University of Missouri Press will be kept alive
The University of Missouri Press will survive after all.
The University of Missouri System announced in May that it no longer wanted to provide the press with its annual subsidy of $400,000 and would shut down the operation. Amid widespread criticism from faculty members and authors, the university first announced a plan to keep the press functioning in a teaching-oriented way that was never fully fleshed out.
But on Monday, the university's flagship campus at Columbia announced that the press (which has until now been overseen by the system office) would join it. And the announcement made clear that the press would continue to publish new works of scholarship, and to do so in print and digital formats.
Brady Deaton, chancellor of the Columbia campus, said in a statement: "Going forward, we envision that the press will publish not less -- but more -- scholarly work. A viable, fully functioning press is essential to a major [Association of American Universities] university. The press will continue to publish hard-copy books while adding a more broad-based and a longer-term approach to scholarly publishing while preserving the identity of the original press."
Several university presses have closed or had their operations suspended in recent years -- with administrations not reversing themselves amid faculty criticism.
In the case of the Missouri press, faculty locally and nationally repeatedly drew attention to the university's unwillingness to pay $400,000 for a university press while spending millions on athletic coaches. Supporters of the press showed up at university board meetings, wrote numerous op-eds and letters to local newspapers, and used social media to keep focus on the university's decision. Authors demanded the rights to their books back.
Via e-mail, Peter Dougherty, director of Princeton University Press and president of the Association of American University Presses, called Monday's news "a new beginning for a great Midwestern press and for American scholarly publishing."
The Facebook page for Save the University of Missouri Press was less enthusiastic, noting that some press staff members have left (having been told their jobs were eliminated), that planning for the next season's books was halted, and that many authors may doubt Missouri's commitment.
"This is a tremendous victory, but it is also bittersweet, because unfortunately the administration did not hear the thousands of people who protested this decision all summer and they have waited too long and mis-stepped too often. They can reverse their decision, but they can't reverse history," said a statement posted by the group.