For a university publishing house, it was shocking. On Wednesday, Melbourne University Publishing (MUP) chief executive Louise Adler resigned after the university announced it would change its focus from commercial to academic publishing. She was hastily followed out by Chairman Laurie Muller as well as directors Bob Carr, Gillian Triggs, Tony Peake and Danny Gorog.
“I was appointed CEO and Publisher of MUP in 2003 as a consequence of the University having accepted a review led by the doyenne of Australian publishing, Hilary McPhee AO, which was to furnish the blueprint for the vibrant business MUP has become today,” she said, following her exit.
Triggs and Carr were more forthcoming about their reasons for leaving. Both made unfavourable, public statements about the change.
The publisher, which, until now, focused on popular nonfiction, will be reorienting its efforts towards “being a high quality scholarly press”, the university provided, adding that “the new focus will ensure the university press is aligned to the strengths of the University of Melbourne and its globally recognised academic and research fields.” Literary journal Meanjin will remain with the publisher.
Triggered by a review of MUP, the change was not only unwelcome to MUP insiders. The National Tertiary Education Union, too, has expressed concern, particularly about editorial independence. “We would resist any move to erode such an important principle,” its Victorian Vice-President (Academic) at UniMelb, Professor Christian Haesemeyer said.
Haesemeyer is further worried that MUP’s shift to publishing academic works will limit the university’s role as a place of public debate. On this point, the university sought to allay fears. Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Su Baker said it would ensure “high quality works are made available to broader and general audiences”.
When asked about the substance and outcome of the review, Melbourne University did not offer any answers. It also did not respond to a request for comment on the NTEU’s concern about loss of editorial independence.
In her departing statement, Adler noted MUP’s varied and many successes during her tenure. They include Stuart Macintyre’s The History Wars, Jenny Hocking’s “forensic biography” of Gough Whitlam, and, most recently, Louise Milligan’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell.Do you have an idea for a story?
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