Advocates, employees of UM Press celebrate its past

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 | 9:13 p.m. CDT; updated 1:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 6, 2012
A rally to celebrate the University of Missouri Press was held Tuesday in Jesse Wrench Auditorium.

*William Least Heat-Moon called the decision to close the press shameful in part because it embarrasses and is degrading to the university. An earlier version of this story incorrectly paraphrased him.

COLUMBIA — Before Julianna Schroeder read aloud from a 1996 book about early German immigrants to Missouri, a man shouted at her.

"Which press was brave enough to make a series about the folklore of one state?" he asked over much applause.

Dozens of employees, professors, writers and residents held a rally celebrating the University of Missouri Press on Tuesday at Jesse Wrench Auditorium in Memorial Union South.

Attendees read from books published by the press, including "The Collected Works of Langston Hughes" and "The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman."

Jane Lago, a member of the Coalition to Save the University of Missouri Press, distributed a pamphlet demanding that the goals of the new press remain the same as the old and handed out a list of about 40 authors who now wish to have the publishing rights to their books returned to them.

Afterward, she spoke of the commitment of the press' employees.

"They all worked long hours with low pay because they believed in the books and the authors," she said.

*William Least Heat-Moon, an MU alumnus and author who said he has never worked for or published with the press, indicted administrators involved in closing it, calling the decision shameful in part because it embarrasses and is degrading to the university. He described the proposed new model for the press as "bogus."

“We must not allow that change to happen,” he said.

On May 24, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe announced a plan that would close the UM Press. Later, it was announced that the press would return to MU with a mostly digital publishing platform; some hard copies would still be published. Under the plan, all employees of the press would lose their jobs. They would have the option to apply for new positions in the restructured press.

Least Heat-Moon encouraged students and faculty in attendance to raise awareness on campus.

The MU Faculty Council is expected to discuss the press situation at its meeting Thursday and possibly hold a related vote. Least Heat-Moon asked the three council members present to raise their hands and encouraged them to hold their ground.

"We should not go silent," he said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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