Saving the Wilfrid Laurier University Press

This is an article from the WLUFA Advocate January 2015 3.3.

Eleanor Ty, English & Film Studies

The following are comments submitted for consideration alongside the IPRM Report to the Board of Governors in early January.

In early December 2014, a number of my colleagues and I in English and Film Studies were dismayed to find out that Wilfrid Laurier University Press was categorized by the Administrative team of the IPRM in the “phase out or minimize” category. Ute Lischke contacted the Press Director, Brian Henderson, who informed us that in advance of IPRM recommendations and Senate approval, the Press was already told that their budget for next year would be substantially cut to the point of being non-functional.

We then wrote and circulated a petition, “Save Wilfrid Laurier University Press” outlining why the recommendation to cut the Press was problematic. WLU Press, founded 40 years ago, has now established itself internationally as the first choice press for many researchers. It excels in the Social Sciences and Humanities’ areas of Life Writing, Film, Aboriginal, Gender, Canadian, Jewish and Historical Studies. It fulfills the
university’s mandate to disseminate scholarly research, and further our vision of “diversity and inclusivity.” We asked our President for a commitment to continue the press, so that it can find a new model of sustainability in the next few years. We were heartened by the support of people from the academic and broader community, mostly from Canada and the US, but also from countries such as Spain, England, Poland, France, Brazil, Australia, Israel, etc. We also asked individuals who used WLUP books in their scholarship and teaching, authors and editors, to write letters to President Max Blouw, Vice-President Academic Deb MacLatchy, and Jamie Martin, the Chair of the Board of Governors. Several wrote very moving letters and Tamas Dobozy spoke to the Kitchener-Waterloo Record about the press’s importance and how the press serves as a way of “branding” Laurier as a research institution.

To date, we have more than 1,900 signatures on the petition, which shows the strong support the press has from the larger community. Sup-porters include faculty, students, alumni, donors, writers, readers, editors, and Canadian taxpayers. Many could not believe the news that our university can no longer afford to support a prestigious press, which operates on a minimal cost of around $300,000 to $400,000 a year, and has been willing to innovate and embrace digital delivery in the publishing world.

We all would like to help the university transform into a first-class destination for undergraduate and graduate students, and we are aware that there are many financial challenges today due to lower enrolment. However, phasing out a program that promotes our brand worldwide, gives us prestige as an institution that cares about diversity, aboriginal causes, new media and social justice does not seem like the right direction in which to go.

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