LGBT-themed books controversy threatens funding

Two institutions face cuts over summer reading assignments

Two South Carolina public institutions are at risk of losing nearly $70,000 in state funding after books with LGBT themes were assigned to freshmen last fall.

For 2013-14, The College of Charleston provided 2,000 freshmen with the graphic novel Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. It details the relationship of the author and her closeted-gay father, and her own personal coming-out as a lesbian, says Christopher Korey, biology professor and director of the college’s summer reading program. The book wasn’t required reading, but was part of the discussion at campus events.

The state House of Representatives has voted to cut $52,000 from the college, the amount spent on summer reading. “This controversy sends a signal to public institutions that any program is vulnerable with any book they assign,” Korey says.

About $17,000 could also be cut from the University of South Carolina, Upstate, which assigned Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio by Ed Madden and Candace Chellew-Hodge. As of mid-March, the cuts still needed the Senate and governor’s approval. The proposed cuts were led by Republican Rep. Garry Smith, who says parents were concerned over the LGBT subject matter.

While $52,000 is not a significant cut, says Brian McGee, chief of staff to College of Charleston President George Benson, “we’re surprised the legislature took an interest in our curriculum.” He adds that they’re obligated to answer any questions the community may have.


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