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Feb. 21, 2013 Volume 34, No. 24

Faculty Council’s ad hoc group releases report concerning Missouri Press


Faculty Council formed the group last October

report released March 14 by an MU committee on the closing of the University of Missouri Press concluded that faculty were not consulted on the decision. The committee appointed last October by Faculty Council asks in the report that in the future faculty have more input and consultation with administrators on issues that overlap faculty concerns.

The Ad Hoc Root Causes Committee interviewed 18 MU and University of Missouri System faculty and administrators. The committee also reviewed six reports by outside consultants who offered advice on the future of the press before UM President TimWolfe announced its closing May 24, 2012.

Though the committee was not formed to find fault, its review of the decision-making process leading to the closing was blunt.  “The processes used to make these Press decisions were clumsy and opaque and could have been improved,” the report says.

At the recent Faculty Council meeting, some council members applauded the thoroughness of the 19-page report. “Let’s consider this document as a stake in the ground,” said Craig Roberts, a professor in plant sciences. 

Some highlights of the report, called “The Decisions to Close and Reopen the University of Missouri Press: A Review of Processes,” are as follows:

• The president was within his authority to close the press, per the Collected Rules and Regulations section on executive order.

• A group of about 12 people, assembled by Steve Graham, UM System senior associate vice president for academic affairs, met perhaps five times between October 2011 and mid-January 2012 to discuss the future of the press. No press employees were present, and faculty consultation was not sought or obtained.

• The decision to keep the press open and move it to the MU campus, announced Aug. 28, 2012, was “probably not” the result of actions by Faculty Council and other faculty. Public outcry also wasn’t the deciding factor. According to the report, the reason appears to have been economic speculation that lawsuits from existing press authors and those under contract “could reduce annual revenue by $800,000” if the suits prevailed in court.

Wolfe, through a UM System spokesperson, declined to comment on the findings.

The committee was made up of Chair Arthur Jago, professor of management; Sudarshan Loyalka, Curators Professor of Nuclear Engineering; Douglas Wakefield, director of the Center for Health Care Quality; William Wiebold, a professor of plant sciences; and Russ Zguta, professor of Russian history.

During his Faculty Council presentation of committee findings, Jago said he hopes administrators have learned that “when in doubt, err on the side of consultation, not on autocracy. We want the university to mature in its relationship between administrators and faculty.”

Provost Brian Foster was positive about the future of the scholarly publishing house. 

Though he told council the press will always have to be subsidized — as are most scholarly publishing houses in America — “the press is moving forward well,” he said. 

Foster also said that the national search continues for a Missouri Press director.

Meanwhile, Faculty Council is considering forming an ad hoc committee to review the closure of MU’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute one year ago.