Two state colleges could lose funding over controversial topic

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - South Carolina lawmakers tentatively agreed to cut thousands of dollars in funding to two state schools because of a book the schools recommended freshmen read.

The College of Charleston and USC Upstate had freshmen learn about the homosexual lifestyle through books, activities and lectures which has caused some controversy in the legislature.

The book "Fun home: A Family Tragicomic" is at the heart of the controversy at College of Charleston. It was recommended to incoming freshmen as part of the College Reads! Program. Because of that, Rep. Garry Smith says the college will have a little less money next year.

"This is about cutting monies because of the arrogance of the university in that they would force this and other students who did not want to read this book," said Republican Rep. Garry Smith.

But not all lawmakers are supporting the Republican from Greenville.

"It is not our job as legislators to micromanage higher education," said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter. "You can't legislate morality and you can't push your morals down on other people, and that is what we are doing."

Some students felt a decision to cut funding would be harsh given that CofC is a liberal arts school.

"I have never read the book personally, but I know I have read books in history classes here about slavery, women's rights, other controversial topics and I don't know why all the sudden we are talking about homosexuality," said Robert Salter, a CofC senior.

"I think in the United States right now homosexuality is a huge topic whether or not we should allow gay marriage and I think that it is something that should be talked about at this school and I just don't think it is right to cut it because of beliefs," said Starr Fonseca, another CofC senior.

The College of Charleston released this statement about changes to the program.

"Since 2002, the College of Charleston has sponsored the College Reads! program to encourage reading and study by incoming students. A committee composed primarily of faculty and students has overseen the program. Previous book selections have examined such diverse topics as the life of university students in rural China, and the dawn of modern medical science in seventeenth-century England. The College is aware of the concerns expressed by elected officials and members of the community with regard to the selection of Fun Home as the College Reads! selection in 2013. This year, the College Reads committee expanded its outreach in order to receive broader input into the books reviewed for the program."

More than $50,000 in funding could be cut from the College of Charleston and a little more than $17,000 from USC Upstate.