The Final Chapter in the University of Missouri Press Saga

Oct 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Remember how the University of Missouri Press decided to "modernize" itself last spring by laying off the entire staff and replacing it with a group of grad students led by an English professor? Well, to hell with that. Maybe the Press wasn't so broken after all.

Well, OK, maybe the threats of legal action helped change their minds a little, too.

Clair Willcox, the editor-in-chief whose layoff inspired a vigorous social media campaign among Missouri Press authors, many of whom he had edited, has his job back, the university announced this morning. Willcox has taken possession of his office again and is calling up authors with the good news.

"We're very excited to have Clair returning to the press as we move forward with this transition," Mizzou provost Brian Foster said in a statement. "He will provide continuity and help maintain the foundation that the press has built throughout its strong history. This is an important step in getting the press fully up to speed in the new campus environment."

Willcox's main task now will be repairing the damage that the events of the past five months have done to the Press's reputation, and to the Press itself. Currently, the Press lacks editors (aside from Willcox), a director and a catalog for next year. In addition, 58 authors have demanded the reversion of rights to 138 titles. Several of them have begun negotiations to take their work to other university presses. It's a mess Willcox will have to sort out.

Nonetheless, says Ned Stuckey-French, co-creator of the Save the University of Missouri Press petition and Facebook page, "It's a really good victory. I had to be scraped off the ceiling."