University of Missouri Press will remain open

The University of Missouri-Columbia will take over responsibility for an academic press, printing books and digital publications, administrators said Tuesday.

The announcement comes after recent controversy about the future of the University of Missouri Press. University officials said control of the press will be shifted from the four-campus university system to the Columbia campus.

The press will remain at its same location in Columbia and employees now working there have been asked to stay in their current roles.

"My goal is to develop a press that is vibrant and adaptive, but I realize that change is often difficult," Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri system, said in a statement. "I have been listening to the support and dedication the community and others have shown the Press, and make every assurance that university administration is working to create the kind of Press of which the academic community and those that it serves can be proud."

The University of Missouri Press was started in 1958 and has become known for work on presidential politics, regional history and western expansion from the 19th century. It has 2,000 publications, including more than 20 volumes on Missouri writer Mark Twain.

Earlier this year, Wolfe announced plans for the university system to phase out the press, which has received a $400,000 annual subsidy.

University of Missouri-Columbia spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken said the plan had been to eventually transfer the press to the Columbia campus, and officials decided to make the transition sooner. She said some financial details still need to be worked out.

Before Tuesday's announcement, concerns about the possible future plans for the University of Missouri Press had prompted several authors to say they would take book projects elsewhere or ask for their publishing rights to be returned.

Several thousand people signed an online petition, and some critics created a page on Facebook called Save the University of Missouri Press. A message posted Tuesday called the decision announced Tuesday a "tremendous victory" but warned that it could end up bittersweet because of the damage from the controversy over its future.

Ned Stuckey-French, an associate professor of English at Florida State University, said he still wants back publication rights and no longer wants to be associated with the University of Missouri Press. It published his book, "The American Essay in the American Century."

"They've destroyed the press," he told The Associated Press in an interview.

The plans announced Tuesday also call for establishing a new advisory committee for the press. The committee is to include faculty representatives from the University of Missouri system campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla, as well as authors, students and experts in scholarly publishing.

The committee's duties will include making sure the press continues publishing books as digital editions are expanded, and integrating the press with the academic and research missions of the Columbia campus. The committee also will help search for a new editor-in-chief, who will have a faculty role.

In addition to still printing books, the press will adopt a broader approach, said University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor Brady Deaton.

"Going forward, we envision that the press will publish not less — but more — scholarly work," Deaton said in a statement.

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