Posted May 24, 2012
The University of Missouri System will continue to focus on strategic priorities that are critical to its mission of teaching, research, service and economic development—even in light of recent level funding by the General Assembly—University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe announced this morning.
“We are grateful to Missouri legislators in both the House and Senate who recognized the importance of public higher education in the state,” Wolfe said. “But even though the budget calls for level funding for higher education, we at the University of Missouri System take seriously our role to be good stewards of public funds, to use those funds to achieve our strategic priorities, and to re-evaluate those activities that are not central to our core mission.”
Wolfe announced in April his six priorities for the coming year: focused strategic planning; attracting and retaining the best people; innovative instruction; operational excellence; expanded research and economic development; and effective communication of our value and importance. Achieving these priorities, Wolfe has said, will likely include position eliminations and program reductions across the campuses, including phasing out the University of Missouri Press starting in the 2013 fiscal year.
University spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said the university is currently reviewing the press’ business operations to plan and execute the phase-out. Similar to other industries, scholarly publishing is dramatically changing due to emerging technology, making traditional publishing very challenging. Typically, most scholarly presses do not generate revenue for universities—with most just trying to break even. The UM System currently provides the press with a $400,000 yearly subsidy.
The University of Missouri Press has pursued numerous alternatives during the past decade to overcome its growing deficit, including fundraising, establishment of a development board, setting new publishing goals, outsourcing and pursuing high-quality, cost-effective vendors. To stem growing financial losses and position itself for long-term viability, in 2009 the press reduced its workforce, but has not been able to operate without a deficit.
The University of Missouri-Columbia is exploring dramatically new models for scholarly communication, building on its strengths in journalism, library science, information technology, the libraries, and its broad emphasis on media of the future, Hollingshead said. Much editorial work would be done by students who would work under supervision of faculty to prepare for careers in scholarly communication in the new media world. Utilizing a new business model, publications could include much more than text, such as simulations, audio and other elements.
Hollingshead said that no timeline has been established for phasing out current operations. The press’ 10 remaining employees have been notified of the current situation. Employees will receive applicable benefits.