CHARLESTON, SC – May 12, 2014 – #FightforCofC, in solidarity with SpeakUpstate, and all the students and faculty of South Carolina’s institutions of higher learning, stands in opposition to the punitive, homophobic cuts to CofC and USC Upstate over the choice of LGBTQ themed reading materials. Though these cuts were not included in the budget that passed the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Mike Fair has sponsored an amendment to reinstate the cuts proposed in the House.
Yesterday, Senators engaged in a passionate, lengthy debate over the amendment. Positions ranged from thoughtful and informed, to obstinate and delusional. We want to commend Senator Hutto for his well-reasoned defense of academic freedom, and his insightful warnings about the dangers of heading down the road of censorship. We agree with Sen. Hutto that these cuts will harm our ability to recruit talented students and faculty from around the country, and indeed around the world. They will do so by reinforcing a popular image of South Carolina as a backward looking, closed-minded place, where legislators lack the judgment to refrain from micro-managing our public universities on the basis of their personal or political values.
We condemn the irresponsible, hardline rhetoric from proponents of the amendment, who at times compared Fun Home author, Alison Bechdel, to Charles Manson and Hitler. We take offense at the assertion that the critically acclaimed graphic novel Fun Home is in any way pornographic. The purpose of this book, as it concerned the CollegeReads! program, was to help facilitate dialogue around complex and pressing social issues. It was not designed, nor was it assigned, to titillate or arouse. As an institution of higher learning it would be a dereliction of our duty to ignore the experiences of LGBTQ
people. It is well known that LGBTQ youth are too often the target of bullying, and studies have shown that the suicide rate amongst LGBTQ youth may be as much as four times higher than that of straight youth. Furthermore, studies have shown correlation between increased depression and drug use amongst the LGBTQ community in the wake of discriminatory legislation. We urge our legislators to consider these realities, as they debate this critical issue.
With or without these punitive cuts to our budgets, we will continue to fight to include those voices, and continue to fight to make SC universities safe places for ALL students to learn, grow, and flourish.
We strongly urge all state legislators to stand on the side of academic freedom, and oppose these punitive, homophobic cuts.