Inaugural Presidential Talk
Associate Provost and Director, Columbia University Press
I am honored to have been chosen to lead this organization, which I’ve been fondly attached to for more than 30 years. It’s always energizing to be at the annual meeting, among kindred spirits in the nonprofit scholarly publishing world. We do important work that no one else does, and this meeting gives us a moment to reflect on that. We publish books and articles that derive from original research, deep thought, and contextualization. We bring ideas developed by researchers to a wide range of readers around the world and thus enable our authors to participate in a global conversation. The works we publish are fundamental to public intellectual life, to policy-making, as well as to furthering a particular field. We engage, provoke, and educate readers.
Serious, peer-reviewed scholarship that is carefully curated, edited, and published in a not-for-profit environment matters now, more than ever. Commercial publishers—to quote a former president of this organization and former director of Princeton University Press, Peter Docherty—”generally don’t traffic in hard ideas.” And when they do—as many of the commercial scholarly presses we sometimes compete with do—profit, not scholarship, is their primary motive. Publishing and promoting groundbreaking new scholarship is at the heart of our enterprise, and our #1 priority.
For most of us, “University” is our middle name. In order to remain vital to our institutions, we must remain committed to the scholarly missions of those institutions, and we must position ourselves as strategic partners with our administrators and faculty. We must make sure they fully understand that we are essential vehicles for getting important ideas and values out into the world—ideas generated on our own campuses and beyond. An energetic, outward-facing publishing program is a tremendous asset to a university and to its faculty. We propel the university’s name into bookstores, libraries, and via review media and online and print conversations throughout the world in a way that only a publisher can do.
For this reason, it is important that we change the conversation with our administrators if it needs changing. If we focus on the value we bring to the scholarly enterprise; if we consistently show—and if our faculty and other allies bring attention to–all that we do to further the institution’s mission and its reputation, the financial focus on how much we cost the institution should become secondary.
In order to help us promote our value proposition, and because you tell us that the annual statistics are among the most important things AUPresses does for our members, I have established a Statistics Review Task Force to look into the annual statistics to see how they could be enhanced and made more helpful to members in sharing vital information with their administrators as well as helping them run the business. This Task Force will be chaired by Susan Doerr—thank you, Susan.
And in the wake of the important work done by this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, chaired by Larin McLaughlin and Gita Manaktala, and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, I have established a Gender, Equity, and Cultures of Respect Task Force, to be chaired by Christie Henry. Thank you, Christie. This Task Force will explore all the ways we, as publishers, can examine not just the composition of our own staffs and our own internal work cultures and codes of conduct, but the demographics of our authors, our faculty boards, our peer reviewers, our blurbers, and even our vendors, to ensure that we reflect a culture of equity and respect. This task force will coordinate with our new Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Committee that will be formed this year and that grew out of this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce.
In closing I would like to thank Nicole Mitchell for all her hard work as President this past year, and for including me early on in the discussions with Peter Berkery about issues facing our members and the board so that I am prepared for the new year. I would also like to thank all the chairs of committees who have graciously agreed to serve. They are:
Committees of the Board
Admissions and Standards: Lisa Bayer
Audit: Mike Bieker
Nominating: Darrin Pratt
Committees of the Association
Acquisitions: Clark Whitehorn
Annual Meeting for 2019: Mary Francis
Annual Meeting for 2020: Jane Bunker
Book, Jacket, and Journal Show: Karen Copp
Business Systems: Brent Oberlin
Digital Publishing: Lynn Fisher
Editorial, Design, and Production: Jillian Downey and Kristin Harpster-Lawrence
Faculty Development: Angela Gibson
IP and Copyright: Puja Telikicherla
Investment: Donna Shear
Journals: Katie Smart
Library Relations: Beth Fuget
Marketing: Erin Rolfs
Professional Development: Clara O’Connor
Thank you all – chairs and committee members. The association could not do the work we do without your commitment, your ideas, and your time.