Although the University of Missouri announced Monday the reorganization of the University of Missouri Press, which lost its funding July 1, the uproar that erupted May 24 when the university announced it would no longer allocate $400,000 to the 54-year-old press’ operations may not die down any time soon.
Speer Morgan, an English professor at the university, novelist, and editor of the Missouri Review literary journal, was named director of the press, in what the university calls an effort to “integrate the University of Missouri Press with [a] campuswide model.” Morgan will report to Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the university. The press is also being moved into McReynolds Hall, on the Columbia campus, where the English department and the Missouri Review are already housed. The 10 employees who are still on the press' payroll, preparing fall 2012 and spring 2013 titles for release, will be laid off. They are allowed to re-apply for the three open positions at the press, but, since the positions will also be English department faculty positions, it is unlikely they will be qualified for rehiring. The press in its new incarnation will have four paid employees, with assistance provided by graduate student interns. Besides Morgan, the paid employees will include an editor-in-chief, a managing editor, and a marketing director.
According to a press release issued by the University of Missouri, the press will rely upon “current and evolving publishing technology, wider campus involvement among closely linked departments, graduate internships or assistantships, and faculty to publish noteworthy titles.” Approximately 20 titles will be released each year in both print and digital formats “embracing the newest publishing technology and possibly multimedia,” in collaboration with the university libraries and its school of journalism.
Morgan intends to begin a national search this month for an editor-in-chief to replace Clair Willcox, who previously held that position. Also, according to the university’s press release, the press intends to honor its commitments to all of its authors, and to solicit scholarly works for future publication.
In response to Monday's announcement, author Ned Stuckey-French, who, with independent publisher’s rep, Bruce Joshua Miller, has been leading the charge protesting the university’s decision to defund the press with letters to the media, an online petition, and a Facebook page, criticized the university’s decision to reinvent the press.
“This plan, which was developed behind closed doors, with no real input from faculty or consultation with the staff of the press, cuts the paid professional staff from 10 to four, relies instead on unpaid interns and under-paid graduate student assistants, and lives off the 2,000-title backlist the press has created over the course of 54 years,” Stuckey-French wrote in an e-mail to PW.