Restore Funding for University of Akron Press
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To Everyone Who Reads This:
I've never created a petition before, much less on Change.org, despite signing many that originated here, so many that I unsubscribed.
Life's full of irony. Recently, President Scarborough closed the University of Akron Press. With a tiny staff in the best of times, the Press published many scholarly books of note, as well as one of the strongest poetry lists in the country, bringing devotion and honor to the republic of letters.
I wrote the following email to Dr. Scarborough this morning. If you agree with what it says, I hope you'll sign.
Dear President Scarborough—
Because I don’t use social media, I have come late to the news that you have decided to close the University of Akron Press, one of the cultural jewels of university-press publishing in the United States. The Press and its talented, dedicated, and tiny staff has been nothing less than a blessing to me since my book, Fat Jersey Blues won the 2013 Akron Poetry Prize. Further, in addition to the fine list the Press built and maintained in other areas, Dr. Mary Biddinger, Carol Slatter, and Amy Freels oversaw—how it pains me to have to write in the past tense—one of the strongest poetry lists in the country, one that easily ranks with the Pitt Poetry Series, BOA Editions, and Copper Canyon Press. Now its death testifies to the continuing shrinkage of those few parts of American life not devoted to buying and selling.
In short, I write in shock, in anger, and with a sorrow that deepens with every piece of news like this, news that confirms yet again the accelerating evisceration of American higher education—or at least the portion of that enterprise devoted to the humanities. I, too, work at a public institution of higher learning, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, a place where students and their families have become “customers,” where academic departments are “cost centers,” where faculty must “produce” and “maintain” “full-time-equivalent” “numbers.” Despite this, people here—teachers and students both—still transform their lives in ways that have nothing whatever to do with money, success, status, or certification of marketable skill. How deeply sad when another “profit center” not turning a “profit” shutters its doors, what a thorough betrayal of what education—messy, circuitous, richly ambiguous, frustrating, transformative, exalting—will always be.
Surely you know this. Surely some idea, insight, great teacher, sublime book has shaken you to your core, past any consideration of money or status or even food and shelter. I don’t want to contemplate what my life would have been and continues to be without such moments. What makes life worth living? Calculating profit and loss? Transacting business with “customers” seeking a guaranteed path to a salary? Luxury? Wealth? Power? No.
I’ve been a teacher for thirty-seven years, a writer for longer, and a passionate reader since age five. More and more, my chief practical consolation—no other consolation is possible given the realities I’ve described—is that I can retire in a few years so I don’t have to participate any longer in the withering away of American higher education.
Today: John is counting on you
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