Our Opinion: University reverses decision on publishing

News Tribune editorial

A university is a conduit for the free flow of information.

Consistent with that concept is a wise reversal by University of Missouri officials regarding the school’s publication of scholarly materials.

The university’s initial plan was to eliminate the University of Missouri Press, remove the staff and end the school’s $400,000 annual subsidy to the operation.

School officials subsequently backed away from closing the operation and instead proposed moving from print to digital publishing.

Additional backtracking was announced Tuesday, with the announcement the operation will be retained, with changes.

First, we commend the administration for rethinking the issue.

Admittedly, pressure was brought to bear by: Authors, who threatened to take projects elsewhere and requested return of their publishing rights; opponents, who organized rallies and created a Facebook page to save the operation; and Missourians and students, whose petition signatures swelled into the thousands.

Nevertheless, reversing a decision is difficult — and often resisted — by administrators.

The reversal was not a wholesale retreat; it was accompanied by some modifications.

Among them, control of the operation will shift from the previous fourcampus system to the Columbia campus, where operations will continue.

Additionally, a new advisory committee will be created. Representatives will include: faculty from the system’s four campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla; authors; students; and experts in scholarly publishing.

Tim Wolfe, president of the university system, is optimistic about the future. He envisions “the kind of Press which the academic community and those that it serves can be proud.”

Others fear the controversy has damaged, if not destroyed, the operation’s future.

We align ourselves with the optimists.

Academic publishing, both print and digital, needs venues.

The reversal by university officials shows they are able to listen and open to change. In short, they are teachable. Scholars and authors should respect that.

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