Save the University Press of Kentucky

Yesterday I learned that Kentucky governor Matt Bevin plans to cut funding to the University Press of Kentucky this year, which would force its closure. I have enjoyed a productive working relationship with UPK for over ten years and would hate to see this happen.

The press relies on a relatively small amount of funding that covers the salaries of their sixteen employees. The rest comes from book sales, which in recent years appear to be healthy. According to the publisher’s director, “the press is doing great.”

As many of you know, UPK has consistently published important titles in the field of Civil War history as well as other areas of American history and beyond.

My first two publications in edited collections were with with UPK. That eventually led to a contract for my first book on the history and memory of the battle of the Crater. The staff was a pleasure to work with. They worked around my full-time commitments as a high school teacher and were receptive to my own suggestions when warranted. I can’t think of a better place to wade into the world of academic publishing.

But regardless of the value of my own scholarship, UPK has been essential in advancing and promoting the history and culture of the state of Kentucky. Why any governor would want to pull the plug on important work that promotes history and education is beyond me, but it is hard not to see this as just another example of the anti-intellectualism of the Republican Party.

The next week will be critical to the future of UPK. Please consider joining me in contacting the governor and encouraging him to reconsider. The value that UPK brings to the university system of Kentucky and the state’s culture as a whole far surpasses the relatively small amount of state funding it receives.

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23 comments… add one
  • Mack McCormick Apr 5, 2018 @ 3:56

    Dear Supporters of the University Press of Kentucky:

    Based on the recently passed state budget, the University Press of Kentucky (UPK) will lose approximately $672,000 out of a total operating budget of $2.86 million against sales of $1.92 million. The University of Kentucky will work with UPK to plan increases in efficiency and enhanced revenues to partially offset the loss of funding. Further, the University of Kentucky and all partner institutions of UPK will be expected to provide financial support to fill any remaining funding gap. The long-term goal is to chart a strong path forward for UPK.

    The fact is that many university presses receive funding and support from multiple sources. Against that backdrop, a fresh approach to our funding model is economic reality. It reflects that technology and other forces are changing the way we transmit and discuss ideas. We should seize this moment to continue to evolve, as we have already been doing, in ways that keep pace with change and serve as a model for other university presses.

    In this context, it is critical that current and prospective authors and UPK’s business partners understand that we are on a path toward stability. Our short-term financial challenges are transitory. We urge our authors and vendors to understand that we are conducting business as usual.

    Many supporters of UPK have asked how they can help. This is how: share our news. Help the faculty you interact with understand that we plan to be here for the long haul. Help them know that UPK looks forward to continuing our work with writers and scholars around the world to advance thinking and scholarship. Help them understand that the best way to keep us growing and improving is to send us thoughtful, significant, and creative manuscripts of the highest caliber.

    We are grateful for the messages of support given to us by so many in recent months. We look forward to continuing to work with you as we chart our path forward—one that will secure the future of UPK and the rich cultural and intellectual heritage in which we play such a vital role.


    David W. Blackwell, Provost, University of Kentucky

    Deirdre Scaggs, Interim Dean, UK Libraries

    Leila Salisbury, Director, University Press of Kentucky

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2018 @ 4:16

      Hi Mack,

      Thanks for sharing this on the blog. I passed it along on my other social media platforms. We are all hoping for the best.

  • Rich Holl Apr 3, 2018 @ 17:53

    As of now, April 3, 2018, the Kentucky state legislature has done the bloody deed. The University Press of Kentucky was denied any and all public money and is slated for closure. What a colossal shame! Barbaric indeed, as Kentucky writer Wendell Berry noted. A pox on the house of each member of the Kentucky House and Senate who voted to kill such a cultural treasure.

  • Ken Noe Feb 7, 2018 @ 13:19

    Eleven days after emailing Governor Bevin, I received a form letter from his office that did not address this particular issue. It merely rehearsed the commonwealth’s budget woes, listed a few programs he wants to fund, and laid blame at the feet of his predecessors and the current legislature. I assume that everyone else who wrote will receive it too.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2018 @ 13:21

      Hi Ken. I received one as well.

  • Rob Baker Feb 2, 2018 @ 7:35

    Very unfortunate and curious as well.

    I’m wondering about the political aspect of this – having been to numerous Appalachian Studies conferences where UK Press was in attendance, I know UK press has a lot of coal related publications; few of them flattering. Not to go full conspiracy theory – I suspect this has a lot to do with the current GOP apathy towards education. Thank you for the link – I will pass it on to the Univ. of North Georgia faculty who use a lot of UK Press materials.

  • Barbara D Feb 1, 2018 @ 12:36

    I think it’s disgraceful. It is our states history and, I too, think it’s suspicious. I will send message to governor.

  • Marsha Pence Jan 30, 2018 @ 18:17

    I sent a message to the governor.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 31, 2018 @ 2:17

      Thank you, Marsha.

  • Karen Cox Jan 30, 2018 @ 5:34

    Thanks for including the form to send the governor a message. I sent mine. I can also claim Kentucky ancestors, so I made that case, too.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 30, 2018 @ 5:37

      Thanks, Karen.

  • Don Hallstrom Jan 30, 2018 @ 4:44

    Hi Kevin

    Thanks for the update. I also sent my thoughts to the Governor. Why can’t the university just pay the small number of employees. I’m hoping for the best. They publish very nice material. Something is basically wrong with shutting down a publisher of this stature.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 30, 2018 @ 4:46

      Hi Don,

      Thanks for taking the time to write to the governor.

  • Bryan Jack Jan 29, 2018 @ 11:25

    I have a book under contract with the press–it is scheduled for publication in December 2018. When the press agreed to publish it, it made me proud to have my research associated with a press that does such outstanding work. Everyone at the press has been so professional and helpful during the proposal/review process, that I hate to see them under threat like this. I submitted a comment to the Governor from here in Illinois.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 29, 2018 @ 12:40

      Hoping for the best for you, Bryan. This must be extremely frustrating for you.

  • Jill Hughes Jan 28, 2018 @ 10:02

    It’s important to have a reputable regional publisher.

  • Christopher Coleman Jan 27, 2018 @ 13:21

    What is the logic, if any, behind this travesty? The promotion of Kentucky’s heritage and history should be above petty politics and surely the small overhead the press entails is but a drop in the bucket compared to all the pork barrel projects that slide through the state’s annual budget unopposed.

  • Meg Groeling Jan 27, 2018 @ 11:05

    I don’t know if a message from California will do any good, but I sent my plea. I, too, have many U of K books on my shelves, and if the press is in good health financially, what is the issue?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2018 @ 11:10

      It certainly can’t hurt. Thanks, Meg. I suspect it’s budget issues.

  • Jerry Sudduth, Jr. Jan 27, 2018 @ 9:48

    As a native Kentuckian, I hate to see this vital scholastic resource be shuttered. I feared it would be on the list of organizations our current governor wants to cut funding to, and I was sadly correct.

    I have many, many books on my shelf published by the University Press of Kentucky and hope to add many, many more in the future.

    You can rest assured I’ve contacted my legislators about stopping this.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2018 @ 9:49

      Thank you, Jerry.

  • Kathleen Halleron Jan 27, 2018 @ 9:14

    Kentucky native here – I’ve sent my protest. Thanks for alerting us – this is terrible news.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 27, 2018 @ 9:28

      Thank you.

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