The South Carolina House of Representatives has withdrawn $52,000 from the College of Charleston for including Alison Bechdel's brilliant, celebrated memoir Fun Home in its summer reading program. Bechdel, creator of the Dykes to Watch Out For strip, published the memoir in 2006. In graphic novel form, it tells Bechdel's story of growing up closeted in a family riven by a father who can't admit that he is gay and an embittered mother who doesn't allow herself to notice her husband's affairs.
Representative Garry Smith said that the book "didn't merit scholarly consideration" because it "graphically shows lesbian acts." He led the campaign to withdraw the funds. $52,000 is the cost of the entire summer reading program.
Bechdel expressed gratitude to the college for assigning her book, and added, "It's sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book – a book which is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people's lives."
To its credit, the college is refusing to allow its reading choices to be affected. College president P. George Benson said, "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."
The College of Charleston isn't the only institution whose funding has been cut for assigning readings that don't meet with Rep Smith's approval; another $18,000 was confiscated from the University of South Carolina Upstate's budget for including a book with LGBT themes in its curriculum.
I would certainly contribute to a fundraiser to make up the colleges' shortfall, especially if they'd guarantee that the funds would go to a program whose readings consisted entirely of things that Representative Gary Price didn't like.
Update: In the comments, Timstellmach writes, "Money has been put where my mouth is. For reference, the name of the program in question is "The College Reads!", and the college's donation page is at https://giving.cofc.edu/donate.
The College of Charleston had put “Fun Home” on a compilation of summer reading titles for incoming freshmen. The South Carolina House of Representatives cut funding to both the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate, which also assigned a book with similar themes. The House cut $70,000 in total ($52,000 from the College of Charleston, according to local newspaper the Post and Courier).
The budget-writing committee took the funds away from the schools but the money could be put back when the entire House of Representatives reviews the budget on March 10, according to the Post and Courier. According to the newspaper, the $52,000 is the price tag of the summer reading program. According to the Washington Post, the College of Charleston received a little over $19 million in state money in 2013.
Representative Garry Smith told the Post and Courier that he doesn’t believe the memoir is introducing themes for scholarly consideration.