COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of legislators in South Carolina is battling to fund an effort to put more books about “natural man-on-woman love” in the hands of wide-eyed college students.
This week’s vote before the state House of Representatives would provide public universities in South Carolina with a financial incentive to strip books dealing with homosexual themes from their lists of required reading.
While the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg would be stripped of tens of thousands of dollars worth of state funding over the 2014-2015 fiscal year for exposing incoming freshmen to ideas potentially different than their own, the proposed budget would also reward schools for including more heteronormative books on the syllabus.
Rep. Garry Smith is leading the charge to tie funding to reading assignments. According to Smith, the universities’ “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.”
“Well,” said Smith, “If anyone gets to decide what gets shoved down throat of college students in my state, let it be me with a fistful of my constituents’ tax dollars.”
The math is straightforward. The College of Charleston assigned a memoir about a woman coming out as a lesbian: minus $52,000. The University of South Carolina Upstate assigned a book about the state’s first gay and lesbian radio show: minus $17,162.
But if “Fifty Shades of Grey” makes an appearance on the syllabus “or something with Fabio on the cover,” the school would get a $66,000 bonus, offered Smith.
The president of the College of Charleston, P. George Benson, refuses to take the cut lying down. “Any legislative attempt to tie institutional funding to what books are taught, or who teaches them, threatens the credibility and reputation of all South Carolina public universities,” which are designed to offer students a place to consider alternate viewpoints.
The college also notes that offended students actually have the option to switch to another class in which the book is not assigned.
Smith claims to have “no problem with assigning written works that introduce challenging new ideas,” so long as they are not aimed at “promoting gay and lesbian lifestyle.”
“So why not discus the writing of straight-as-they-come authors like Oscar Wilde or Walt Whitman?” asked Smith. “I won’t pretend I fully understood what they were talking about, but I sure as hell knew it wasn’t any gay stuff.”