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GEORGE KENNEDY: Press decision follows national trend of corporatization of universities

Thursday, July 26, 2012 | 5:30 p.m. CDT; updated 5:50 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 26, 2012

Having fled the city in a failed attempt to escape the heat, I returned to discover that the controversy over the closing of the university press hasn’t cooled.

Even The New York Times took notice, with a headline last week that read, "Plan to close University of Missouri Press stirs anger." So it has. Angst, too.

Both, I think, are justified. The former is earned by the ham-handed way in which the closure has been handled, with good people losing their jobs on short notice and minimal transparency about the decision-making process. The latter is likely to be longer lasting, because what we’re really experiencing is a chapter in the transformation of our university.

You might call it the corporatization of higher education. It’s a national phenomenon, perhaps inevitable and almost certainly inexorable. We may not like it, but we’d do well to understand it and prepare to live with it.

The most obvious manifestation at the national level is the rise of the for-profit "universities." More disturbing, at least to us traditionalists, is the impact on universities like ours, the ones we call "public," but which the public no longer supports. The corporate "public" university cuts costs, raises tuition, forms partnerships, coddles customers and emphasizes entrepreneurialism. For the actual instruction, it relies more heavily on non-regular faculty. Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

I can understand and sympathize with governing boards, such as our curators, who find themselves faced with rising costs, conflicting demands and declining state appropriations. What are they to do?

In our case, the curators have twice now dipped into the ranks of unemployed business executives to find presidents. Just as we teach what we know, so does a businessman lead as he has learned to do. That’s pretty much the opposite of the traditional academic model of collaboration, faculty involvement and openness.

Tim Wolfe, like Gary Forsee before him, was paid the big bucks to make decisions. President Forsee, I thought, worked hard at understanding the institution he was hired to head. He frequently professed his appreciation for scholarship and teaching. Still, during his reign, the university focused on a fourth mission – economic development – along with the traditional three of teaching, research and service.

President Wolfe hasn’t been here long enough to have established a track record, but it didn’t take long for him to see that an academic press that was a certain money loser wasn’t a core function of the university system. Not much economic development there.

So despite the anger and the angst, we shouldn’t expect a reversal of the decision to close the press.

To be fair, despite the headlines, the plan isn’t to close the press, exactly. Instead, the Columbia campus will take it over and reshape it along the lines of the Missouri Review, our long-standing and respected literary quarterly. Speer Morgan, novelist and English professor, will add oversight of the press to his editorship of the Review.

As Morgan explained the new approach to Publishers Weekly, a smaller professional staff will work with student interns to produce and market 20-25 books a year, beginning next spring. Scholarly manuscripts will be peer reviewed by faculty from all four campuses. Books will be published both on paper and electronically, as they are now.

Morgan noted, as the Times article also reported, that university presses across the country are in trouble, with several closing and others looking for ways to limit losses. In a corporate university, there isn’t much room for loss leaders.

I discussed these developments with my boss, the dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, who has been involved — though not in a leading role, he made clear — in the year or more of behind-the-scenes discussions that led to President Wolfe’s May 24 announcement.

He told me the hope is to find a viable model for academic publishing that will serve not only our university but possibly others. The old model, he said, was simply no longer sustainable.

That conclusion is why all the outrage expressed Tuesday, in a meeting convened by the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors (and well reported by the Missourian’s Fareeha Amir), isn’t likely to change the minds that matter.

Author and alumnus Bill Trogdon, aka William Least Heat Moon, stirred the small crowd with a call to action. "We’ve got to take this battle to the streets," he said, and the Missourian reported.

If I’m right, and I’m afraid I am, the battle is already lost.

(Disclosure: The University of Missouri Press published in 2007 a little-noticed book I helped to write and edit. Copies of  "What Good Is Journalism?" are still available, I’m sure, at a good price.)

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.


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Comments

Ellis Smith July 26, 2012 | 8:49 p.m.

Well, let's see:

Teaching
Research
Service
Economic Development
NCAA Division I Athletics

We're conducting an impromptu survey, George. Please place these items in YOUR descending order of importance as they apply to a modern domestic university. No "ties" are allowed.

