The state of South Carolina may cut funding to the College of Charleston by $52,000 next year because the school “promoted the gay and lesbian lifestyle” through its assigned summer reading of the acclaimed graphic novel "Fun Home."
"Fun Home," written by Alison Bechdel, explores a young woman’s relationship with her father, as well as her lesbian sexuality. The book was a New York Times Bestseller and was even adapted for Broadway.
But according to State Rep. Garry Smith, Republican, “it goes beyond the pale of academic debate.”
“It graphically shows lesbian acts,” Smith said.
The House Ways and Means committee decided to cut the College’s summer reading program Wednesday after a long debate. Some representatives, like Smith, accused the college of forcing pornography on its students.
“We don't think this book should be banned in America,” Smith clarified. “We don't think it should be burned. It's just not appropriate for college freshmen.”
But some opponents in the close 13-10 vote think that the budget cut is a gross overreaction.
"We are now in a posture where individual moral compasses and beliefs are being pushed down on our institutions of higher education," Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, told the Associated Press.
Cobb-Hunter also pointed out that the decision makes South Carolina look bad to the rest of the country.
"Do you think for one minute some companies are going to look seriously at us, when they think about their workforce coming to a state like this, with members of a Legislature who believe their job is to pass judgment on colleges of higher learning to dictate what books people are going to read?” Cobb-Hunter said.
Bechdel told the Post and Courier that the book has been assigned reading at many schools, including high schools, and that there have been no previous complaints that she is aware of. The book is not pornographic, she says, but relatable for young people dealing with changing relationships with their parents.
"If you're going to college, you should be able to read something that has lesbians and gays in it. They are part of the world," said Caroline Mikulski, one College of Chareston freshman.
The College has promised to reconsider its summer reading assignments in the future.
“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,” College spokesman Mike Robertson told the Post and Courier via email. “This year, the College Reads committee expanded its outreach in order to receive broader input into the books reviewed for the program.”