Ever since the House and Ways Committee passed a proposal to cut funding from the College because of controversy over the College Reads! book Fun Home, students, faculty and community members have expressed outrage at the government’s perceived interference in academic freedom. On Feb. 25, the Student Government Association decided to take action and voted to pass a resolution SR-6-2014 that proposed the South Carolina General Assembly restore funds to the College budget.
SR-6-2014 passed with 21 yeas, four abstentions and no objections. “During this discussion, a few of them abstained because they felt the resolution did not go far enough,” Student Body Vice President Chris Piedmont said. “They wanted to amend it to add, ‘We stand behind our diverse community.’”
Piedmont attached a note to the resolution asking the House of Representatives to respect the College’s academic freedom.
In response, Piedmont received an email from Representative Stephen Goldfinch that has fueled the controversy even more.
The email begins, “Out of one side of your mouth you demand that we fund your school and many of your educations, yet, out of another side of your mouth, you demand we stay out of your school and your education.”
Goldfinch then went on to tell Piedmont that the College should go private. “I have multiple families in my district that were horrified when their 17 year old daughter was REQUIRED to read this book,” Goldfinch writes, “President Pastides [of the University of South Carolina Upstate] testified that students would be tested on the book. If that’s not required, I don’t know what is.”
While the email did not surprise Piedmont, he did find it brash. Piedmont said, “I was taken aback by the abruptness and the tone. Goldfinch is entitled to his own opinion, but I wish I received a different email. Particularly since his wife is on the Board of Trustees.” While Representative Goldfinch has publicly apologized for his e-mail, he has not personally apologized to Piedmont at this point in time.
Student Body President Jordan Hensley said, “I was a little personally taken aback by his manner.”
“I appreciate his opinion,” Piedmont said of Goldfinch, “and we agree to disagree on this matter. But ultimately, the students want the money back.”
While the South Carolina House of Representatives voted on March 10 to cut $52,000 in funding from the College, the Student Government Association plans to send another resolution to the South Carolina Senate when they are in session.
“We’re hopeful that the Senate will have better luck. They have not yet taken up the budget according to various media outlets,” Piedmont said.
In the meantime, Piedmont has some suggestions for those wanting to take action. “Students and community members reaching out is how we are really going to have that money added back,” Piedmont said.
Even with the anticipated budget cuts, the College is continuing with the College Reads! program. The College Reads! committee has chosen The Good Soldier by David Finkel as the recommended read for the 2014-2015 academic school year.
Despite the deluge of recent controversy at the College, academic freedom is one right on which everyone at the College, regardless of position, seems to agree. Even President Benson, as seen in a recent Post and Courier article said, “No legislative action can interfere with academic freedom at the College of Charleston. I don’t care how much money you take away.”