We realize there are instances where the last item listed above cannot be applied, because the institution doesn't participate in NCAA Division I (or Even Division II) athletics. Examples: University of Chicago, M.I.T., Johns Hopkins University, Washington University (right here in Missouri).

For which of the activities listed is it often easiest to raise funding? :)

(Report Comment)
Ned Stuckey-French July 27, 2012 | 12:15 a.m.

I think that Professor Kennedy ought to take more time catching up on things after his return from vacation before he starts pronouncing the patient dead and the battle over.

While you were gone and since you've been back, Professor Kennedy, over five thousand people nationally have signed an online petition in support of the Press, more than 2500 are following the Save the U of Missouri Press Facebook page, the MU chapter of the AAUP passed a resolution supporting all six points on the online petition, and the Faculty Council just passed a resolution calling on President Wolfe and the administration to stop the closure of the Press, come out from behind closed doors and talk to the faculty.

Professor of Journalism George Kennedy is throwing in the towel, but fortunately practicing journalists are not. They are doing a better job of defending higher education in Missouri than this particular faculty member. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, and Columbia Tribune have all published strong, clear, uncompromising editorials criticizing President Wolfe and the Board of Curators and defending the Press.

Our role as faculty is not to wave white flags and let public higher education be corporatized, privatized, and skyboxed. Our job is to defend the academic mission of the University. This is not the time for Cassandras and Eyeores and the waving of white flags. It's the time to fight for the heart and soul of the University.

I invite Professor Kennedy to take a first step by signing the online petition:

http://signon.org/sign/save-the-universi...

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 27, 2012 | 5:30 a.m.

I agree with Ned Stuckey-French and others working on behalf of the academic press; however, this situation is symptomatic of larger issues.

The days when state legislatures funded a high proportion of state universities' budgets are gone; realistically, that situation cannot be expected to reverse itself, even if George thinks it should.

At the same time, if we can believe what we are told in our local newspapers and by campus information services, recent pledge drives conducted by MU and MS&T have resulted in $1 billion and $227 million (at last posting) respectively for use at those campuses. Granted, a considerable portion of the funds will only become available in the future (at the time of donor deaths and estate settlements) and much of it is "committed" by donors to specific purposes, but there's no reason to assume that money for academic/outreach programs can't be obtained through private means.

Could doing so in the present case compromise the "academic integrity" of the press? Well, if that's a serious concern then maybe we should discourage ALL private contributions/gifts to state universities.

One other point, at the time of the arbitrary decision to close it, the press was NOT as we understand it under direct MU administration but was under System administration. So, do those representing the rest of this university system's campuses have no say in such matters?

(Note: The MS&T goal, met with surprising speed, was $200 million. Astute readers will note a 5:1 ratio in goals. If they examine numbers of respective students, campus facilities, and number of living alumni it becomes obvious how the 5:1 ratio was determined.)

(Report Comment)
Stephen Montgomery-Smith July 27, 2012 | 8:36 a.m.

I believe that the University should cut costs. But they need to cut the fat and leave the lean. I don't think they will save money by closing the press - indeed I suspect the opposite is true.

One way they lose huge amounts of money is by trying to close down their very successful programs like the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute. It is only thanks to the NSEI's alumni and friends that the University hasn't been allowed to completely shoot itself in the foot.

The University needs to cut back on its corruption, special interests, and cronyisn. Then we will start seeing true savings, and university that is both cost effective AND performs its mission.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin July 27, 2012 | 8:55 a.m.

I'm with the commenters on this. In the world I live in, our leaders serve US, not the other way around.

To essentially argue that "because the leadership says it must be done (the 'minds that matter,' as George calls them) then it must be done" ignores not only the American tradition, but also a proud tradition of faculty activism I've observed at every OTHER American university I've attended or been part of in some other way.

The "corporatization" of the university is nothing more than code for the mass conversion of the university's mission, from faculty and student-centered to administration-centered.

You wanna stand by and let that happen, well then -- it will happen. But make no mistake: It happened because you let it happen, not because of some fatalistic, inevitable, universal trend.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 9:38 a.m.

Question: Should public institutions be run from the "bottom up", or the "top down"?

