraid I think you’re completely in the wrong here, and that you’ve taken a position in opposition to art, literature, and academic freedom. I think such a position is bad for education in this country, which means it’s bad for the country, period.

Oh, and I don’t understand your postscript. The college bought copies of the book, therefore it was required reading? How so? They gave the book out, yes, I agree. But they sat students down and forced them to read it? For a test? To write a paper on? At gunpoint? No, no. People can be given books, but they’re under no obligation to read them. Unless you can point me to some directive that instructed all instructors of a freshman-level course to teach the book and hold student accountable for reading it, I’m afraid I’m going to have to believe all of the credible media reports about the issue.

And, again, even if you do find that evidence, it won’t matter to my larger point, which is that there is nothing wrong or immoral about having college students read.

As I am from Europe, though i did not read Tolstoys tale yu mentioned, I can tell you that his writing is based upon a concept of morality of patriarchal farmland society. He abhorred what he percieved as wetern morals, and society realtions. Perchance what you deem religious is in fact coming form his point of natural morality. Would love to explain the themes of Anna Karenina to you, though.

This sidetracking aside, I must thank you for claryfing that you are in no way a non- biased participant in this conversation. But you miss my point regarding :Official curriculum – It meant that students could read curriculum in advance beforee assiging themselves to a certain study. This book was nowhere near any curriculum of any class.

But I see you are unvilling to hear any opposition to it seems your own agenda. It is wrong to enforce upon sometone something they are not willing ot participate, especially if you get them to agree to certain set of rules, and when they are agreed on those rules you change it and force them to do something they did not agree upon. It is, what I find most reheprensible, the taking away of choice, as Mieville nicely puts it ( in his own masterpiece ).

Would you be willing to defend college if they assigned the reading of Simmons majestic novel Terror, which shows homosexuals as ( spoiler alert ) conniving, murderous monsters unable to feel slightest empathy? You know they pulled the plug on TV series based on the novel because homosexual activists complined, right? Freedom of art does not come into play then, right?

I do not know of Ulysses, but you know that the works you mentioned depict the themes you so conviniently listed as undesirable, bad, leading to tragic consencvenses for the persons who hold those character traits or behaviour, as non affirmative portraits?

To end this, I state again, I hope the college gets punished, and in future think twice before manipulating students.

I must emphasize a point : If there was a class that teaches this book or its follow up, and students willingly chose to read it, knowing upfront it woul be required for them to do, I would have no problem with this, and no one else would. But this move by the college is akin to bullying.

Opus, I live near the college where this all happened. I’m a professor elsewhere in the area. It’s clear to me you don’t know the specifics of this situation. Bradley is right, and you are wrong. I don’t believe you are lying with malice, but your understanding of the situation is not correct.

As a related aside, I’d have no problem assigning TERROR or FUN HOME or an issue of SEX CRIMINALS or SAGA if it were the basis of worthwhile criticism and discussion. The students and I can all disagree with a work or believe it is crafted poorly and it still retains value for academic purposes. Assignment of a work is not equivalent to endorsing it or its content. The readings are to improve students’ skills and expose them to novel or important/influential ideas/styles/techniques, not to indoctrinate them.

Propaganda is supposed to show something in a positive light by highlighting the pros and disguising the cons.

“Fun Home” is NOT a propaganda piece because it takes a truthful, unbiased, contemplative stance on homosexuality. It does not portray homosexuality exclusively in a positive light. It’s based on the author’s struggle to come to terms with her gay father being a pedophile and her efforts to trace back to how this family disfunction may have influenced her own choices in lifestyle, image, self expression, and sexual preference and it invites the fair debate of whether sexual orientation is a choice or something we’re born with, without swaying opinion closer to either side of the argument. Different people from different walks of life both conservative and liberal (and everything in between) can make their own conclusions about the themes in the book, hence it being a great discussion piece for a university classroom.

University classroom = adults.

I think my final word on this matter will be this: The idea that compelling students to read is “reprehensible” is fundamentally anti-education. My “bias”– which I freely admit to– is that I am in favor of education. Fun Home is a widely-celebrated book– New York Times bestseller, National Book Critics Circle Award nominee, Eisner Award winner, Time magazine and Entertainment Weekly’s book of the year for 2006. Students deserve the opportunity to read and study it, and denying them that opportunity is positively immoral. Also, calling it “pornography” is positively ignorant.

Peace to all.

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