By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com June 17 2014 4:30 AM ET
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has approved a state budgetary item requiring two state-funded colleges to teach about the nation’s founding documents – a requirement that’s basically a penalty for the schools having included LGBT-themed books on student reading lists.
Haley upheld the requirement Thursday while vetoing several other items in the budget, reports South Carolina newspaper The State. It mandates that the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate spend $52,000 and $17,000, respectively, on curricula regarding the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents, “including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.”
Those amounts reflect the funds each school spent on LGBT-themed materials. Last year the College of Charleston had put lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic on its optional freshman reading list, and USC Upstate assigned gay poet and professor Ed Madden’s Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio as summer reading for its English 101 course.
The state House of Representatives had voted in March to cut the schools’ budgets by those amounts, but in May the State Senate restored the funding, with the requirement for teaching about the founding documents, and the House agreed to the move. The provision also allows students to opt out of studying material they find “objectionable based on a sincerely held religious, moral, or cultural belief.” The budget goes into effect July 1.
A coalition of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, the Modern Language Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the American Association of University Professors, put out a statement Friday condemning the legislation. “The version enacted poses exactly the same concerns as the initially proposed cuts: it represents unwarranted political interference with academic freedom and undermines the integrity of the higher education system in South Carolina,” it reads in part, adding that the measure “is potentially crippling to a democratic and globally competitive college education.”