Apparently, it's not an easy question to answer. Many promote a "bottom up" approach for colleges and universities, but a "top down" approach for our police/fire departments.

What's the difference? And why?

I, too, bemoan the loss of our educational virginity regarding universities and colleges. Perhaps I'm showing my age, but when I went through college/grad school we were still in the midst of, as Ellis wrote, a priority sequence of teaching first, research second, and service third. Money mainly came from the state with tuition/fees a distant second.

Near the end of my academic days, I witnessed the start of what we have now. Sources of money were drying up from the state and the need for outside sources escalated beyond the traditional amounts of needed money. Why the escalation?

Well, we were constantly in a building mode, so we needed money to modernize the infrastructure either by fixing what we had or building new stuff. There has been unending salary pressures at all levels. Administration has indeed ballooned, but I suspect much of the angst about administrative costs is more of a political talking point than reality. Our med and vet schools have seen their costs jump just like all others, and so has the hospital. Research equipment costs have jumped through the roof, a phenomenon seen by those engaged in similar private enterprises. Name me one item or cost that has actually gone down in the last 50 years.

I fear the days of the public university are going the way of the dinosaur and telephone operator. I predict that within the next 50 years, most universities/colleges in the US will be privatized. Our current model is simply unsustainable and I think "traditionalists" will eventually have to realize and accept a different outcome.

PS: I didn't say you had to like it. I didn't even say you had to accept it.

But you will have to live with it, because it's coming.

Best to start dealing with it rationally right now.

(Report Comment)
George Kennedy July 27, 2012 | 9:45 a.m.

Thanks for reading.

As to Ellis' poll, obviously he has the priorities listed in reverse order.

More seriously, I'm afraid I failed to make myself clear. I didn't say the fight to save the traditional press was wrong; I said it's a losing battle. The decision to reconfigure -- not close, as some combatants continue to say -- the university press has been made. I'll be surprised if that decision is reversed. Of course, if I'm wrong, it won't be the first time. I didn't applaud the corporatization of the university. I just observed that it's a reality. If we want to change that reality, I'm skeptical that this is the best battleground. And one Faculty Council action didn't make it into the Missourian report this morning. The council voted -- shamefully, in my view -- NOT to ask that the layoffs of the press staff be postponed.

This is an important argument. I hope it continues.

gk

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 9:51 a.m.

Oops. First I said you have to accept it, then I said you didn't. Pre-caffeine thinking. Forget the last part....you'll have to accept it grudgingly.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 27, 2012 | 10:38 a.m.

"As to Ellis' poll, obviously he has the priorities listed in reverse order." Only as pertains to MU, George, not as pertains to UMKC, UMSL or MS&T. You really should consult an optometrist, George. You might be able to obtain corrective glasses that would allow you to see beyond the Columbia campus. We haven't given up hope of that, and might even pay the bill.

Again, it is worth noting that when the decision to close the press was made, the press was part of System management and NOT part of MU management. So, who at UMKC, UMSL or MS&T was consulted before arriving at the decision?

It's crying shame that the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution only applies to individuals and not to university and college campuses.

(Report Comment)
Stephen Montgomery-Smith July 27, 2012 | 10:42 a.m.

"The council voted -- shamefully, in my view -- NOT to ask that the layoffs of the press staff be postponed."

While I agree with you that the faculty council should have included the language about the layoffs (and indeed I was one who voted against this language being removed), nevertheless I feel that you are one who is on the sidelines being critical of those who are in the midst of the fight.

As Theodore Roosevelt put it:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

I am sorry to use this harsh language towards you. But please, join the fight. Sign the petitions. Don't discourage those who are trying to do the right thing.

(Report Comment)
Bruce Miller July 27, 2012 | 10:58 a.m.

We agree that making our universities in the image of corporations is a huge mistake, but we disagree that we must "prepare to live with it." On the contrary, we prepare to fight it at every turn.

Kennedy repeats two oft-repeated falsehoods, the first, that "The old model"--meaning the University of Missouri Press-- is "simply no longer sustainable." He attributes this comment to his boss, Dean Mills with whom I had an e-mail exchange recently. When I asked Mills why he didn't demand that the press be saved he said:

"Again, again: That's what we're trying to do. You don't think it's enough. We think we're doing our best."

No Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Mills, your best is helping to create the worst.

Clair Wilcox and others can explain how Wolfe and his buddies have misrepresented the financial picture of the U of MO Press. And for anyone paying attention, the secrecy surrounding the budget of the "new model,"-- A.K.A. Morgan's Folly--speaks volumes. Morgan has offered 110,000K plus benefits to a new Editor-in-Chief, more than a quarter of the entire U of Mo Press annual subsidy. It is highly ironic that rather than digging for the truth, the people running the journalism school are aiding and abetting those who seek to obscure and distort it.

The second falsehood in Kennedy's piece is the idea that "university presses across the country are in trouble." It may be that the New York Times news article about the shutdown gave that impression, but Kennedy ought to know better.

Peter Givler, Executive Director of the Association of American University Presses tells us that membership in his organization has grown dramatically in the last ten years. Also, Peter J. Dougherty. director of Princeton U Press, and the new president of the AAUP wrote an extended essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education ("The Global University Press," 7.23.12)about the international reach and rich heritage of university presses.

No one should believe that universities across the country are pulling their support from their presses because guess what? It ain't happenin'.

As someone who currently represents two dozen university presses I can say this with some authority.

Bruce Joshua Miller

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 11:00 a.m.

Stephen:

Ah, the martyr-guilt complex all rolled into one.

PS: It pisses me off that folks are having a hissy fit about jobs being lost at the Missouri Press, yet didn't say one blankety-blank thing when folks were recently facing the loss of their jobs at the local smoke shop.

In light of your silence, give me one damn good reason I should support your position and sign your petition?

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin July 27, 2012 | 11:14 a.m.

GK: Many people worry that the "reconfiguration" is doublespeak for closure. That the conversion to digital -- a part of the plan I support -- has not been clearly thought out or well planned. That it is an ad hoc response to the controversy.

They worry about this not to be combative, but because the plan involves other reconfigurations -- graduate students shepherding scholarly works; the Mizzou Review guy, Speer Morgan, suddenly becoming the Mizzou Press guy; talk of six-figure salaries for new Press administrators; a back list that allegedly generates $800,000 annually; and in typical form, the secretive nature of the discussions that led to the closure and Mr. Morgan's surprising ascendancy.

Add to that list conflict of interest concerns over Curator Bradley's recent big moves in the Columbia media space. Coupled with his vocal public support for the Press "reconfiguration" -- well, one wonders who they're all working with on public relations.

As far as this not being the "best battleground," battles are often imposed from without; you can't always pick the best time and place to fight them.

I agree with Michael Williams about rising costs, but I don't agree that anywhere near the same cost pressures have accrued to faculty salaries as have accrued to administrator salaries.

I also ascribe a great deal of higher ed cost increases to the Rise of the Administrative Priority: everything from building sprees that look great on admin resumes; to those god-awfully high salaries, over $1 million annually at the top of a few public universities; and in the high six figures all around Mizzou.

The closing of the MU Press is clearly an Administrative Priority.

(Report Comment)
Bruce Miller July 27, 2012 | 11:19 a.m.

"The decision to reconfigure -- not close, as some combatants continue to say -- the university press has been made."

If you fire everyone at a publishing company, including the editors whose carefully cultivated relationships with authors bring the books into existence, and you fire the marketing and publicity staff whose contacts with vendors and reviewers make it possible to sell the books (in both print and e-pub formats), and you do so with no consultation with current staff, and then shutdown the office, but open another office and call that newly-opened enterprise by the same name as the old business, does that mean you have"reconfigured" it?

You can use whatever words you would like, but you are torturing the language in order to defend your boss which is noble, but ill-advised, especially for someone who teaches journalism : reconfigure, retire, lay-off, dismantle, destroy, shutdown, close, use whatever word you like.

This reminds me of the classic line quoted by Arthur Koestler in one of is books, "shot in the back while trying to escape."

Bruce Joshua Miller

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 11:35 a.m.

MikeM: It would be good to see a compilation of salaries by category. The problem would be "where to draw the lines on category".

