UM Press supporters plan to enlist MU students to cause

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 6:17 p.m. CDT; updated 12:42 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 28, 2012

COLUMBIA — Nearly 70 supporters of the soon-to-be-closed University of Missouri Press met Tuesday morning to plan their next moves to save the press.

Among them was best-selling author and MU alumnus William Least Heat-Moon, who urged the group to take more dramatic action. He said they would not be able to win the fight inside closed-door classrooms.

"We've got to take this battle to the streets," he said.

He also urged the professors, authors and graduate students on hand to get the general student body involved when the fall semester begins in August.

The announcement by UM System President Tim Wolfe in May about closing the press caused an uproar in the academic community at MU, as well as nationwide. 

The MU chapter of the American Association of University Professors sponsored Tuesday's meeting to formulate a plan to save the existing press, which is set to close sometime in fiscal year 2013. 

Donna Potts, the AAUP chair of the Assembly of State Conferences and a professor at Kansas State University, led the meeting. Potts said MU's Faculty Council needs to draft a resolution at its next meeting — this Thursday — adopting the six goals included in the "Save the University of Missouri Press" petition, which had 5,051 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. The goals include:

  • Rescinding the decision to shut down the press and lay off its staff of 10.
  • Guaranteeing that the press continue to serve the citizens of Missouri and publish a broad range of peer-reviewed books.
  • Guaranteeing that the press continue to print books and train students — "but not use them to replace trained professionals."

The new press as described by MU's administration last week envisions a press that is almost entirely digital and in which students play a far greater role. Those parts of the plan have prompted the most criticism.

Truman Storvick, a retired MU professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical Engineering who has worked for the university for 53 years, attended the meeting and expressed concerns about the lack of communication between Faculty Council and the administration of the university. He was critical of the administration's management of the university.

“We’re using an industrial management model, which is totally inappropriate for an academic institution,” he said.

Stephen Montgomery-Smith, vice president of MU's chapter of AAUP and a member of Faculty Council, said he was happy that many different points of views got across at the meeting. He said he has no idea what the future of the press might be but that he had a “good feeling” about the discussions that took place at the meeting.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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