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Stanford’s Press and Shared Governance


Illustration by Stanford professor Ge Wang, tailored from a guide revealed by Stanford College Press

In the face of an avalanche of criticism, Stanford University provost Persis Drell has stepped again from a plan revealed last week to finish university monetary help for the highly esteemed Stanford College Press.  But the reprieve may be momentary, as Drell agreed only to offer funds for one yr.  The college has been giving the press $1.7 million a yr, whereas the press brings in $5 million a yr in ebook sales.  The press had requested a five-year extension of that follow.  Ending the help might effectively doom the press, critics of the choice say.

The subsidy amounts to a mere 0.027% of the university’s $6.three billion price range.  Stanford additionally has the world’s fourth largest endowment of $26.5 billion.  Founded in 1892, Stanford College Press (SUP) is as previous as the college itself.  Elena Danielson, Archivist Emerita and retired associate director of the Hoover Establishment, which is situated on the Stanford campus, stated that considered one of David Starr Jordan’s necessities when he accepted the inaugural place of Stanford president was to have a college press.  In accordance with Greg Britton, director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, SUP is “among the very best university presses in America” and “an incredible jewel.  It’s every bit the equal of its institution.”

The provost’s retreat got here in response to widespread protest and anger from Stanford school members, the publishing group, and students nationwide.  Several college departments issued statements of protest.  An open letter from Stanford school, students, employees and alumni collected over 700 signatures.  It asked that “any decision about drastic restructuring at the Press be made only after full consultation and well-prepared discussion in the Academic Senate” and be based mostly on the cautious examinations of an “external committee of experts with experience in academic publishing.”

“If we use a purely financial metric to assess the value of academic books, the scholarly mission of the academy will be lost,” the petition learn.  “Now more than ever, we should be sending the opposite message: That scholarly research is essential to a thriving society and that we will never waver in our commitment to producing and disseminating it.”

In an e mail to the school, Drell stated she “did not anticipate [the decision] would touch such a deep nerve in the community of our humanities and social sciences colleagues.”  One would assume that a provost — even one like Drell, a physicist maybe less conversant in these disciplines — can be cognizant of the help enjoyed by her personal university press, particularly one which annually publishes over 130 books, which win numerous prestigious awards.  However I think Drell did know that the press enjoyed widespread help, which explains why her try and withdraw funding was shrouded in secrecy.

Based on an e mail from Stanford literature professor and AAUP member David Palumbo-Liu, “The Provost did not consult with the Committee on Libraries, which is the Senate committee in charge of the Press; she did not consult with the Editorial Board of SUP, which is appointed by the President and consists of Stanford faculty; she did not consult with the Faculty Senate. The only faculty she consulted with was the Budget Group.”  As an alternative, on April 19, “she convened a secret meeting of chairs of humanities and social sciences departments to inform them of her decision not to grant SUP the funds they requested.”  That group was informed the cash might go to graduate fellowships, although the amount would fund only about three of these.

It was solely after a few of those chairs protested and leaked the news to members of the Educational Senate that Drell was compelled publicly to acknowledge the move.  At a frequently scheduled meeting of the Educational Senate April 25, Drell introduced the reduce as a part of a basic finances tightening.  Palumbo-Liu submitted a number of written questions concerning the press.  Listed here are those questions:

Why weren’t the school consulted earlier than you made your determination—you didn’t consult with both Editorial Board of the Press (which is a Presidentially appointed committee) or the School Senate?  You acknowledge that this isn’t simply a fiscal determination, and that a college press is an intrinsic part of any nice university’s intellectual id.

It’s reported that you simply stated to a gathering of chairs that SUP is a “second-rate press.”  Did you say that, and in case you did, upon what empirical evidence or research, in addition to gross sales figures, did you base that judgment?

I perceive that the one info you requested from the Press have been its financial figures.  If this is true, why did you not also ask for his or her record of authors, the listing of prizes they’ve gained, or the lists of their critiques and media appearances?  That is, info that may have given you a sense of the impression and value of the press, not just its value?

No college press in the nation is solvent, until it has a serious endowment.  Stanford has not allowed SUP to boost an endowment—it isn’t a fundraising precedence for Stanford.  So this can be a Catch-22 state of affairs.  What are your ideas on this?

In accordance with Palumbo-Liu, Drell answered none of these questions.

Jessica Riskin, Vice Chair of the History Department and Chair of the Educational Senate’s Library Committee, stated the Senate dialogue was “cut short,” because it was “not on the official agenda.”  But Palumbo-Liu and different senators are working to put a decision on the agenda of the subsequent Senate meeting, Might 9.

Regardless of the remaining consequence and regardless of the deserves, the Stanford administration’s move highlights a rising drawback all through U.S. greater schooling: the failure of administrations to respect the rules of shared governance and, particularly, the crucial position of the school in selections that have an effect on educating, analysis, and educational standards.  In a letter to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Drell, members of the SUP advisory board wrote:

Our understanding of how this choice happened continues to be spotty at greatest – and that’s the first drawback. We all know this system, vision, and vary of SUP higher than most Stanford school, and yet we have been never consulted.  Regardless of the particular problems are that this administration has with SUP remain murky to us, and definitely arose with out ever chatting with us.  From colleagues we now have discovered that a certain variety of division chairs have been knowledgeable concerning the planned cuts final Monday, and that they’re to type a committee to implement them.  We do not understand why it ought to be H&S departments being made to face this selection – the University Press in any case publishes extensively in fields corresponding to Regulation and Enterprise.  We also don’t perceive why the division chairs must be requested to make these very important selections, moderately than, say, members of this committee or others who’ve larger familiarity with the packages, collection and editors concerned.

We additional object to the velocity, even haste with which this choice seems to have been made.  We’ve been impressed with the deliberateness with which you each put the long-range planning course of into movement, and the endurance with which you’re letting it play out. It will make good sense that the College Press come up in reference to the problems raised in long range planning – it is a very important a part of the query of what kind of college we need to be, what our scholarship should seem like, and who our public is.  But this makes it all of the extra disturbing that in the midst of all this cautious deliberation, this determination has the appearance of being rushed by way of. . . .

. . . Given these stakes, careful deliberation and clear choice making would have been all of the more essential.

And thirty members of the Stanford Regulation Faculty school wrote:

Such a momentous determination ought to be made solely after full dialogue within the educational Senate, with a chance for all members of the college group to be heard. Moreover, we urge that any determination be based mostly on a careful examination of the Press’s operations by specialists with expertise in educational publishing who can supply an evaluation of the Stanford University Press and recommendations for improvement. . . .

We hope you will reconsider any choice to get rid of the subsidy to Stanford College Press and urge you to, at the very least, current any such determination to the tutorial Senate for dialogue to ensure you have an entire image of the worth of the Press.

Because the AAUP put it within the 1994 assertion On the Relationship of School Governance to Educational Freedom, “A sound system of institutional governance is a necessary condition for the protection of faculty rights and thereby for the most productive exercise of essential faculty freedoms.  Correspondingly, the protection of the academic freedom of faculty members in addressing issues of institutional governance is a prerequisite for the practice of governance unhampered by fear of retribution.”

Unfortunately, at both personal and public establishments shared governance has come more and more beneath siege. The poisonous notion that faculties and universities ought to be run extra like enterprise enterprises has empowered authoritarian directors and out-of-touch governing boards on the expense of college.  The high-handed conduct of Stanford’s administration is, sadly, only the newest example.