For example, for the purposes of such a compilation, what is an "administrator"? A Dean or above? Or some other higher level? Would the distinction be whether a person was engaged in research/teaching versus straight administrative stuff (I think this is the correct delineation in the absence of other argument).

In other words, I want to know the sum total of all faculty/staff salaries. I want to compare that total with the sum of all "administrative" salaries. Benefits should probably be included with these totals. I want to compare both totals with the total University operating expanses.

INO, I'm trying to do what I did when I owned my business....I'm trying to discern salaries (by category) as a percent of total expenses, plus compare the salaries of management versus non-management on a "total", not "individual" basis.

Finally, I want to discern if complaints about administrative salaries (and the concomitant notion that all our woes would be solved if only administrative salaries were reduced) are indeed excessive, or whether this is simply another envious hissy fit about "she makes more than I do and I don't like that".

Do you have info on this?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 27, 2012 | 12:01 p.m.

Five thousand people signed an online petition. Wow. Impressive. Considering how many people there are in the state or in the national academic community -- take your pick which pool that 5K comes from -- that's comparable to the dozen or so who showed up at Speaker's Circle to protest the cancellation of Pepper & Friends. (I would have participated, but I was with clients that day, and work comes first.)

Time for the vocal minority to admit that the times have changed and that loss leaders no longer are acceptable -- and that's assuming the press is even a significant draw for prospective students and teachers. Rice University closed its press, and US News & World Report just ranked it the 17th best college in the country.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin July 27, 2012 | 1:12 p.m.

Citing the Rice University Press may not be a good idea to make a counter-argument in this debate.

Ironically, the end of the Rice University Press began with its "reconfiguration" into a digital press.

Here's a passage from one analysis and some links about it below:

There have been several recent reports of the closure of Rice University Press.

RUP made a splash when it was resurrected as an “all-digital” print-on-demand, open access university press, the first of its kind and for many in the ailing university and scholarly publishing world, a beacon, or at least a canary in what is turning out to be a very large, very dark coal mine.

So if it’s closing down, it must have failed, right? There must be no money in digital publishing of scholarly works, right?

This must be proof that the only way to make money is with strong intellectual property rights held by massive conglomerates, right?

Wrong Wrong Wrong.

RUP’s closing is a crystal clear case of something entirely different: bad university administration.

http://savageminds.org/2010/08/31/how-no...

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/...

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/...

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 27, 2012 | 1:32 p.m.

Mike, my point was that when a school closes its press, it's not the end of the world. Rice did, and its reputation hasn't suffered. And that's just one example. Many other universities have closed their presses and haven't suffered the doom and gloom that the vocal minority predicts will befall UM schools just because they're changing the press rather than closing it.

Imagine if it were being closed. Would all four campuses immediately be overrun by locusts and the plague? The backseat drivers would have us believe so.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 27, 2012 | 2:25 p.m.

If, for whatever reasons*, a university (state or private) shut down its NCAA Division I athletic programs would THAT be "the end of the world"? Would the university suffer plagues of locusts? Is that how we'd describe disgruntled sports fans?

Apparently that fate hasn't befallen University of Chicago, whose current problems are more about being bordered on at least two sides by a sea of urban blight.

*- A scandal perhaps, but that couldn't happen.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin July 27, 2012 | 2:32 p.m.

I must be missing something, Mr. Jimmy Bearish.

Gloom? Doom? Locusts? Plague? I'm not seeing any such hyperbolic hand-wringing -- either literal or figurative -- from the voices of Mizzou Press closure critics.

Rather, I'm seeing recognition of this well-established fact:

"One of the measures of a great university is the strength of its press. Press strength is determined by its catalogue, and its catalogue by the choices of its editors and the impact of its authors.

"Think of the $200,000 invested by Rice or the $400,000 at Mizzou as the cost of being a strong university — a cost that in the big picture is most likely a fraction of the cost of one athletic coach."

-- Jeffrey R. Di Leo, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, and professor of English and philosophy at the University of Houston

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 2:37 p.m.

