How a University Can Sell Its Soul: HASTAC’s Stanford Origins and the University’s Current Decision on Stanford University Press

Cathy Davidson:

“Austerity” When You Are Wealthier Than Just About Anyone

In the wake of the decision by the President and Provost of Stanford University to either (depending on which account you read and when) kill its scholarly press immediately or bring Stanford University Press (founded 1892) to a slow death by withdrawing its $1.7 million annual subsidy, a story (perhaps apocryphal) is making the rounds. It seems an important administrator at a different elite institution once said that his university spent less every year to subsidize their prestigious press than they did to fund a faculty dining hall. If my back of the envelope calculation of space on an expensive campus plus staff and food, etc, is at all accurate, this story could well be true–even if it isn’t. I suspect Stanford pays at least as much to subsidize its faculty dining spaces and other amenities not key to the University’s scholarly mission than it does to support scholarly publishing at Stanford University Press.

The point here is that $1.7 million a year, in the operating budget of an extremely expensive and well supported university, is pocket change. For a point of comparison, one scholar calculates that Stanford pays about $38 million a year to help subsidize the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center; another notes that, if the 5% spending cap on Stanford’s $26 billion dollar endowment were raised to 5.1%, there would be 2.6 million more a year to spend on the the Press. And the University is in the midst of a major fund raising campaign.