Maybe it's time for some members of the S.C. State Legislature to get teaching credentials.
In February, the House voted to cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston's budget to protest its choice of a summer reading assignment after Rep. Garry Smith, R-Simpsonville, said the book "goes beyond the pale of academic debate" and the college was "promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle."
Early this month, the Legislature voted Daniel Ravenel off the C of C board by a vote of 81-56. That was either because Mr. Ravenel didn't show enough enthusiasm for naming Glenn McConnell as the new school president, or because of the same reading assignment. Or both. It depends on whom you ask.
Now Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, is threatening to make more budget trouble for the College of Charleston because it gave permission for a theatrical production of that same summer reading book, "Fun Home" - at no cost to the state.
"If lessons weren't learned over there, the Senate may speak a little bit louder than the House. There would be a number of members in the Senate that would have a great interest in fixing the deficiencies at the College of Charleston," Mr. Grooms said.
Incidentally, it was Sen. Grooms who called for the up-or-down vote on Mr. Ravenel's nomination. Owner of a Charleston real estate firm, Mr. Ravenel had served since 2009 and had no opposition. He also has served as president of the Foundation Board and is president-elect of the school's Alumni Association. And he has served on the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
Despite Mr. Ravenel's numerous qualifications, Sen. Grooms wanted him off the board because he supported a resolution calling for academic freedom in light of the recent controversy over "Fun Home." That presumably would include the freedom to select what books students are assigned to read.
Sen. Grooms said he is concerned that assigning gay-themed "Fun Home" would "degrade an institution that is known for ideals and beliefs not in sync with that of South Carolina."
By such thinking, College political science students should skip the chapter about communism. And art students could bypass classes that include nude studies.
Sen. Grooms and his meddlesome colleagues have a misguided idea of what a college education should be. In addition to literature, science and economics, it should challenge students with new issues and different viewpoints. A college's goal should not be indoctrination.
And the "academic freedom" espoused by the school's Board of Trustees should put curriculum decisions in the hands of administrators and faculty who are actually qualified to make those decisions.
While it lacks merit in some people's eyes, "Fun Home" has won book awards. So has the musical interpretation that was presented at Memminger Auditorium Monday.
And nobody forced students to attend the performance or read the book.
The Legislature has a substantial agenda that needs the attention of its members. And it has a dwindling number of days to do its work.
Already, people are counting the session's remaining days, wondering which important bills will die of neglect.
State lawmakers should get back to their legislative business - and leave the academic business of the College of Charleston to its faculty, staff and students.
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