Academic freedom has long been a hallmark of U.S. colleges and universities, both public and private. Recently, Republican lawmakers in at least one southern state seem bent on destroying that freedom.
In South Carolina, at the College of Charleston, a public institution of higher learning, students were assigned to read the graphic novel “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel. It’s a book that deals with gay themes. The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives acted swiftly to punish the school by withdrawing $52,000 in funding. The same Republican politicians made a similar move against the University of South Carolina in Spartanburg for assigning a different book with gay themes as part of its reading program.
To make matters worse, Republican lawmakers in South Carolina recently appointed Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the next president of the College of Charleston. McConnell, another Republican, is a well-known Civil War reenactor.
Public universities are not the academic arm of religious conservativism. If religious-minded conservatives wish to avoid exposing students to material that involves sexual themes with which they aren’t comfortable, then they should create and staff their own private universities. Of course, some do. Censorship is a bad idea, whether it originates with the Right or the Left. It just so happens that Republicans are more bothered by ideas that they don’t personally endorse.