Brandon Addeo | News Editor
After 90 years of operation, the Duquesne University Press, which publishes scholarly books, is set to shut its doors.
The university announced it was cutting funding to the Press Feb. 3, citing the decision as a money-saving measure. Three full-time employees and two graduate assistants stand to lose their jobs, according to Susan Wadsworth-Booth, director of the Duquesne University Press.
“In the context of rapid changes in the world of scholarly publishing, Duquesne has been far from alone in having to confront the challenging question of whether it could afford to continue to underwrite the costs of a press,” Duquesne Provost Timothy Austin said in an email to faculty Feb. 3. “In recent years, the Press has been unable to attract sales adequate to cover its costs, and the University has committed large sums to subsidizing its operation. In an era of cost containment, this is no longer a viable path.”
According to Inside Higher Ed, the Press receives a nearly $200,000 annual subsidy from Duquesne. DU spokeswoman Bridget Fare said the press runs an approximately $300,000 deficit.
Wadsworth-Booth said the Press will remain open for at least several more months as they continue to complete “contractual obligations” for book production.
In the weeks since the announcement, faculty, alumni and scholars have sent letters to the administration asking them to reconsider the decision.
Fare said the university will remain “open to suggestions of possible ways to avoid closing the Press or about new ways of disseminating scholarly material, but those possibilities cannot include the $300,000 budget impact.”
“Some of [our] operations, while valuable in their own right, are ancillary to our core mission,” she said. “We recognize that the contributions of the Press and the quality of the publications in their respective fields have helped the university’s reputation. However, we simply cannot continue to fund the Press at the expense of our core mission of educating students.”
Daniel Burston, an associate professor of psychology at Duquesne, disagreed with the university’s decision.
“I think that the administration’s decision is premature,” said Burston, who had a book published with the Press in 2006. “Faculty, alums and authors should have been consulted beforehand.”
Burston said he enjoyed working with the Press.
“When I came [to Duquesne] 25 years ago, I felt fortunate to be part of a unique scholarly environment,” he said. “The Press was very much a part of that environment.”
While Burston said he was “very sad” about news of the closure, he added that smaller university presses like Duquesne’s tend to be “not profitable.”
Nevertheless, he still thinks there is a place for the press at Duquesne.
“The value that these small presses contribute to the university that support them seldom consists in dollars and cents … but in the prestige and gratitude accrued from scholars in the fields that the press publishes and serves,” Burston said.
Leswin Laubscher, chair of Duquesne’s psychology department, said the decision to close the Press was “hard” to take.
“[The Press] is such a gem in Duquesne’s crown,” Laubscher said.
The Press publishes about 10 new books each year, according to Wadsworth-Booth. She said the Press works with several printing companies who specialize in “short-run” printing — where typically less than 1,000 copies of a book are printed. They also do “on-demand” printing for older books, she added.