What—or where—exactly is a university’s academic core?…Surely the press issuing John Kennedy Toole’s classic New Orleans novel Confederacy of Dunces or Southern Review publishing Katherine Anne Porter’s “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” does not run counter to the university’s mission. And yet, time and again, university presidents and provosts have displayed little regard for presses and journals, whatever their history of achievement, when it comes crunch time…What message does it send when the senior administration posits that such publications are not at their universities’ “academic core”?
In my brief experience, the relationships between presses, journals, and their universities is fraught with irony. Although I hate to speak negatively of academia – being part of it – universities and colleges tend to look in all the wrong places to save money. I say look at administrator salaries and the exponential increase in the number of mid-level administrators – who are hired to do things like look for ways to save money. At best, these budget-zombies simply cancel out the difference of their own fat paychecks. Meanwhile, you can run a pretty kickin’ literary journal for a fraction of what colleges spend on all kinds of perks and black tie affairs. Colleges might also realize that teenagers like to write, and the smartest of them can be lured into matriculation by a recognized journal. College presidents, smell that? That’s a whiff of your rising average SAT, ACT, and GRE scores provided you fund your presses!