MikeM: "I'm not seeing any such hyperbolic hand-wringing -- either literal or figurative -- from the voices of Mizzou Press closure critics."
_____________

I dunno. "We’ve got to take this battle to the streets" seems a bit hyperbolic to me.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 27, 2012 | 3:37 p.m.

Mike, here's one example of hand-wringing: www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/jul/25... "Faculty are getting harder to recruit. Top-ranked departments are reporting failed searches and/or having to go deep ino their alternate lists to recruit new faculty. . . . Mizzou will be answering for this summer's Follies for a decade to come."

Here's another: www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/jul/15... "The university (meaning MU) is well on its way to developing a far more sustainable economical model. Get rid of the faculty, get rid of the brick an mortar, build up the athletic program since it can sell tickets as a semi pro farm system for professional sports (very slick--generating revenue for the administration without paying the athletes), hire more highly paid administrators, and sell the degrees. Bravo!"

There are plenty more examples on the Tribune website and elsewhere.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 27, 2012 | 4:18 p.m.

It's now been over 70 years since University of Chicago waved goodbye to the Big Ten athletic conference and ended major intercollegiate athletic participation. They are now Division III (no athletic scholarships).

The locusts haven't shown up yet. If they do, I hope they won't eat Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. That would be a serious architectural loss, and possibly more of a disaster than losing an NCAA Division I program or a university press.

Historical buffs may recall that during World War II the first controlled nuclear chain reaction took place UNDER Stagg Field, the former U of C football field.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin July 27, 2012 | 5:01 p.m.

Now you're quoting from YankeeClipper (anonymous) and AntonB (anonymous)? Already we're seeing the academic decline set in.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 6:17 p.m.

Ellis: In the interest of complete accuracy, I think the first controlled fission reaction was UNDER THE BLEACHERS of abandoned Stagg Field, not under the field itself as your post implied.

I think a guy by the name of Seymour Butts wrote a book about it, but I could be wrong.

Anyone in the bleachers at that time was in the proverbial hot seat.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 27, 2012 | 7:44 p.m.

@ Michael Williams:

I believe you are correct. Weren't those subterranean features previously squash courts? I tend to associate "squash" with a vegetable.

Hollywood has, with some degree of accuracy, made motion pictures dealing with the Manhattan Project. In one of them we have a scene where, in this underground setting, they are about to withdraw the control rods from the pile. The camera pans on a group of men standing together, each holding a fire axe.

"Why are they here?"

If we can't control the reaction, they will attack the pile and attempt to break it apart."

"And that will save Chicago?"

"No, but it might save St. Louis."

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 27, 2012 | 8:14 p.m.

Ellis: A big LOLOL!!!!!!!

PS: The only reason I'm posting right now is I started out watching the Olympic opening ceremonies. I...uh...snored once.

So, here I am.

GO LOLO JONES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 27, 2012 | 9:25 p.m.

Mike, Yankee and Anton claim to be in the know. I think they're just putting on airs. Nevertheless, they're examples of the kind of hand-wringing going on.

The sky is falling!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 28, 2012 | 5:17 a.m.

I realize we are "off topic" but since you brought up Lolo, she now lives in Baton Rouge but grew up in Des Moines and graduated from [Theodore] Roosevelt High School. In a period of eight years, Lolo attended 8 public schools! Her father is no stranger to correctional facilities in Iowa.

My interest is where Lolo and her mother were living when Lolo attended Roosevelt*. In Des Moines you can't pick a public high school. There are five, but you must attend the one in your district.

I think I know where they were living. Roosevelt's district extends nearly to city center but only NORTH of Grand Avenue (a street going entirely through Des Moines) My home was located in a "wedge" SOUTH of Grand Avenue, equally close to city center. Even today, my neighborhood, fraying around the edges, is a "good address;" the neighborhood NORTH of Grand Avenue has become a "combat zone."

*-I didn't attend Roosevelt High. My high school, long since closed and the buildings demolished, was open enrollment.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 28, 2012 | 5:47 a.m.

Back on topic. There are at least TWO issues involved. The immediate issue is the university press; however, the episode of press closing calls into question how future decisions will be made by this administration. Make no mistake about it, there will always need to be "future decisions."

