Academic Affairs phases out Columbia Press

By Tatiana Walk-Morris

The Academic Affairs office will phase out the Columbia College Chicago Press “after careful consideration,” according to Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

The Press, located in the Wabash Campus building, 623 S. Wabash Ave., will be removed by the end of the calendar year because it has been operating at a financial loss for the past five years, Love said.

The decision to phase out the Press was announced Jan. 11 in an email from Love the entire college community.

“Given the priorities of the college, the Press was not a top priority of the college,” Love said. “We have to be very conscious of where we’re spending our money.”

According to Susan Marcus, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, the Press lost $218,000 last year. She said the program will still be phased out despite the Academic Affairs department’s efforts to reduce operation costs in an attempt to save the Press.

“Due to the decline in enrollments, revenue across the college has decreased, and therefore we had to make cuts. By phasing out the Press, we were able to avoid making additional cuts to other

academic areas.”

The Press has published more than 100 titles before and after Columbia acquired it. Columbia is currently negotiating contracts with the authors, said Stephen DeSantis, director of Academic Initiatives. Academic Affairs hopes to phase out the Press by the end of the year, but it may take longer depending on the past and current authors’ contracts, DeSantis said.

“Columbia will do its best to help the authors get their work distributed as the program is eliminated,” DeSantis said. “The Press is more like a family than a business.”

Columbia will meet with the University of Chicago in early February to discuss the University’s interest in reviewing Columbia’s printed titles, DeSantis said.

According to DeSantis, the university wants to see which of the Press’ titles fits what it publishes

“We would talk to the author, and we would shift the contract over so they could represent the author

going forward,” he said.

Nick Jaffe, co-author of “Teaching Artist Journal,” published by the Press, said he was upset when he learned Columbia would end

the program.

“It’s not necessary, but it’s useful to have a reflection of Columbia’s leadership in publishing,”

Jaffe said.

According to Jaffe, the U of C has already agreed to distribute the “Teaching Artist Journal.” Jaffe said he is working with the university to create an electronic version of the journal, which will also be available in print.

If a publisher does not pick up an author’s work, Columbia will give the publishing rights back to the author, DeSantis said.

If an author has unsold books in the press warehouse, the author’s contract allows him or her to purchase their books at a very discounted price, he added.

Several of the authors are photographers, according to DeSantis.

“They do exhibitions and book signings, so these are opportunities for them to take their books and get them into the hands of people who will appreciate them,” he said.

The Press, formerly known as the Center for American Places, was a nonprofit, academic press the college purchased five years ago.

“There was a relationship [between the Center for American Places and] the department of Photography,” Love said of the acquisition. “It seemed like a good thing for the college to support a press with overlapping interests.”

When Columbia acquired the Press, the college was unaware of the potential deficit it would cause, Love said. Columbia will keep the Press’ name in case it is ever reopened; however, Love said there are no plans to revive the Press in the near future.

“We’re not saying publishing isn’t important,” Marcus said. “When tuition dollars are being spent and operation budgets are being looked at, we have to make priorities.”