In an op-ed article published in the July 15 edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune (“Fit for Print”), author and Missouri native William Least Heat-Moon has made a serious proposal to ensure the future of the University of Missouri Press. He calls on the President of the University of Missouri System, Timothy Wolfe, to rescind his decision, announced on May 24, to close the Press, and pledges that if he does so, Mr. Heat-Moon will give a “five-figure, initial donation for the establishment of an endowment to continue the Press in its present form.” His essay concludes, “I hope other people disturbed by the shuttering will join me with a contribution appropriate to their means. Mr. President, call me.”
In the article, Mr. Heat-Moon criticizes two proposals apparently being considered by the System administration. Under one, another university press would take over all the publishing activities of the University of Missouri Press except acquisitions in exchange for 85% of the sales revenue; it would return 15% to Missouri. Under the other, the Press would come under the management of the Missouri Review, which is published out of the School of Arts and Science on the Columbia campus, and largely staffed by students.
Whatever the merits of these plans, neither seems likely to inspire a renewed sense of intellectual vigor and grand purpose. What they have in common is the dismantling of an enterprise that has served the University and citizens of Missouri with distinction since 1958—and dismantling it, as Mr. Heat-Moon’s article points out, at the very moment it had achieved the financial goals previously approved by the System administration.
Surely the University and the state deserve better. We applaud Mr. Heat-Moon’s willingness, as the saying goes, to put his money where his mouth is. The Association of American University Presses doesn't have the financial resources to contribute to a fundraising campaign for the Press, but we do have other resources, including a wealth of information and professional experience, that we would be more than happy to contribute. Mr. President, call us.
Later in the day yesterday, the University of Missouri administration announced its plan for integrating the Press into a “campuswide model” dependent on student and faculty labor. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that a number of authors have moved to pull their work from the Press in response.