Are we going to decide to close a facility without even having visited the facility and met its employees? Are we going to base our decision largely on having discussed things with one retired chancellor from JUST ONE OF THE FOUR CAMPUSES? Need another retired chancellor to discuss things with? We have one - in August he celebrates his first year of retirement. :)

At this point a reader may well say, "Smith, that's very nice but in the business arena aren't decisions sometimes made along similar lines. Yes, unfortunately they are: it's known collectively as BAD MANAGEMENT.

As to why faculty are "exercised" about the press, besides the desire to have an academic press, there's an implied "if": If they handled the press the way they did, what's going to be next? In my opinion, that's a VERY legitimate concern, at all four campuses.

(Report Comment)
Lois Huneycutt July 28, 2012 | 4:44 p.m.

The comparison with Rice University Press has been made, but it isn't quite comparing Apples with Apples, or Bowling Balls with Bowling Balls, or whatever we're using as a unit of measurement now. Rice is a relatively small school -- what, some 5,000, and it is one of many Texas schools. Their press was never, and was never intended to be, the major academic publisher for the state of Texas. The University of Missouri, on the other hand, has the charge of curating the history, culture, and art of our state and region as part of its overall mission. Dissemination of the new knowledge created at the University and elsewhere, has been a big part of what the Press has done. University Presses do not typically make much money, although some get hot titles or hot niches and do quite nicely. Universities that pretend to be top research/teaching schools have presses and have niches in the overall academic publishing community. If the people of the state of Missouri want a top-flight public university, they will bear the cost of the Press, and think of it as an investment rather than as a liability. If they do not, those who do can hope that Iowa, or Kansas, or someplace else values the region enough to pick up the titles that Missouri is relinquishing. And make no mistake about it, they are relinquishing titles. I know of no serious academic department that would consider a title published by the "re-imagined Press" (with its in-house review, free-lance/student copy editors, and on-demand printing) as having gone through the kind of rigorous vetting one expects of a book an Assistant Professor is using as his/her evidence of being worthy of tenure. Therefore, no junior scholar will use the new "press." And no senior scholar will be desperate enough to do so. This move will kill the Press, and it will reduce the standing of the University of Missouri in the academic community. If this is "hand-wringing," so be it. It is a dreadful move on the part of the University Administration to even think of cutting something so vital to the mission of a research university.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 28, 2012 | 6:35 p.m.

Rice University, formerly Rice Institute, is slanted toward science and technology. In that respect it more closely resembles MS&T (enrollment ~7,300) or Michigan Technological University than it does MU. A better comparison of Rice to something here in the Midwest would be Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (private, as is Rice), Terre Haute, IN. Both "Rose" and Rice are known for their engineering schools.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 30, 2012 | 1:10 p.m.

"Dissemination of the new knowledge created at the University and elsewhere, has been a big part of what the Press has done."

Look at the latest catalog. For the books that include the author's bio, not a single one is by an MU or UM faculty member.

(Report Comment)
Lois Huneycutt July 30, 2012 | 6:00 p.m.

First of all, the University of Missouri Press is NOT a vanity Press for MU/System faculty members. It is a professional press with one specialty being state and regional history. There are several books in the current catalog by system faculty, including "The Civil War in Missouri" by Louis Gerteis of UMSL, which is receiving favorable national reviews. There is one by an emeritus faculty member at Mizzou, and one by a PhD student from Mizzou who now works for the Missouri State Archives. There are many books on the backlist from system faculty. The head of the history department at Rolla had just signed a contract with the Press for his latest book when the closure of the Press was announced; his book will likely come out with Kansas. There are several more books in the current catalog by state authors from Washington University, Missouri State, and elsewhere. Again, preservation and dissemination of new knowledge about the state produced in the system AND ELSEWHERE, is part of the core mission of the University.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 30, 2012 | 6:39 p.m.

"The head of the history department at Rolla [MS&T] had just signed a contract with the Press for his latest book when closure of the Press was announced; his book will likely come out with Kansas."

Well, Rolla campus and KU once had a long-running tuition reciprocity agreement for certain majors (in which MU had no part), so I guess this wouldn't exactly amount to a "meeting of strangers." :)

(Report Comment)

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