STAFF REPORTS | COLUMBIA -- Issues about LGBT people in the state's colleges and universities continues to dominate the attention and ire of South Carolina lawmakers. The latest controversy stems from a program that was to be presented in a LGBT symposium hosted by the University of South Carolina Upstate that included a lecture titled, “How to be a lesbian in 10 days or less.”
That lecture drew the anger of State Senator Mike Fair(R) who alleges that university students are being "recruited" to be gay.
"It's just not normal and then you glorify, or it seems to me, that the promotion at USC is glorification of same sex orientation,” Fair told local media outlets adding “That's not an explanation of 'I was born this way.’ It's recruiting,” he said.
The assistant vice chancellor for USC Upstate communications, Tammy E. Whaley, sent local television station WYFF a statement that read:
“The title of ‘How to Become a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less,’ while deliberately provocative, is satirical in nature but has not been received as such. The controversy surrounding this performance has become a distraction to the educational mission of USC Upstate and the overall purpose of the Bodies of Knowledge symposium. As a result, we have canceled this segment of the symposium.”
Last month lawmakers voted to cut $70,000 collectively from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate.
The House rejected multiple attempts to restore $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston in the state budget, and $17,142 cut from the University of South Carolina Upstate. Those are the amounts the universities spent on books assigned to their incoming freshmen last summer. The efforts failed by votes of 69-41, 70-43, 71-40 and 71-38.
College of Charleston students read “Fun Home,” a book by Alison Bechdel that describes her childhood with a closeted gay father and her own coming out as a lesbian. USC Upstate assigned “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” referring to South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, for a freshmen course that included lectures and other out-of-classroom activities meant to spark discussions about the book.
Representative Garry Smith(R), whose House subcommittee made the reductions, said he wanted to make a point after college officials declined to give students an option to read something else. He said he wouldn’t oppose the books if they were part of an elective course. He called it promotion of a lifestyle.
“Freedom comes with responsibility. These universities did not act responsibly,” said Smith, R-Simpsonville.
Gail Stephenson, president of the LGBT equality rights group Upstate Pride, said lawmakers are being unfair to both the university and its students.
“Diversity is diversity. And we can't just say we are going to choose this part of diversity, but we're not going to choose this part of diversity. Then what's next? Are we going to cut out women's studies? Racial integration?” said Gail Stephenson.The Associated Press contributed to this report.