State rep walks back harsh CofC email after it's made public

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) --{}A state representative from the Lowcountry apologized for sending an angry email to a College of Charleston student after the student complained about money being stripped from the College's reading enrichment program.

When the Student Government Association at the College of Charleston heard about legislators wanting to strip the college of book funds, they went into action.

"That funding really needs to be put back," said Chris Piedmont, vice president for SGA. "It's not the legislators' place to tell us what books should be chosen."

The measure came about after "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" was recommended to incoming CofC freshmen as part of the College Reads! Program. The book is about a college-aged girl who is a lesbian and her relationship with her gay father.

Legislators disagreed with the content of the book and called it "pornographic".

"The college students value their academic freedom in that our teachers should be the ones teaching us and deciding on what books we are learning," said Piedmont.

So Piedmont sent a letter to state representatives on behalf of the SGA asking that they not take away the college's funding.

"The college experience is designed to allow students to grow as people and academians by interacting with multiple schools of thought covering a variety of issues. Again, We demand that the South Carolina House restore the cuts made to the College of Charleston budget and respect the right of academic freedom of the institution," the letter stated.

It did not sit well with Republican House member Stephen Goldfinch.

"I took his tone to be very demanding," said Goldfinch, of District 108, whose wife sits on the Board of Trustees at the College.

Rep. Goldfinch then responded to Piedmont's letter, telling him the College should consider going private.

"Out of one side of your mouth you demand that we fund your school and many of your educations, yet, out of another side of your mouth, you demand we stay out of your school and your education. I have a simple solution for you: Ask your school to go private. At that point, you can require obscene pornographic mandatory reading without any intervention from the people who fund your school now," he said in a response to Piedmont.

Piedmont, along with one of Goldfinch's fellow representatives, said the response was out of line.

"I think it shows a total lack of respect for student government associations and the role they play in higher (education)," said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who has supported the College on the issue. "What a terrible role model for our students. That kind of cavalier attitude is a part of why people don't want anything to do with politics."

Goldfinch says he just received Piedmont's email at a bad time.

"The Republicans had been called everything from sexists, to racists, to bigots and homophobes," said Goldfinch. "I was irritated and I lashed out at him and I probably shouldn't have done that. So, I would like to apologize for my tone."

The House of Representative agreed to cut the funds. Officials say the same issue will go before the State Senate sometime within the next three weeks.{}

Officials at the College of Charleston say the book was never mandatory for students to read and they were not tested on the material. Each year, a committee convenes to pick a book to promote discussion on campus between new students.

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