Louisiana State University Press, one of the South’s top scholarly publishers, could fall victim to its state’s budget hemorrhage, and supporters are rallying to keep it alive. The Louisiana Legislature wants to slash funds for higher education, and that includes a proposed $40-million cut for the press’s home institution, LSU at Baton Rouge, said Bob Mann, a professor of mass communication there. He also edits a series for the press.
The press counts on about 2 percent of that $40-million to stay afloat, Mr. Mann said. He called it a good bargain: “You get a lot of bang for your buck. It’s a pretty inexpensive way to share the research and scholarship that comes out of this university with the rest of the country.”
LSU Press enjoys a strong reputation as a publisher of history, fiction, and poetry, with an emphasis on Southern writers and themes. It has published James Lee Burke, James Dickey, John Hope Franklin, and C. Vann Woodward. It has bragging rights to what Peter J. Givler, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, calls “a bushel basket of national prizes and awards,” four Pulitzers among them. Mr. Givler also serves on the press’s advisory board.
The Chronicle was not able to reach Michael Martin, LSU-Baton Rouge’s chancellor, or the provost, Astrid Merget, for comment. Mary Katherine Callaway, the press’s director, said the administration had been supportive but now must deal with “devastating” fiscal cuts. The university’s proposed budget-reduction strategy makes the threat to the press — and to the LSU Museum of Art, the Alumni Association, and scores of other institutions and programs — look all too real.
“The worst-case scenario is that the press would receive no subsidy whatsoever in next year’s budget, and we’d face some really, really tough decisions,” she said. “I think you’re going to hear more of this from university presses.” Early this year, for instance, word got around that Utah State University Press might get the ax this summer because of state budget cuts. —Jennifer Howard
Update (5/8): An earlier version of this post stated that the press relies on a subsidy of about “a quarter of a percent” of $40-million. That figure has been updated based on new information from Mr. Mann.