Friday, July 31, 2015 at 2:55PM
Here is my second letter in light of the response from Vice President Burns on Wednesday:
July 31, 2015
Dear President Scarborough and the Board of Trustees:
I am writing in response to the initial closure of the University of Akron Press as well as the statement by Vice President Burns on Wednesday that the press will be transferred to the library.
I am deeply troubled and concerned by this turn of events as a five-time author with three books under contract with the University of Akron Press. I have been with the press since they published my book, Requiem for the Orchard as the 2009 Akron Poetry Prize Winner. I consider myself a stake holder in the press and I value my relationship with Thomas Bacher, Mary Biddinger, Amy Freels, and Carol Slater. They have been instrumental in assisting my work and the work of many authors from the initial editing stage to the marketing and promotion stages. The staff of the University of Akron Press are top notch. I have worked closely with other university presses and indeed, the University of Akron Press is among the best in terms of its reach and impact in the field of writing and scholarship.
To move the press without its highly trained and competent staff strikes me as ill-founded. While it is not uncommon to move a university press into a division of the library system, it is highly irregular to do so without trained staff who have experience in editing, publishing, and marketing. Additionally, the Association of American University Presses requires that its member presses have a director and at least three employees. By placing the burden on an already short-staffed library system you are condemning what was once a highly successful academic press to failure.
A university with a press is a university with an enormous local, national, and international reach in the academic community. By destroying this valuable resource, you are in fact gutting the academic and intellectual reputation of the University of Akron. You are also eliminating access and educational opportunities for your graduate and undergraduate students. Thomas Bacher offered a number of U. Akron students internship opportunities and classes through the press where they worked closely with the staff to produce books about local history, politics, race and culture, and of course, poetry. Under the tutelage of the University of Akron Press staff, your students are taught valuable and marketable skills that will, in the long run, enhance the profile of your university. I do not think for a second that the decision to move the press into the division of libraries without the oversight of trained professionals will be a serviceable bandage to the great harm done to the students who will now lack professional models in the publishing industry.
Works published by the press have won awards and are widely lauded in classrooms at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels. A Face to Meet the Faces, an anthology published by the University of Akron Press in 2011, was one of the best sellers in poetry because of the editing, marketing, and design work by done by the team at the press. The anthology alone boasted over 200 contributors, each of whom are writers, teachers, public speakers, and dignitaries in literary circles. The branding reach of the University of Akron Press holdings from this book alone is enormous. It is used in schools across the country and its own authors are promoting and selling the work nationally and internationally. All with the University of Akron brand and all because of the leadership of the University of Akron Press staff. And I'm only speaking about one book. Many of the books published by the press have gone on to win notable prizes. Susan Yuzna's book Her Slender Dress won the 1997 Norma Farber First Book Award and my own book, Requiem for the Orchard, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.
Reinstate the press and the staff of the University of Akron Press. It is a highly active press with an national and international reputation. It is a vital resource and training opportunity for students at the University of Akron, and it is a significant branding opportunity for the University, providing a strong impression on the academic, writing, and publishing community.
Oliver de la Paz
Professor of English
Western Washington University
516 High Street
Bellingham, WA 98225