“One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt,” state Rep. Garry Smith (R), who pushed for the cuts, told The State newspaper. “I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom. … This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved.”
The amounts legislators want to cut are relatively small parts of the two schools’ budgets. USC Upstate received about $10.3 million in state funding in 2013, according to the school’s budget office; the College of Charleston received a little over $19 million in state funding.
But the cuts are certain to spark debate over whether legislators should be meddling in academic affairs. Democrats who opposed the cuts said lawmakers who wanted to manage a university’s reading list should run for positions on the state Board of Trustees, which oversees the state’s public universities.
The College of Charleston has already expanded its reading list for incoming freshmen.
Several state senators have also complained that public universities are not following a nearly century-old law requiring schools to teach the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Harris Pastides, the president of the University of South Carolina, said the law would pose constitutional challenges: It also requires students swear a loyalty oath to the United States before receiving a college degree.
Smith, who is pushing the cuts to the two universities, has introduced a bill to modernize the law, although it has stalled in the legislature.