A letter from members of the Stanford academic community has been circulating in support of Stanford University Press. We are members of the larger academic community who rely on the Press for our own work. We want to add our voices to those of your own scholars at Stanford. The intellectual value of Stanford University Press extends far beyond your campus.
You have announced the elimination of the modest annual subsidy (~$1.7 million) to Stanford University Press, a move that will be severely damaging and likely fatal to the Press. Academic presses are vital to the life of the university and to the world of learning. They are the means by which we communicate the results of our research, and the entire university mission of teaching and scholarship relies upon them. Stanford University Press is the oldest press in the western United States, with a long tradition of publishing major works in many areas of inquiry. It provides a vital public service that Stanford should be proud of.
If we use a purely financial metric to assess the value of academic books, the scholarly mission of the academy will be lost. Presses will publish only profitable books, graduate students will write only profitable dissertations, and tenure will be awarded based on scholarship that is profitable. This will skew research and publication in exactly the wrong direction, away from the mission and purpose of a university, which is pursuit of knowledge and truth, and toward marketability The proposed elimination of Stanford University Press’s subsidy is an attack on academic freedom and free inquiry.
While of course a university needs enough money to continue functioning, no single unit need be "self-sustaining," much less profitable, when viewed in isolation. We note that, according to Stanford Daily, the "net annual cost [of the athletic department at Stanford] is ... around $67 million." The Stanford Athletic Department thus appears not to be "self-sustaining." Why have you chosen to single out the University Press for this application of supposed "business models" when other units on campus similarly do not turn a profit? The point of a University Press, or any academic department, is not profit. Nor, obviously, is this the mission of a major (non-profit) research university.
We urge you to rethink your approach to the Press and to recommit Stanford to its long tradition of fostering new knowledge, path-breaking intellectual work, and free inquiry. The Press forms part of the core mission of the great university that Stanford is and that, we hope, it will remain.