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MU Faculty Council report examines UM Press decisions

Thursday, March 14, 2013 | 10:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:54 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 14, 2013

COLUMBIA — A new report lifts the veil on how decisions were made about the fate of the University of Missouri Press last year.

The report from an MU Faculty Council committee, presented Thursday at the council's meeting, analyzed the decisions made by administrators and whether those administrators could make such decisions without input from faculty representatives.

The University of Missouri System announced in May 2012 that the UM Press would close. In August 2012, the system shifted responsibility of the press to MU and announced the press would stay open.

The report had several findings. They are:

  • That because the UM Press was not part of the core mission of the University of Missouri System, UM System President Tim Wolfe was within his authority to close the press by executive order.
  • That during the decision-making process, system administrators did not formally consult faculty or any faculty representatives. The only consultation about the future of the press was with an informal group that did not include any press employees.
  • That there was no emergency, financial or otherwise, that would have prevented administrators from consulting with faculty on the matter.
  • That decisions about UM Press personnel did not preclude faculty consultation about the press' future.
  • That system administrators consulted a single outside expert, Ben George, then an English professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, about the press closure.

  • That the decision to keep the UM Press open was likely a financial one, not a response to public outcry after the announcement. It was likely driven by an analysis of the costs associated with a closure.

The press received a $400,000 subsidy annually from the UM System, but money lost to lawsuits and revoked copyrights could have cost the system $800,000 annually if the press closed, the report said.

 

The report was made by an ad hoc root-causes committee appointed in October 2012 and led by Art Jago, professor of management at the Trulaske College of Business.

A key recommendation was to establish a common understanding of the meaning of faculty consultation and when and how to achieve such consultation.

Another suggestion is that for complex, gray-area issues, the Collective Rules and Regulations, which are black and white, should be used as guiding principles rather than absolutes.

Jago said at the meeting that when issues are complex, it's better to err on the side of faculty consultation rather than greater autocracy.

The report does not call for further action regarding the UM Press.

Jago explained the report to the council, and both the report's examination and recommendations were met with approval.

Council members complimented the document for its clarity. Member Craig Roberts, a professor in the division of plant sciences, said that future committees should refer to the document as a good example of a process examination.

"We should consider this document as a stake in the ground for the time being," Roberts said.

MU Provost Brian Foster addressed the council before the report was presented and said a search is in progress for a permanent UM Press director.

The press also will use more aggressive marketing tactics than in the past, Foster said.

In other action, the council:

  • Passed a resolution giving faculty the option to hold make-up classes for the Feb. 26 snow day on Reading Day, May 10. Professors must notify students about make-up classes by April 5.
  • Decided to use Qualtrics online voting system for an upcoming vote by tenured and tenure-track faculty about whether to expand the definition of faculty, which would allow non-tenure-track faculty to vote in campus matters.
  • Approved the creation of a committee to oversee the ballot's language and choose the voting period.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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