A crowd of students gathered peacefully at USC Upstate on Monday trying to change the tone of a controversial conversation.
"We're not promoting homosexual rights," said student Marniqua Tompkins, co-founder of the group SPEAK (Stand Proudly, Everyone is Allowed Knowledge). "We're just promoting the idea of diversity."
The rally at the school's amphitheater allowed students to sign their name to the cause, urging lawmakers to reconsider cutting funding to USC Upstate and other public universities after several gay-themed programs were allowed on campuses.
Organizers of the rally said everyone but students has been allowed a voice in the conversation until now.
"We would not be here if it were not for our students. So they need to have a voice in this conversation," said Carolyn Farr Shanesy, USC Upstate's public relations specialist.
Republican Senators Lee Bright and Mike Fair have made their position clear on the subject of gay-themed programs and literature on USC Upstate's campus.
They voted against USC Upstate's Board of Trustees during their reappointment consideration because of the gay-themed curriculum, including a required book called "Out Loud," which deals with the struggles of gay people in the South. The House recently voted to cut $17,000 from the school.
"If these public universities want to deal in pornography and what they see as a grand alternative lifestyle, they can do it on their own dime and go private," said Bright.
Students, however, said that kind of thinking will have long-term effects on the school's reputation.
"I think we're gonna see an impact on enrollment numbers in the fall for this," said student Daniel Francis. "I believe this is going to hurt our reputation as graduates. It's bad for USC Upstate and it's bad for South Carolina," said Francis.
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