Spartans SPEAK Up

Joshua Jenkins
Staff Writer

Leketra Cureton (left) and Marniqua Thompkins address the crowd at the Student Rally.

Leketra Cureton (left) and Marniqua Thompkins address the crowd at the Student Rally.

“It’s just not normal and then you glorify, or it seems to me, that the promotion at USC Upstate is a glorification of same-sex orientation” is what South Carolina Senator Mike Fair had to say concerning the assignment of Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio to incoming Upstate freshman. It hardly seems the assignment of the book is glorifying homosexuality, but regardless, the assignment of the book was met with a $17,146 budget cut, roughly the cost of the program itself, as well as a $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston for similar reasons.  These cuts seem to be evidence of an ongoing battle between South Carolina universities and the state’s conservative lawmakers, who seem to fear the ideological change this state, and nation, are undergoing. $17,000 may not be an absurd amount of money, but what seems to vex students the most is the fact legislatures are trying to tell them what they can, and can’t, learn. Despite the amount of money cut and the minimal impact it will have on student fees, Upstate students are certainly not going to capitulate without a fight.

A new campus organization, SPEAK: Stand Proudly. Everyone is Allowed Knowledge, co-founded by Marniqua Tompkins, and Leketra Cureton, organized a student rally in the Amphitheatre on April 21. Cureton said, “We got the idea to create SPEAK as a program because a lot of students were upset about the budget cuts, and we got together and decided we had to do something about it. The rally was a call for an acceptance of diversity and for SC legislatures to cease their assault on academic freedom. Thompkins said, “We want students to become active, to start writing letters to legislatures, we want them to start being more vocal about things and to move this cause beyond campus.” Her wish seemed to be granted as the rally was attended by over 100 people as well as several local news outlets.  The rally featured a speaking corps comprised of local politician, Matt Iyer, Chief Diversity Officer at Upstate, Dr. Warren Carson, as well as a few student speakers. One of the student speakers, English major Luke Gilbert, said he wants people to realize “This is their education, and that they are in charge of their education. If the current legislature has their way, they would impose greatly upon our ability to learn and experience new ideas outside of our comfort zone.”

With the introduction of student organizations, like SPEAK, it truly seems as if Upstate students value their academic freedom and aren’t going to take such a blatant denial of said freedom lightly. If you ever feel wronged or mistreated you have an obligation to voice your concerns and SPEAK out.


Follow SPEAK on twitter @SpeakUpstate and on Instagram: speakupstate