Stanford University To Stop Funding Its University Press (Updated)

Stanford University Provost Persis Drell has announced that the university will no longer be providing financial support to its university press, according to Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Many believe that without this support, Stanford University Press will have to cease operation. The press publishes around 130 books a year in various areas, including philosophy.

Some of the philosophy books published by Stanford University Press.

According to IHE,

The Stanford press actually brings in about $5 million a year in book sales, a sum that is impressive compared to sales of many scholarly publishers. But it has also depended on support from the university, which in recent years has provided $1.7 million annually. Provost Persis Drell told the Faculty Senate Thursday that the university was ending that funding. She cited a tight budget ahead, due to a smaller than anticipated payout coming from the endowment. (The endowment is worth more than $26 billion and is the fourth largest in American higher education.)

Faculty at Stanford and elsewhere have raised objections about the cuts, and a petition has been launched to encourage the Stanford administration to reconsider the funding decision. Among other things, the petition’s text compares the financial situation of the press to that of the university’s athletics program:

We note that, according to Stanford Daily, the “net annual cost [of the athletic department at Stanford] is … around $67 million.” The Stanford Athletic Department thus appears not to be “self-sustaining.” Why have you chosen to single out the University Press for this application of supposed “business models” when other units on campus similarly do not turn a profit?

Those who aren’t particularly concerned with Stanford University Press may nonetheless be worried about the precedent it sets for other schools. IHE quotes David Palumbo-Liu, a professor of comparative literature at Stanford, on this point:

If these cuts go through, it will be a terrible day for not only Stanford, but for higher education as a whole—it sends a signal that other institutions may well exploit. It is irresponsible and shameful. University presses perform both an institutional and a public good.

(Thanks to Zoltan Somhegyi for prompting a post on this.)

UPDATE (5/1/19): Stanford University Provost Persis Drell, acknowledging objections to her plan, has agreed to extend funding to Stanford University Press of up to $1.7 million for the next year as it figures out a “a financial model for the press that is sustainable.” Details at Inside Higher Ed.

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