Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Meet the New UM Press, Same as the Old UM Press, Sort Of [UPDATED With Comments From Clair Willcox and the Save the UM Press Facebook Page Organizers and News of Speer Morgan]

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 7:20 PM

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(For the record, Morgan never actually opposed peer review and had always promised it would continue. However, Ben George, director of Lookout Books, a literary press affiliated with the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, whom UM paid to be a consultant on plans for the new Press, had advised against it.)

"Going forward, we envision that the Press will publish not less -- but more -- scholarly work," Deaton said in a statement this morning. "A viable, fully functioning Press is essential to a major AAU university. The Press will continue to publish hard-copy books while adding a more broad-based and longer-term approach to scholarly publishing while preserving the identity of the original Press."

In other words, things will continue as they have been, until the university and its new advisory board, which Banken says should start meeting within a few weeks, figures out a new plan.

But what of the 50 authors who wrote to the Press to demand that the copyrights to their books revert back to them so they could take their work elsewhere, to other academic presses that care -- or at least give the appearance of caring -- more about serious scholarship?

"The Press never reverted rights," says Banken. "We'll be talking to individual writers and telling them to be patient, that the Press is still in transition." As for the series editors (who are academics, not full-time Press employees) who resigned their positions, Banken feels "almost sure" that the Press will be having discussions with them as well.

Meanwhile, work continues on the books that were scheduled to be published in the early part of 2013. "The Press never stopped publishing," says Banken. "It's not stagnant. It will continue to do what it's been doing."

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Update: The Save the University of Missouri Press Facebook organizers called yesterday's announcement "A TREMENDOUS VICTORY! A PYRRHIC VICTORY!" One of the page's organizers, Ned Stuckey-French, the director of the program of publishing and editing at Florida State University and author of The American Essay in the American Century, published by UM Press last year, wrote Daily RFT an e-mail to explain:

This is a victory because nine people were told they aren't going to be out on the street in an uncertain economy, but it is bittersweet, because unfortunately the administration did not hear the thousands of people who protested this decision all summer. The administration has waited too long and mis-stepped too often. 

They can reverse their decision, but they can't reverse history. 

They've destroyed the Press.

The Press's reputation, Stuckey-French adds, has been terribly damaged by the events of the summer and, despite Banken's assertions that the staff has continued to work amid the turmoil, the Press has no list for fall 2013. "No one wants to submit a manuscript that has taken years to write to this mess of a press," he explains. "Even if they can rebuild this press in years to come, there will be a long hiatus -- years. Who wants to be associated with it now?"

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