As the fall semester cranks up at the University of Missouri, the fallout continues from the decision announced this past summer by university officials to reinvent the University of Missouri Press as a teaching tool with an emphasis on digital publishing. Tom Quirk, the editor of the Mark Twain and His Circle series of scholarly monographs published by the University of Missouri Press is the fifth editor of a series to submit a letter of resignation. In the two-page letter mailed to university president Timothy Wolfe yesterday, Quirk, who has been the series editor since 2003, wrote, “University Presses are woven into the very fabric of what institutions of higher learning are supposed to be doing” and those calling for a reinvention of Mizzou’s press “were and are woefully ignorant” about the function of a university press.
Besides editing the Mark Twain and His Circle series, Quirk is the author or editor of 14 books about 19th-century American writers, five of which were published by the University of Missouri Press.
Disclosing that he has been approached by another university press wanting to continue the series there, Quirk, who is retiring this year after teaching in the University of Missouri English department for the past 33 years, wrote that he leaves Mizzou with a “bitter taste of humiliation” due to the negative reactions of colleagues and friends elsewhere to the revamping of the press. One colleague in California, he complained, referred to the university as "book killers."
According to author Ned Stuckey-French, who has been leading the public opposition to the changes proposed at the press, the university has not to date released the rights to any of the five editors and 47 authors who have demanded them. “They did, however, release some authors on the spring 2013 list who had advance contracts and have offered the option of leaving to at least one other,” he wrote in an e-mail to PW.