Despite being among the top 25 nonprofit university press publishers, according to the American Association of University Presses, and contributing impressively to the cultural and intellectual life of the University of New Mexico, the state of New Mexico, and the greater Southwest, UNM Press was redlined from the University budget for 2016—17.
University support for our press has always been well below the average for members of the Association of American University Presses at peer institutions, and this lack of support has become an increasingly acute problem since the nationwide economic downturn of 2008.
Currently, UNM Press is the only public university press in the country that receives no financial support from its home institution. The accumulated deficit that was referred to in a recent Journal article is the result of inconsistent and inadequate support, compounded over decades. To fail to acknowledge this is misleading at best.
Founded in 1929 – now 87 years old – UNM Press has published a long run of distinguished authors who have earned Pulitzer Prizes, the Premio Quinto Sol, and countless other prizes and honors. Most recently, for example, Juan Felipe Herrera has been elevated to the poet laureateship of the United States and Rudolfo Anaya received a National Humanities medal.
UNM Press is also the only press at a Hispanic-serving Research 1 university, publishing several book series that reflect this unique institutional advantage and responsibility.
As two external consultant reports commissioned by the offices of both the president and the provost in 2013 reveal and attest, UNM Press is remarkably efficient, admirably well run and has a great deal of which to be proud. In 2015, the Office of the Provost commissioned a third study of UNM Press by Charles Watkinson of the University of Michigan. Watkinson’s analysis emphasized the need for continued, meaningful cooperation between the administration and UNM Press.
Like the earlier consultants, Watkinson critiqued some particular choices made over the last few decades at UNM that have made financial issues for UNM Press particularly pressing, singling out the lack of recurring institutional support. He also noted that Director John Byram is fiscally responsible as well as far sighted, and he underscored the value of the press to UNM and the state of New Mexico.
In a climate concerned with the “branding” of UNM, the press is an asset worthy of support and cultivation. But its real value runs far deeper. In its publication of leading-edge scientific and scholarly research and the creative output of Native American, Chicano/a, Latin American, and other scholars and authors of national and international renown, UNM Press quite literally represents the very best that UNM has to offer.
Also signed by the tenured members of UNM’s University Press Committee: A. Gabriel Melendez, Baker Morrow, Durwood Ball, Irene Vasquez, Jean-Luc Cartron, Margaret Connell-Szasz, Mark C. Childs, Ronda Brulotte and Sharon Warner.