Punitive Budget Cuts Don’t Fly with South Carolina Senate Finance Committee

FunhomecoverYesterday, the Associate Press reported an update to the proposed punitive budget cuts against two South Carolina Universities. In early March, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a budget that cut the funding of two colleges that had incorporated LGBT-themed books — one of which was Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — into elective reading programs. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler recommended adopting the House’s proposed $70,000 cuts. But Senate President Pro Tem John Courson maintained that the legislature should not micromanage university curriculum, and the Senate Finance Committee rejected the proposal in a 7 – 11 vote.

CBLDF joined a coalition of free speech advocates to urge the South Carolina Senate to reject the budget cuts, which specifically affected two schools: College of Charleston, which had used Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home in a voluntary summer reading program for incoming freshman, and the University of South Carolina Upstate, which had used Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio for a similar program. Neither school required students to read the books. If the budget passes, both schools will see budget cuts exactly equivalent to what they were given for the programs.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is no stranger to controversy. The beautifully composed Eisner-winning graphic novel, detailing Bechdel’s personal journey with sexual orientation, family, and self-image, has been the subject of two bans at South Carolina and Utah colleges. Citing the material as “pornographic” and “shocking,” the administrations vied to keep the work out of curriculum. Luckily, not everyone agrees with their assessment of the work– Bechdel’s graphic memoir was adapted into an off-Broadway musical (running 2012-2014), which was in turn a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in the Drama category. The Pulitzer jury called the production (with music and book/lyrics by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron) “a poignant musical adaption.”

Unfortunately, we can’t declare victory over censorship yet. The issue will most likely be revisited next week as the full South Carolina Senate debates the budget. We will continue to monitor the story.

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Casey Gilly is a Contributing Editor for CBLDF, a Staff Writer for Comic Book Resources and, most importantly, a cat enthusiast.