MU faculty and colleagues vow to keep fighting for UM Press

Jul 24, 2012

A group of MU faculty and colleagues concerned about the University of Missouri’s decision to close the University of Missouri Press have outlined a a set of goals that they’d like to see regarding the Press going forward, and loosely agreed to attempt to create a resolution regarding the Press through MU’s faculty council. Organizers of the meeting also say they have a list of violations they believe UM administrators have committed in its dealings with the Press and its staff.

A group of about 70 people – mainly MU faculty members – met Tuesday to reinforce their united concern about the future of the University of Missouri Press and the way the closure of the Press has been handled.

Stephen Montgomery-Smith is on the MU faculty council and helped organize today’s meeting.  He’s a math professor who says he’s worked at MU for 25 years, having got his first teaching job here. Echoing a concern that was voiced repeatedly at today’s meeting, Montgomery-Smith said the problem went beyond being about the Press itself, and was also about university administration dealings with faculty and stakeholders – he describes it as a lack of “shared governance."

“I see in many ways the press closure, I mean it’s an unfortunate thing that it happened, but it’s not the problem at the University of Missouri," he says. "It’s a symptom of the problems at the University of Missouri. And the lack of shared governance that led to the closing of the University of Missouri Press has been around this university probably as long as I’ve been here…”

William Mountz is a graduate student in the history department at MU, who also attended Tuesday's forum. He says the way the decision of the press closure was communicated is a problem for him: “Coming into the academy as a young faculty member, I ask myself, is this the way university presidents negotiate with faculty? Do they listen to faculty? Do they take what they have to say, or do they take the advice of the faculty when they’re making decisions like this? So it’s very concerning that this is my future career, and this is the place where I’ll be working one day.”

One of the meeting organizers, Donna Potts is a professor at Kansas State University and works with the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP. She has also published two books with the University of Missouri Press – and says that one outcome she’s working toward is to help save the jobs of the University of Missouri press employees:“My primary goal is to keep the jobs of the professional staff, I have to say. They were of such high quality, and the publications of the press were of such high quality it would just be unconscionable for them to lose their jobs.”

MU administrators last week announced a plan for a new University of Missouri Press under a new model that would be based at MU and managed by Missouri Review Editor Speer Morgan. The so-called new model would utilize a multidisciplinary team of faculty across departments as well as using student interns to continue publishing scholarly work.

Many at Tuesday’s meeting voiced concerns about that plan and vowed to continue efforts to save the Press in its current incarnation.