The fine for daring to practice academic freedom in the state of South Carolina has just been levied. And unlike fines for polluters and financial industry crooks, this punitive money action is accompanied by a significant punishment.
Regular visitors to Politicus know the back story. A couple of South Carolina colleges offer incoming freshmen the chance to academically learn, first-hand, that unlike the Republican perception of homosexuals, the population of gays and lesbians does not consist of monsters and child-stalkers, anymore than the population as a whole. The plan of the University of South Carolina Upstate and College of Charleston was to have incoming students read a book on each campus, “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio” on the USC Upstate campus and “Fun Home” at Charleston, the latter hugely praised by the nation’s literary critics back in 2006. Students would then talk about the books and meet a few real-live members of the LGBT community and chat with them face-to-face about their experiences as a repressed minority. There was even a multi-day gay-themed symposium called Bodies of Knowledge on the schedule. The symposium has been around since 2007.
The right-wing immediately started waving their own good book in the air. Their elected homophobic state legislators went to work in earnest. And since election season (the primaries are June 10th) was fast approaching, these snooty academic liberals were going to be the perfect vote-grabbing foil and were going to pay the price while the politicians collected their prize at the ballot box.
As a consequence of relentless pressures, the University of South Carolina Upstate has just announced $450,000 in cuts and “changes” to save money. Their prime target was the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, though the money saved by their action was miniscule. As of July 1, the Center is closed forever or at least until the fascist legislators retire permanently from the General Assembly. It gets even more Mussolini-esque. The legislature that was preparing to pull $17,000 in funding for a “gay” book to be read by those incoming freshmen I mentioned, is now mandating (but I thought Republicans hated mandates) that the money be spent to “teach” the U.S. Constitution, ironically something that’s been done in every college history class forever, plus the Declaration of Independence, also a staple of every history class and the Federalist Papers, 85 delightfully controversial essays written by the really big names present at our countries founding and also bound to be taught and hotly discussed in any and all higher education history classes, not to mention subsequent law school classes.
Methinks the underlying scheme here is to encourage right-wing profs to give much extra classroom attention to the Federalist Society under the guise of the federalist papers. The Federalist Society is an august group of radicals that included the likes of late Robert Bork and features four of the still kicking current right-wing Supreme Court justices as members.
Of one thing you can be certain. South Carolina’s higher education institutions have been forewarned by the political power structure to adhere to Republican Party-line propaganda in all historical matters, brainwash your students and keep out the gays. If you don’t follow these warnings, we’ll essentially defund your school and you’re on your own. There’s no other way to interpret these most recent actions.
Caught squarely in the middle, Upstate’s relatively new Chancellor, Dr. Tom Moore. He said the cuts are needed due to “increasing costs and declining state support.” Moore, in an extremely disingenuous statement, said closing the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies is not in response to external pressure (ROTFLMAO)!!!
Two state senators, Lee Bright and Michael Fair, sadly within spitting distance of my domicile, insisted that the ‘Bodies of Knowledge’ symposium was pure indoctrination designed to recruit gays on campus. Yes, Virginia, there are legislators who are that clueless. I went to both days of the symposium, and if it were any comfort to this pair, I’d say 95% of the audience was already gay and frankly, the gathering was mostly an excuse to feel accepted in the hateful setting that identifies itself as South Carolina.
What’s puzzling is that while the brick and mortar facility that housed the Women and Gender Studies Center is being closed, the course work will still supposedly continue. It was, after all, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences and included an office and a lounge area. So, on one level, it’s closing doesn’t amount to a hill of beans fiscally. It was just a vehicle to transport a message of hate of the school’s gay population and by extension, women in general. A university spokesperson was quoted in the local paper as saying there are no plans to use that space in a different way, telling the press that, in fact, “We hope to expand course offerings and closing the center will allow the director to return to the classroom and teach on a full-time basis.” Double-talk? Triple-talk? Pure you know what?
The chancellor said closing the center will actually strengthen interdisciplinary minors like women’s and gender studies. Let’s cut to the chase here. The message is, none of that LGBT stuff at USC Upstate. No more Bodies of Knowledge. Nothing about Women and Gender Studies will touch on anything to do with lesbians. Here’s the headline: USC UPSTATE CAVES TO HOMOPHOBES – WE DON”T WANT THE GAY OR LESBIAN COMMUNITY WITHIN A THOUSAND MILES OF OUR CAMPUS or if they are, they’d better find the most hidden of closets to hide in. I’m Tom Moore, PhD and I make a boatload of money (around $200,000) and I’m not risking it for a lifestyle that the locals hate. Ergo: I’ve cast my lot with the bible-thumping gay-bashers!
A rare reasonable response came from Democratic (of course) state Senator, Brad Hutto. Hutto is highly respected as a man of integrity and is running against bought and paid for, U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham who has a war chest in excess of seven million big ones. Hutto talked about the Republicans obsession with sexuality and homosexuality and opined, “Until we get over it, we’ll continue to invite upon ourselves publicity that is unmerited.” I agree with the part about getting over it. I couldn’t disagree more with the suggestion that the publicity is unmerited. These are fascist actions and have no place in a democratic (as in democracy) legislative body, ever.
A closing note; $200,000 is apparently the going rate for political acquiescence in the South Carolina academic community.