Bad News I Have My Eye On

The headline from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Utah State U. Press Is ‘Marked for Elimination’ Under Worst-Case Budget Scenario

The most chilling parts:

Mr. Spooner said that, except for the salary assistance, his press pays its own way. “We cover all costs of operations and publishing 20 books a year through sales income, permissions, donations, and our annual Swenson Poetry Award,” he said. “At the same time, without the salary support, we cannot go on.”


Money is one thing. How does one put a dollar value on the intellectual cachet a press brings to its home institution? Mr. Spooner speaks passionately about the nonmonetary value his press adds, and how its books and authors help make Utah State University part of a larger conversation.

Garrison Keillor read from a Utah State title last week on his “Writer’s Almanac” show, the director noted, and “scholars in folklore and composition and Mormon history often say explicitly that the only important contact they have with USU is through our books. These are not marginal fields, but they are also not overserved by publishers. Without USU Press, important research and theory will be lost.”

He fears that point may be hard to convey to the number crunchers. “The budget planners’ model defines us as a nonessential unit because we are a not a degree-granting unit. I understand,” Mr. Spooner said. “What they don’t understand is how it would cost our institution in terms of its reputation, image, and impact to close us.

“I have heard of closing university presses in trouble for long-term deficits or for lack of impact, but I have never seen a press closed that was operationally sound, financially stable, and overachieving its given mission.”

I’m not sure I can even talk about this, but I didn’t want to let it pass unnoticed.

10 thoughts on “Bad News I Have My Eye On

  1. There are some groups being formed to try to save the press. My colleagues in composition studies are particularly upset about this because it’s the premier press in their field. There are campaigns sending letters to the president of the U. It’s particularly frightening because this press seems so self-sufficient in many ways.

  2. Well, why go as far as Utah to bring up this topic? Bredesen is cutting Tennessee higher ed budgets by $100 million next year. I’ve just secured a Fullbright to teach in France next year and could still lose my job because of budget cuts.

    Only 16% of Tennesseans hold college degrees. Sounds like a good idea to cut college budgets, no?

  3. Sorry, that sounded snarky and I didn’t mean it that way. I’m just livid that a state with such a poor history of educating it’s citizens is cutting higher ed funds. I bet our congressional leaders don’t even try and trade their votes to Obama for help with this issue.

  4. Well, first, congratulations, Casey. Getting a Fulbright is pretty damn impressive. But a gal tends to her own troubles, first, ya know? And we’ve all been under the impression that university presses “added value” to the university by fostering and supporting scholarship and that their presence, as long as not too monetarily costly to the university, was worth-while.

    It’s pretty terrifying to learn that’s not the case.

    But, yeah, I take your point about what’s going on here in Tennessee, too and it’s pretty damn frightening as well.

  5. No problem Aunt B. It’s your blog and you work hard at it. If I want a venue to select the discussion topics, then I need to work at running my own blog.

    I agree about the scholarly presses. No other publishing house will print books that sell 500-1,000 copies, mostly to libraries. And many of those books have changed my view of the world.

    I just think we libs need to fight the move to downgrade our public colleges and universities. Tennesseans simply can’t be this shortsighted, I hope.

    And thanks for the congrats. I’m still surprised I got the Fullbright. We actually have two at Roane State this year after not having one for over a decade.

  6. Oh, no, Casey, I wasn’t trying to dog on you. I was trying to obliquely refer to my own job and it’s seeming lack of stability without coming out and saying so.

    I worry that there are people who realize that they only get the power and the wealth they have if most Tennesseans have no better options. And we both know that cutting off a path to a college degree is a great way to insure a large population of bright people who are trapped into having no better option than to put up with whatever shit is dished out.

  7. I didn’t take you as dogging me. You rock, actually. I hope your job is secure as well. And I don’t mean to whine too much. I have several friends in the private sector–one the second in charge of Circuit City’s legal department–who have already lost my job.

    As our new pres said, it will be a long and hard process to undo the damage done by W.

  8. Aunt B,

    You pretty much always crack me up. We had that big dust up, but as I recall, you were funny and I was the ass hole. Along with Southern Beale, you are a daily read. Don’t get too excited though, Terry Frank is one as well.

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