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Goodbye Scholarly Publishing

Should the College shut down all money-losing parts of its operation? After the Hanover Country Club and UPNE, will the Skiway be next? What about the football team? After all, the administration tried to axe the swimming and diving team for budget reasons in 2002.

The big question comes down to what we see as the College’s core functions. The English department certainly loses dough, though not as much as the hard sciences like, say, Biology. Nobody is suggesting that we cancel those departments — though other schools have chopped their German departments among others, and a ways back, the College tried to end the teacher training program in the Education department.

Where to draw the line? And on what side of it does scholarly publishing fall? The Chronicle of Higher Education offers some background:

CHE on Scholarly Publishing.jpg

Local author Yvonne Daley writes in:

Dear Joe

I read your piece on the closing of UPNE. I am the author of six books, two of them published by UPNE, one by Simon & Schuster, and the others by small independent presses and a dying newspaper. Your addendum:

The University Press of New England has published about 60 books a year on the subjects of the humanities, liberal arts, literature, New England culture, interdisciplinary studies and fine, decorative and performing arts. The press has also published a number of books about higher education.

speaks to my concern.

I found the people I worked with at UPNE to be hard-working, thorough, and smart but I am only seeing the press from the outside. Of course, I don’t know the employees’ salaries or the press’s budget, but it seems to me that there should be a way to save UPNE by doing just what you observe they didn’t do: having the Tuck folks or someone else restructure a valuable asset to the region and to knowledge itself. I heard that alum had found $10 million to save or repair the golf course. What would it take to save UPNE?

Yvonne Daley
Rutland, Vermont

To my mind, an academic press is a core part of the scholarly ecosystem. Not only does a publisher print books (or put them up online), but its key function is working closely with authors to prepare a book for publication. After that, a press can publicize a work far and wide. And a small entity like UPNE can steer authors in the direction of larger presses if a book merits more ample resources.

Needless to say, UPNE focused on Dartmouth authors, along with faculty members from its ever-declining pool of participating schools. For the College to be without a press makes it a weaker institution. Asking our faculty members to throw their best work up online will condemn it to a lesser audience than those books that merit publication and marketing support.

What to conclude? As I have written many times now, each year the administration does less with more. Or to put things another way, once again Parkhurst has cut bone and saved fat.

Addendum: The D reported late on UPNE’s shutdown.

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