South Carolina embraces academic censorship
March 21, 2014 | 2:54 pm
A controversy over state funding cuts in South Carolina to public colleges that included two LGBT-themed books in its reading lists for freshmen has now drawn in the the American Library Association, the American Association of University Professors, the American Civil Liberties Union and the the National Coalition Against Censorship, as attempts by South Carolina Democrats to reverse the February decision were voted down. These organizations have signed a letter supported by eight academic and free speech organizations in all, calling on the South Carolina legislature to review the decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina issued a release stating: “The ACLU of South Carolina and South Carolina Equality oppose political interference with First Amendment freedoms and discrimination against the LGBT community in South Carolina, both of which are reflected in the SC House budget just passed by the House Ways and Means Committee.”
According to the Washington Post, the Republican-dominated South Carolina House of Representatives voted to dock $52,000 from the budget of the College of Charleston for including Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home in its reading list for incoming freshmen, and $17,000 in funding from the University of South Carolina Upstate for assigning Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a book of LGBT-themed texts originally broadcast on Rainbow Radio. These represented the amounts that the institutions actually spent on purchasing the books for their students.
Quoted in South Carolina’s The State, Republican State Rep. Garry Smith said: “One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt … I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom … This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved.” Democratic State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter advised her fellow lawmakers “to stop running a dictatorship forcing people to believe what we believe. This is a wide, wide world.”
The next opportunity for a vote on the South Carolina decision comes in April.