Last Wednesday, members of the South Carolina House of Representatives voted to cut $70,000 in funding from two public colleges that decided to assign two books about same-sex relationships to freshmen.
According to The Washington Post, legislatures voted to cut $17,000 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for assigning “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” a story which takes place in the South from a small radio studio where gay and lesbian Southerners broadcast their personal stories on the air.
They also voted to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston’s budget for assigning “Fun Home,” in which a woman shares her story of growing up in rural Pennsylvania.
Representative Gary Smith was in favor of cutting the funds and explained his reasoning for it.
“One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt,” he said. “I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom … This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved.”
In response to his comment, he later tweeted, “Because critical thinking allows for both sides to be freely debated, not pushing a social agenda [of] a few.”
Even though the amount of money being cut is not drastic since USC Upstate received about $10.3 million in funding in 2013, and the College of Charleston received about $19 million, it is still an unnecessary punishment that should have been avoided.
A question to raise here: Are legislators becoming too involved in these academic decisions? The Democrats who did not want to cut the funds stated that the lawmakers who wanted to take out the readings assigned to the students and manage the reading lists of the Universities should have run for positions on the state Board of Trustees.
“We are now in a posture where individual moral compasses and beliefs are being pushed down on our institutions of higher education. 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?” Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter said who is against the cut, according to the Huffington Post.
It is disappointing to see that there are still people trying to cut anything related to homosexuality from schools. Students need to be educated on everything happening in the world and not have a censor on what they can or cannot learn.
Also, these students are in college and should be given the opportunity to read books on all sorts of situations, not just ones their legislators think is best for them. We go to school so we can be informed on all subject levels; so to take that away from these students is not fair.
When I am assigned books to read from my professors, I expect to be educated on something I either did not know much about or want to learn more of, and it seems these students do not get this chance in the classroom. Sure, if they really are that interested they can go buy the books themselves. However, this takes away from the advantages of reading in class by being able to discuss the material with classmates and professors.
I truly do hope that someday it will be accepted for LGBT-themed books to be read in classrooms since it is essential for students to know the stories of all types of people.
Christina Danno is a senior philosophy and English studies major as well as a copy editor and columnist for The Vidette. Questions or comments about this column can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org