By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com March 12 2014 1:16 PM ET
South Carolina's House of Representatives Monday approved a funding cut of nearly $70,000 to two state colleges that included LGBT subject matter in their freshman reading curriculum, reports the Human Rights Campaign.
After the College of Charleston selected gay author Alison Bechdel's award-winning graphic novel and memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic as part of its optional freshman reading list, and the University of South Carolina Upstate assigned gay poet and professor Ed Madden's Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio as summer reading for its English 101 course, a group of conservative lawmakers sought to punish the schools — by cutting $17,163 from USC Upstate's funding and $52,000 from the College of Charleston's state allocation.
The funding cuts, which were included in the general budget passed by the House, can be considered retaliation for the two schools' inclusion of autobiographical books by two out authors in freshman reading, according to the Republican representative who proposed the cuts.
"I think the university has to be reasonable and sensible to the feelings and beliefs of their students," Rep. Garry Smith told CNN last week. "That was totally ignored here. I was trying to hold the university accountable. Their stance is 'Even if you don't want to read it, we'll shove it down your throat.' It's not academic freedom — it's academic totalitarianism."
But not all Republican lawmakers in the South Carolina House were in support of the clearly punitive measures. Rep. B.R. Skelton, a Republican and retired Clemson University professor, testified against the funding cuts.
"We're saying, 'This is what you're going to do and if you don't, we're going to punish you," said Skelton, according to HRC.
The budget — with the college funding cuts included — now moves on to the State Senate, where it will be assigned to and debated in committee before possibly reaching the Senate floor. If the budget passes the Republican-controlled Senate, it would go to the desk of Republican governor Nikki Haley, who has yet to indicate whether she would approve the cuts, according to CNN.