University Press Closures

Goals

Create an overview of the recent trend of universities firing key staff from their university presses or shutting them down. Detail the community outcry, responses from the Administrations, and any cases in which the decisions were reversed. Include the cases of the University of Missouri and the Wayne State University Press.

Early Findings

University of Missouri Press

  • The University of Missouri proposed closing the university press, called the University of Missouri Press, in May 2012. Timothy M. Wolfe, president of the U. of Missouri system announced the closure.
  • In 2009, the press cut nearly half its staff because it was operating on a deficit.
  • The University had been giving its Press a $400,000 annual subsidy. Writers like Jeffrey R. Di Leo put this quantity in perspective by comparing it to the university head football coach, who received a $650,000 raise in 2010.
  • Ten employees were to have been affected by the closure.
  • After outcry, the press was reopened four months following the decision to close it. The author William Least Heat-Moon, the singer Lucinda Williams, the New York Times, and the NPR lamented the closure. 5,200 people signed a petition supporting the press.
  • As of 2016, the press was on firmer footing financially.

Wayne State University Press

  • In February 2020, Wayne State University fired three leaders, including the editor in chief Annie Martin, of the university press.
  • As of February 10th, 2020, the reasons for the dismissals were unclear.
  • The press sent a statement to its faculty editorial board that the decision was reached after careful consideration and was not intended to show a lack of support for the press.
  • The interim director, Tara Reeser, wrote an email to authors published by the press that aimed to assure them that the press would remain open.
  • However, Kathy Wilfong, the press' interim director in summer 2019, said that she was concerned that the dismissals were the first step in closing or fundamentally altering the press.
  • In response to the dismissals, over 60 authors signed a letter calling for the reinstatement of the staff members.

Other University Full or Partial Closures

  • In 2009, Louisiana State University slated its university press for closure.
  • Eastern Washington University and Southern Methodist University have both closed their presses.
  • The University of Scranton closed its press in 2010, citing budgetary restrictions.
  • The University of California Press scaled down the size of its press by 10% in 2011.
  • Rice University closed its traditional press in 1996 and reopened an all-digital press in 2006. It then closed the all-digital press in 2010.
  • In 2018, the University Press of New England was slated for closure.
  • In 2017, the Southern Illinois University Press was at risk of losing all state funding, which is $170,284 and 17% of the press' budget.

Additional Relevant Information

  • University presses are nonprofit, and while some are financially sustainable, many are underwritten by the university.
  • Most presses receive annual subsidies from $150,00 to $500,000, but these subsidies have been met with growing scrutiny.
  • According to the Association of American Publishers, university press sales increased by 5% in 2017.

Proposed next steps:

You need to be the project owner to select a next step.
In our initial hour of research ,we identified several leads on universities scaling back their presses. We recommend continuing this research by creating two requests, each of which would identify 6-7 university presses that have been threatened. For each university press identified, we would detail the reason cited for its closure, scaling down, or the firing of key staff, the annual subsidy it received, the community outcry, responses from the Administration, and any information on whether it had been or would be reinstated.
Alternatively, we could identify 4-5 trends in the changing structure of university presses, like who they report to, where their funding comes from, and more. For each trend, we would explain what the trend is, what is driving it, and one or more university that is partaking in the trend.
Other: You tell us how to proceed.