UPDATED: Wayne State University Press Authors’ Statement on the Firings of the Heads of Editorial, Marketing, and Production; Plus, Latest Developments

Zena Burns
Feb 11 · 14 min read
  • 02.21 BREAKING NEWS FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “BREAKING: Jennifer McManus, attorney for the three senior employees at Wayne State University Press fired two weeks ago, tells PW they will return to work on Tuesday. The University has confirmed that its chief of staff will maintain oversight of the press. Story to follow.”

Note: On Friday, February 7, Wayne State University Press’ Editor-in-Chief, Annie Martin; Editorial, Design, and Production Manager, Kristin Harpster; and Sales and Marketing Director, Emily Nowak; were fired with no reason or explanation after a collective 54 years with the Press and then escorted from the Press building by campus police. What follows is an open letter to the Wayne State University administration from dozens of writers, reviewers, scholars, and booksellers who have worked with Wayne State Press. As of February 18, 92 people have signed this letter.

If you are an author, journal editor, scholar, or series editor associated with the Press and would like to sign this statement, please note with your Wayne State publications and email rachels.harris@gmail.com and zb@zenaburns.com. Please note that I am taking what was originally a statement and list organized by Rachel S. Harris and others, including Bruce Joshua Miller, and posting to Medium on her behalf. I am not the author. Full disclosure: Annie Martin is my sister-in-law, but I’d be concerned about this story even if that were not the case.

Latest developments, and then, the letter. Social handles should you need them: Twitter: @WSUPress and @WayneState, and Facebook: Wayne State University Press and Wayne State University. There is also a detailed LinkedIn post on the situation with those proper handles here.

  • 02.22 Deadline Detroit: Whiplash: Fired WSU Managers Regain Jobs in Odd Saga’s Latest Twist
  • 02.21 Detroit News: Lawyer: Fired WSU Press staffers to return next week.
  • 02.21 BREAKING NEWS FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “BREAKING: Jennifer McManus, attorney for the three senior employees at Wayne State University Press fired two weeks ago, tells PW they will return to work on Tuesday. The University has confirmed that its chief of staff will maintain oversight of the press. Story to follow.”
  • 02.20 The Jewish News: Management Overhaul Continues at WSU Press
  • 02.19 Detroit News: WSU Press editorial board calls for reinstatement of fired workers
  • 02.18 Wayne State University Press Editorial Board issues a unanimous statement protesting the “abrupt firing” of Annie Martin, Kristin Harpster, and Emily Novak, and calling for their reinstatement. One member‘s tweet with the statement refers to the “enraging events taking place at @WSUPress.”
  • 02.18 Deadline Detroit: WSU Press Takes Another Turn In a Rapid-Turnover Month
  • 02.18 Tweet from Publishers Weekly reporter: Carrie D. Teefey, the senior production editor who resigned two days after her three colleagues were fired has rescinded that resignation and will remain at WSU Press.
  • 02.18 Crain’s Detroit Business: Wayne State University Press interim director resigns, Wildfong to return Note: “Lockwood said the status of the terminated employees has not changed and declined to comment further.”
  • 02.18 Publishers Weekly: President’s Office Takes Over Wayne State U Press, Interim Director Stepping Down.
  • Statement from Bruce Joshua Miller of Miller Trade Book Marketing, publishers’ representatives: In part, “Now that the interim director has resigned, and the former director has been called back in an effort at damage control, the glaring question remains: why were the WSUP 3 fired in the first place? No reason has been given.”
  • 02.14 Publishers Weekly: Wayne State U President Assumes Oversight of Embattled Press. Note: “Wilson did not disclose in his letter that senior production editor Carrie Downes Teefey resigned her position on Wednesday [later corrected to note the resignation took place Sunday, Feb 9], leaving only one remaining editorial manager on staff. Wilson did affirm the university’s support for the press though, and promised to hire contract workers as needed.” The President’s statement also notes “to ensure we meet our contractual obligations, we are exploring outside contractual services to provide support as necessary” (presumably works that the fired team were instrumental in bringing in, promising good stewardship).
  • Deadline Detroit: WSU Press Shakeup Unsettles Author Of May Book. ‘I Have Yet To Hear From Anyone.” (Read author’s recent LinkedIn statement here.)
  • Crain’s Detroit Business: Wayne State president’s office to take on oversight of publisher after firings
  • The Jewish News: Staff Dismissals Cause Upheaval at WSU Press.
  • Inside Higher Ed: Wayne State University President Says He Backs University Press
  • Wayne State University President statement: WSU Press no longer reports into Dean Jon Cawthorne, fired team will not be reinstated.
  • Detroit News: Wayne State president weighs in on university press overhaul.
  • New thread from an author whose WSUP book is scheduled to come out in less than 12 weeks.
  • Responses from two members of the Wayne State Board of Governors indicating that they’re looking into the matter.
  • Publishers Weekly: Wayne State University Press Fires Three Senior Employees
  • The Detroit News: Wayne State writers, affiliates demand reinstatement of managers.
  • Crain’s Detroit Business: Wayne State University Press authors slam firings of editor-in-chief, managers
  • Inside Higher Ed: Authors Oppose Firings at Wayne State University Press
  • Shelf Awareness: Wayne State University Press Fired Three Managers, Sparks Controversy
  • LitHub: Dozens of authors are protesting sudden leadership cuts at Wayne State University Press
  • Books + Publishing (Australia / NZ): Authors condemn US university decision to fire publishing staff
  • Deadline Detroit: WSU Press Provokes Authors’ Backlash By Abruptly Firing These Three Leaders
  • ActuaLitté (France): Licenciements “sans motif” dans une maison d’édition, les auteurs s’indignent [Translation: “Unjustified” layoffs in a publishing house, the authors are outraged]
  • An A+ Twitter thread
  • More to come

