S.C. House Keeps Penalties on Colleges That Assigned Gay-Themed Books

The South Carolina House of Representatives rejected attempts on Monday to restore funds in next year’s budget for two campuses that were penalized for choosing gay-themed books as common reading assignments, The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported. The House budget committee had stripped $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,000 from the University of South Carolina-Upstate for choosing books that lawmakers said did not reflect the community standards of state taxpayers.

The College of Charleston had chosen Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, an illustrated memoir by Alison Bechdel, as a summer-reading assignment in its First-Year Experience program. Ms. Bechdel, who is also the author of a lesbian-themed comic strip, explores her upbringing and coming to terms with her sexuality in Fun Home. Christopher Korey, an associate professor of biology at the College of Charleston who leads the First-Year Experience program, said in an email last month to The Post and Courier that the book “asks important questions about family, identity, and the transition to adulthood. These are important questions for all college students.”

USC-Upstate had assigned Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, edited by Candace Chellew-Hodge and Ed Madden, for a first-year reading program called Preface. The book describes the history of South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show and its efforts to give voice to gay and lesbian Southerners on AM talk radio.

In the State House on Monday, Democratic lawmakers proposed amendments to restore the funds to the two universities. Representatives of both parties spoke in favor of the bills, criticizing the penalties as government efforts to limit the views that college students can be exposed to and to micromanage university affairs. The amendments failed, by ratios of nearly two to one.

The House may consider additional restrictions on public colleges and universities on Tuesday, The State reported. Another proposed budget amendment would withhold $1-million in state funds from each institution until it banned using “pornographic content” in classes and requiring any students to take a class that included a nude model.

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