On Thursday, May 13, 2010, members of PEN Texas passed a resolution expressing astonishment and dismay at the news that SMU’s office for academic affairs has decided to suspend operations of Southern Methodist University Press. This internationally affiliated group of PEN writers, publishers, librarians, and scholars–many of whom are SMU alumni–hopes that Provost Paul Ludden will reconsider his decision in light of the enormous cultural capital the press has acquired for the university over the past 73 years.
Our PEN members welcome the Provost’s May 19 proposal to recreate the press. We urge the Provost to consider SMU Press as a capital investment in the marketplace of culture. A university press generates for the university, not profit, but prestige. The high esteem of the press has been demonstrated by its award-winning books, its influence on literary taste, and the national outcry following its suspension.
PEN Texas thinks that the annual budget for the SMU Press, some $400,000, should not be the principal factor in determining decisions to suspend such a potentially vital part of the university, nor should the financial viability of titles determine their publication. Rather, such decisions should be based on enhancing the literary prestige of the press, and its contributions to the university’s scholarly identity.
We urge Provost Ludden not to weaken SMU’s national reputation, but to re-energize the press by suggesting new directions for its publishing program, and by soliciting financial contributions for its endowment from patrons who want to see the press survive.