Group to celebrate University of Missouri Press on Tuesday

Monday, August 20, 2012 | 6:49 p.m. CDT; updated 11:19 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 21, 2012

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story did not make clear the University of Missouri Press' intention to keep printing hard-copy books.

COLUMBIA — A rally to celebrate the University of Missouri Press will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Jesse Wrench Auditorium in Memorial Union South.

"It’s going to be a big celebration, not a funeral and not a huge protest movement," said Lois Huneycutt, an associate professor of history at MU who helped organize the event.

The program will include authors' readings, a question-and-answer session and recognition of the 10 press employees likely to lose their jobs. One employee already has.

Since May, when University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe announced the press would lose its funding, there has been a wave of backlash.

In July, MU officials announced the press would continue in digital form. Mary Jo Banken, executive director of the MU News Bureau, said the press would still publish hard-copy books but could not specify in what quantity.*

In early August, Wolfe and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton met with members of the MU Faculty Council to discuss the council's resolution to ensure the press' quality after the transition.

Tuesday's event will focus on the good things the traditional UM Press did for its authors, Huneycutt said. Authors published by the press will read excerpts from their books and talk about what the closure means for them.

"We have invited the publishers, students and the administration," she said.

Huneycutt emphasized that one focus is to inform members of the MU Faculty Council before they vote on the resolution of the press Thursday.

"The largest loss is that this is the major platform for storytelling for Missouri," Huneycutt said. She said she thinks it’s an important podium for the art, politics, history, ecology and economy of Missouri.

"Readers in the next 50 years will suffer without a centralized place to have a market and interest for the work," she said.

Attendees can expect to learn about the significance of the program from people who have been involved with it over the years and to learn what kind of activism they can take to oppose the closure.

Some people believe that a publishing platform isn’t the only thing at risk.

"If the faculty don’t exercise their power and put up a very strong fight then I feel that they’re going to lose their power," said Stephen Montgomery-Smith, a mathematics professor at MU who plans to attend the event. 

*Montgomery-Smith, who has publicly criticized the decision to close the press, said that he thinks it is symbolic of the other functions of the university and that to lose it is to sacrifice the long-term goals of promoting knowledge and learning. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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