Susquehanna University has quietly placed its university press "on hiatus," the latest in a series of such actions that appear to be eroding the academic publishing role of small universities.
The university didn't make a formal announcement of its decision, but confirmed it after it became apparent because four other university presses -- which until recently had, along with Susquehanna University Press, had their non-editorial functions performed by Associated University Presses -- announced that they were shifting their sales, marketing and fulfillment operations to Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, an independent academic publisher. The founder of Associated University Presses is retiring, and phasing out most operations of that business.
The four presses moving to Rowman & Littlefield for many operations are those of Bucknell, Fairleigh Dickinson and Lehigh Universities and the University of Delaware. All will maintain independent editorial operations on their respective campuses. Decisions on what to publish will remain on the campuses, but once decisions have been made, the copy editing, typesetting, design (for print or digital), printing, sales, marketing, and order fulfillment will shift to Rowman & Littlefield. (That publisher already provides some of those functions for other university presses in the United States and Britain.)
Rowman & Littlefield officials said that they would have welcomed Susquehanna as well, but had been told that, for now, it would no longer be publishing new books.
Carl Moses, provost at Susquehanna, said via e-mail: "SU Press is on hiatus. AUP's closure provided an opportunity to rethink the mission of the press and its relationship to Susquehanna's mission. Over the coming year, I will invite faculty input on the possibilities for a new incarnation of the press, with the intention of identifying a suitable vision and a promising plan that we can set in motion."
Officials of the press did not respond to calls or e-mail. A description of the press on its website states that it was founded in 1944 and has taken pride in "never" focusing on commercial considerations, but rather asking: "Does this particular manuscript make a significant contribution to scholarship?"
In terms of subject matter focus, the press said this: "We are particularly interested in publishing works on authors and in fields that have not received sufficient critical attention in the immediate past and works that pertain to minority cultures and perspectives. In addition, we seek to extend the possibilities of publication to scholars outside the United States and United Kingdom in an effort to move away from the hegemony of Anglo-American scholarship. In extending our range of publications to include international scholars and those working in lesser known areas, we declare ourselves dedicated to valuing scholarship in all its variety and diversity."
Susquehanna is an undergraduate institution, and while other universities that have recently stopped or suspended publishing operations also have graduate programs, these institutions are generally smaller universities and their presses have been on the smaller size of presses. Among those suspending or halting operations have been Rice University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Scranton.
University presses face periodic threats of closure, particularly in tight economic times. The press operations of both Louisiana State University and Utah State University were at risk in 2009, but survived. And plenty of presses have had to reduce the size of their lists and eliminate jobs. But it has been rare until this year for presses to stop publishing.