We the undersigned are writers, reviewers and scholars who have worked with Wayne State Press. We are writing to express our shock and anger at what is tantamount to the destruction of this venerable institution. In a series of moves that has left both published and prospective authors in the dark about the fate of their books, and has undermined the viability of the press, the new administration has, without notice, discharged the press leadership without cause.

When Wayne State University Press was established in 1941, its goal was “to assist the University in the encouragement and dissemination of scholarly learning.” Since 1954, it has garnered a national and international reputation for excellence with a strong tradition of publishing in areas often underrepresented in academic publishing such as Africana and African American studies, Automotive studies, books about childhood and children’s literature, fairy-tales and folklore, film, television, Jewish studies, speech and language pathology. The Press also publishes eleven academic journals, the award-winning Great Lake Book Series, and Made in Michigan Writers Series that showcase the state’s diverse voices and are the beating heart of Michigan’s literary and cultural life.

Locally, Wayne State Press has an extraordinary and unique connection to the state and the communities of Detroit, with books that demonstrate its unique commitment to the urban environment it calls home.

The stellar reputation of the press is a result of the excellent and knowledgeable team of professionals who have worked at the press, and the important relationships that they have built with generations of authors. While we recognize that changes have been taking place in academic publishing, we authors, editors and reviewers have found the staff of the press to be responsive and thoughtful in approaching the shifting publishing landscape. Our commitment to Wayne State, despite its relatively small size, has been because of the high quality of work it produces and the positive experiences we have had at each and every stage of our interactions.

The summarial firing of Editor-in-Chief Annie Martin, Editorial, Design, and Production Manager Kristin Harpster, and Sales and Marketing Director Emily Nowak has violated the integrity of the press and the spirit of our publishing contracts. Their removal has left a gutted press staffed with people without editorial and publishing expertise, which undermines the ability of the press to operate and severely damages its reputation. It is a breach of trust with the authors who have built relationships and served as ambassadors of the press in the academic and wider community.

As a not-for-profit enterprise, the press has a public charge whose mission is in serious jeopardy with the loss of the important leadership that these women have provided. This decision by Wayne State’s provost and library governance threatens the existence of the press, the relationship that it has built with authors, reviewers and editors over decades of patient and careful publishing. Moreover, these decisions will undermine the ability of Wayne State Press to recruit and serve scholars and writers at all stages of the publication process.

We insist that for the future and well-being of the press that this decision be reversed, and we demand their immediate reinstatement.

Authors are listed with their Wayne State University Press books.

Rachel S. Harris, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

  • Teaching the Arab-Israeli Conflict (2019)
  • Warriors, Witches, Whores: Women in Israeli Cinema (2017)
  • Narratives of Dissent: War in Contemporary Israeli Arts and Culture (2012)

Kathryn Wildfong

  • Interim Director Wayne State University Press (2017–2019)
  • Editor-in-Chief Wayne State University Press (2009–2017)

Jane Ferreyra

  • Director of Wayne State University Press (2002–2017)

Arthur B. Evans

  • Director, Wayne State University Press (1989–2002)

M L Leibler, Wayne State University

  • Made in Michigan Series Editor
  • Bob Seger’s House and Other Stories (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • I Want To Be Once (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Heaven Was Detroit: From Jazz to Hip-Hop and Beyond (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Wide Awake in Someone Else’ Dream (2008) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Abandon Automobile (2001)

