USC Upstate faculty members, students protest center’s closure

jennifer.arnold@shj.comMay 21, 2014 

A few dozen students gathered at the University of South Carolina Upstate on Wednesday to protest the closing of the Center for Women's and Gender Studies Center on campus.

JENNY ARNOLD — jennifer.arnold@shj.com

— USC Upstate’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies featured programming on a variety of topics, including race, sexual orientation, feminism and religion, and it was women who took center stage during Wednesday’s protest of its closure.

“The center was closed without consulting the women faculty,” said Jennifer Parker, associate dean for arts and sciences. “This was a decision that did not involve the collective voice.”

The protest was in response to last week’s announcement by University of South Carolina Upstate officials that cuts to programs and administrative changes would be made to save $450,000, including closing the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. The cuts would be effective July 1. Closing the center would equal $45,000 in savings.

Protesters first gathered at the fountain in front of the administration building, then moved to the quad behind it. They held signs that stated, “It’s not a good time for women at USCU” and “Closing CWGS = $45K, promoting peace, justice and opportunity for all = priceless” and chanted, “No more margins. We want the center.”

Parker said she was not attacking Chancellor Tom Moore, but asked that he rethink the closing of the center.

“It was a huge blow to the women on campus,” she said. “I hope he reconsiders this decision.”

Supporters of the center started a petition at www.change.org to request that the center remain open, fully funded and staffed.

Many questioned whether Moore caved to political pressure to close the center, which was founded in 2006. State senators have said they believed a performance by a lesbian comedian scheduled during the center’s annual Bodies of Knowledge earlier this spring was an attempt at indoctrination and recruitment of gays on campus.

And the university’s assignment of “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio,” a book with gay themes assigned as required reading for freshmen, has also drawn criticism from the legislature. State lawmakers have proposed requiring USC Upstate to spend $17,000 to teach the Federalist papers, U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the same amount spent on the “Out Loud” books. Moore has said closing the center was not the result of political pressure.

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