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The South Carolina House Ways and Means committee voted 13-10 last week to cut the College of Charleston’s budget by $52,000, the amount the school spent last summer on The College Reads!, an annual campus-wide initiative designed to promote discussion of “challenging” books among faculty, staff and students. The choice of the gay-themed Fun Home drew fire in July from a conservative Christian group that labeled the graphic novel as “pornographic,” a charge that spilled over into last week’s House debate.
Fun Home details Bechdel’s childhood with her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian.
Advocacy groups are criticizing a vote by South Carolina legislators to cut the budgets of two universities that recommended gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home — to incoming freshmen as an attack on free speech and academic freedom.
“This kind of censorship not only threatens the core of academic freedom but also inhibits the free exchange of ideas so important to progress,” Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said in a statement issued jointly with South Carolina Equality. “The First Amendment was intended to protect all speech – even speech we don’t agree with — and politicians shouldn’t be in the business of dictating what we think.”
The state House Ways and Means committee voted 13-10 on Wednesday to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston, which came under fire last year for its selection of Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 memoir for its summer reading program, and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate, which assigned 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.
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.
Calling Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home “pornographic,” a conservative Christian group in South Carolina is criticizing the College of Charleston’s selection of the acclaimed graphic novel as recommended reading for incoming freshmen. The school, however, is standing by its choice.
The Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir, which details Bechdel’s childhood with her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, is part of the annual “The College Reads!” program, which provides free copies of the selected works to full-time faculty and new students. The books aren’t required reading.
However, Fun Home was labeled “A Shocking Summer Reading Assignment” by Palmetto Family, an advocacy group whose “vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model and sexual purity.”
“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” Palmetto Family President Oran Smith is quoted as saying. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.”