Jack Ridl

  • Saint Peter and the Goldfish (2019)
  • Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Broken Symmetry (2006) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Anne-Marie Oomen

  • The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2018) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
    Elemental (2018) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • An American Map (2010) 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Award Winner
    House of Fields: Memories of a Rural Education (2006) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Pulling Down the Barn: Memories of a Rural Childhood (2004) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Love Sex and 4H (2015) 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award

John Gallagher

  • AIA Detroit (2002)
  • Great Architecture of Michigan (2008) 2008 ForeWord Book of the Year Award Finalist in the category of Architecture
  • Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City (2010) 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist in the category of Social Science, 2011 Eric Hoffer Book Awards Finalist in the category of Culture, 2011 Michigan Notable Book Awards Winner
  • Revolution Detroit: Strategies for Urban Intervention (2013) 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award: Bronze Medal in the category of Great Lakes Regional Non-Fiction, 2014 ForeWord Book of the Year Award: Winner of the Silver Medal in the category of Social Sciences
  • Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity (2015) 2015 Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards: Bronze Winner in the Architecture category, 2016 Michigan Notable Book Awards Winner, 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards: Silver Medal in the Architecture Category, 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Award: Finalist in the Regional Non-Fiction category, 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: First Runner-Up in the category of Art

Ranen Omer-Sherman, University of Louisville @ranen

  • Narratives of Dissent: War in Contemporary Israeli Arts and Culture (2012)

Lori Harrison-Kahan, Boston College

  • The Superwoman and Other Writings by Miriam Michelson (2019)

Joel Berkowitz, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

  • Inventing the Modern Yiddish Stage (2012)

Gail Griffin

  • Grief’s Country (2020)

Linda Nemec Foster

  • The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2018) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Kristin Rose, Member-Owner, Book Suey, Hamtramck, MI

Judith Brin Ingber

  • Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance (2011) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Maureen Dunphy

  • Great Lakes Island Escapes: Ferries and Bridges to Adventure (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Lolita Hernandez

  • Making Callaloo in Detroit (2014) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Renee Simms

  • Meet Behind Mars (2018) 2018 Foreword INDIES Book Awards Finalist

Tal Dekel, Tel Aviv University

  • Transnational Identities: Women, Art, and Migration in Contemporary Israel (2016) Foreword INDIES Book Award Finalist for Social Sciences

Lisa Lenzo

  • Strange Love (2014) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Unblinking (2019)

Alesia Montgomery

  • Greening the Black Urban Regime (2020)

Nancy Sinkoff, Rutgers University

  • From Left to Right: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, the New York Intellectuals, and the Politics of Jewish History (2020)

Vicki Callahan, University of Southern California

  • Editor, Reclaiming the Archive: Feminist and Film History (2010)
  • Zones of Anxiety: Movement, Musidora, and the Crime Serials of Louis Feuillade (2004)

Kristen Anderson Wagner

  • Comic Venus: Women and Comedy in American Silent Film (2018)

Kate Browne

  • The Golden Girls (2020)

Thomas Klug

  • The Great Lakes Books Series Editor

Jean Alicia Elster

  • Selected as a 2017 Kresge Artist Fellow in Literary Arts
  • The Colored Car (2014) A 2014 Michigan Notable Book; 2014 Midwest Book Award in Children’s Fiction Honor Book; 2014 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People
  • Who’s Jim Hines? (2009) Michigan Notable Book

Steve Babson

  • The Color of Law: Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Labor and Civil Rights (2010), co-authored with David Riddle and David Elsila.
  • Lean Work: Empowerment and Exploitation in the Global Auto Industry (1995), editor.
  • Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town (1986).

Ken Mikolowski

  • THAT THAT (2015)

Barbara E. Krueger

  • Detroit’s Historic Places of Worship (2012)

Marla O. Collum

  • Detroit’s Historic Places of Worship (2012)

Andy Mozina

  • Quality Snacks (2014)
  • The Women Were Leaving the Men (2007)

Meri-Jane Rochelson, Professor Emerita, Florida International University

  • Children of the Ghetto by Israel Zangwill (1998), editor.
  • A Jew in the Public Arena: The Career of Israel Zangwill (2008, 2010).
  • Eli’s Story: A Twentieth-Century Jewish Life (2018).

