The College of Charleston in South Carolina is facing a $52,000 budget cut due to its assignment of the memoir Fun Home as part of the College Reads! program. The memoir, written by Alison Bechdel, depicts her life growing up as a lesbian with a closeted gay farther in graphic panel format. The funding cut was proposed by Republican Representative Garry Smith who says the book contains graphic images of lesbian sex and the school offered no other reading option. From The New York Times:
Mr. Smith then proposed cutting $52,000 – roughly equivalent to the cost of the reading program, he said – from the college’s $20 million appropriation from the state. The budget cut is now moving through the legislature; South Carolina news media coverage indicates some sizable political support for the cut.
Representative Smith did not reply to phone messages left at his office and home seeking comment. In an interview with CNN this spring he said that the College of Charleston “has to be reasonable and sensible to the feelings and beliefs of their students.”
“That was totally ignored here – I was trying to hold the university accountable,” Mr. Smith, a Republican, said. “Their 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.” Mr. Smith has also tweeted that the memoir could be considered “pornography.”
The school says the book is not required reading.
The Huffington Post notes via Reuters the cast of the musical based on the memoir performed some songs from the show for free after learning about the funding cuts:
The College of Charleston has been buzzing with talk about gay rights ever since a faculty member, in response to the proposed spending cut, reached out to the creators of the recent Off Broadway musical.
The nine-member cast, which includes the Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, offered to perform for free as educational outreach, “Fun Home” producer Barbara Whitman said.