The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), ACLU of South Carolina, American Association of University Professors, Modern Language Association and other free speech organizations today sent a letter (below) to members of the South Carolina Senate criticizing the recent defunding of public institutions of higher learning because of objections to assigned reading.
"The proposed budget cuts are designed to punish the schools solely because some members of the legislature don't approve of certain books being taught," said NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin. "The Supreme Court has sent a clear message over decades: lawmakers may not prohibit the expression of ideas simply because they find them to be offensive."
According to Victoria Middleton, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina, "This kind of political interference with academic freedom not only violates core First Amendment values, it compromises the quality of higher education in our state."
The group letter included the following NCAC participating organization members:
- American Association of University Professors
- American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
- American Library Association
- Association of American Publishers
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
- Modern Language Association
- National Council of Teachers of English
It states that "Penalizing state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect and (…) threatens academic freedom and the quality of education in the state."
The letter also maintains that "it is the right of faculty, based on their disciplinary and pedagogical expertise, to develop curriculum and assign books free of outside political interference by legislators who lack such expertise. "
The budget cuts approved by the South Carolina House of Representatives were imposed on the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Upstate because of legislators' objections to assigned reading. The proposed cuts of $52,000 and $17,142, respectively, represent the amounts spent on reading programs for incoming students. Some members of the legislature object to the programs' spending because selected books contain lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes.