Fun Home continues to be controversial, and despite hopeful actions, our legislature continues to demonstrate its homophobia and its hate.
On Wed. May 7, the S.C. Senate intended to vote on whether to cut the budget of the College of Charleston for offering Fun Home as the 2013-2014 selection for the College Reads! Program. State Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) bravely performed a four-hour filibuster to delay this vote. He felt strongly that the Senate would approve the cut. For him, the cut was a challenge to academic freedom and an act that would shame our state.
But now Hutto says there is a “compromise,” one that will require state colleges to allow students to read a College Reads! alternative in case students are offended by the selection. (Note: Hutto did not introduce the idea of compromise, nor is he working with other legislators on a compromise.)
I don’t think the state legislators who have floated this idea recognize that this isn’t really a “compromise.” It’s yet another action that dehumanizes students (and faculty, staff, and community members) who are LGBTQ. Students are frightened because once again they’re being told by our legislature that their identities are controversial, pornographic, and offensive.
How often does this happen to heterosexuals? If the College Reads! program at CofC selected The Great Gatsby, would LGBTQ students be allowed to say that the book is offensive to them because it only represents heterosexual lives? If we offered Jane Eyre, would students of color be allowed to say it was offensive because the characters were white? I suspect that our legislators haven’t considered this. And I suspect they’d find it problematic.
This is not only a double standard — it’s a human rights issue. Certain people are being told, “Your lives, your existences as human beings are offensive.” The legislature is saying that reading about certain marginalized people, thinking about them, taking them seriously isn’t allowed. Or if it is allowed, colleges have to offer an alternative point of view, one that further reinforces a marginalized group’s apparent lack of humanity.
Glenn McConnell, president-elect of the College of Charleston, has been walking a careful line when it comes to Fun Home. He’s doing a halfway decent job, but only halfway. While he told The Post and Courier, “I don’t think it’s my role to tell college professors what to teach, that’s academic freedom,” he also said that faculty “need to ask themselves, ‘is it worth it?’ And if it’s worth it, be prepared to defend it. It certainly wouldn’t be my book of choice, but I’m not on the committee and that’s not my job.”
Is it worth it? Is it worth it to offer a book that suggests that LGBTQ lives are lives? Is it worth it to affirm to our students that they matter, that they’re worth defending? Absolutely.
We need to have a legislature, a Board of Trustees, and CofC president who recognize this.