Ames Hawkins

  • These Are Love(d) Letters. Wayne State University Press (2019)

Sara Saljoughi, University of Chicago

  • Editor Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture
  • 1968 and Global Cinema (2018)

Teresa J Scollon

  • To Embroider the Ground with Prayer (2012) ForeWord Book of the Year Award finalist

Brian Gilmore

  • come see about me, marvin (2019) 2020 Michigan Notable Book Awards

Natalie Ruth Joynton

  • Welcome to Replica Dodge (2019)

Christina Lane, University of Miami

  • Christina Lane, Feminist Hollywood: From Born in Flames to Point Break (2000)

Catherine Collomp, Université Paris-Diderot

  • Jewish Labor Committee (forthcoming)

Nadia Valman, Queen Mary, University of London

  • British Jewish Women Writers (2014)

Peter X Feng, University of Delaware

  • Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series, Advisory Editor

Avinoam J. Patt, University of Connecticut

  • Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020)
  • Finding Home and Homeland (2009)

Michael Zadoorian

  • The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit (2009) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Zilka Joseph

  • Sharp Blue Search of Flame (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

David Slucki, Monash University

  • Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020)
  • Sing This at My Funeral: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons (2019)

Mike Delp

  • Made in Michigan Writers Series Editor
  • Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler (2016) 2017 AUPresses Book, Jacket & Journal Show Award Winner
  • Bob Seger’s House and Other Stories (2016) 2016 Foreword INDIES Book Award Finalist
  • As If We Were Prey (2010) 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year — WINNER
  • The Last Good Water: Prose and Poetry, 1988–2003 (2003)
  • New Poems from the Third Coast (2000)
  • Under the Influence of Water: Poems, Essays, and Stories (1992)

Jacob E. Nyenhuis, Wayne State University

  • Myth and the Creative Process: Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus (2003)
  • Latin Via Ovid: A First Course (1982)

Novotny Lawrence, Iowa State University

  • Beyond Blaxploitation (Wayne State University Press, 2016) 2017 AUPresses Book, Jacket & Journal Show Award Winner

Joseph Harris

  • You’re in the Wrong Place (2020)

Tanya Horeck

  • Justice on Demand: True Crime in the Digital Streaming Era (2019)

Shonda Buchanan

  • Black Indian: A Memoir (2019)

Sharon B. Oster, University of Redlands

  • No Place In Time: The Hebraic Myth In Late-Nineteenth-Century American Literature (2018)

Charles K Hyde, Wayne State University

  • Editor of The Great Lakes Books Series
  • Arsenal of Democracy: The American Automobile Industry in World War II (2013) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation (2003) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson, and American Motors (2009) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • The Dodge Brothers: The Men, the Motor Cars, and the Legacy (2005) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • The Northern Lights: Lighthouse of the Upper Great Lakes (1995)

Shiri Goren, Yale University Press

  • Choosing Yiddish: New Frontiers of Language and Culture (2012)

Riv Ellen-Prell, University of Minnesota

  • Prayer and Community: The Havurah in American Judaism (2018)
  • Women Remaking American Judaism (2007)

Laura Hulthen Thomas, The Residential College at the University of Michigan

  • States of Motion (2017)

Steve Hughes

  • STIFF (2018)

Jim Daniels

  • Rowing Inland (2017) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner, 2018 Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist, 2019 National Best Books Awards Finalist, 2018 Montaigne Medal from the Eric Hoffer Awards Finalist
    In Line for the Exterminator (2007) 2008 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence for Previous Finalists of the Paterson Poetry Prize Winner
  • Letters to America: Contemporary American Poetry on Race (1995)
  • Punching Out (1990)

Joe Grimm, Michigan State University School of Journalism

  • The Faygo Book (2018) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Songquest: The Journals of Great Lakes Folklorist Ivan H. Walton (2018)
  • Coney Detroit (2012) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors (2002) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner
  • Michigan Voices: Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It (1987)

Judith R. Baskin, University of Oregon

  • Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, Second Edition (1998)
  • Women of the Word: Jewish Women and Jewish Writing (1994)

Laura Limonic, SUNY- College at Old Westbury

  • Kugel and Frijoles: Latino Jews in the United States (2019)

Glenn Dynner, Sarah Lawrence

  • A Fire Burns in Kotsk: A Tale of Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland (2015)
  • Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe (2011)

Michael Lauchlan, University of Detroit Mercy

  • Trumbull Ave (2015) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Adriana X. Jacobs, Oxford University

  • Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (2016)

Shachar Pinsker, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

  • Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (2016)

Nir Cohen

  • Editor of Jewish Film & New Media
  • Soldiers, Rebels, and Drifters: Gay Representation in Israeli Cinema (2011)

Victoria Aarons

  • Bernard Malamud: A Centennial Tribute (2016)
  • The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction (2015) National Jewish Book Awards Finalist

Laurie Lanzen Harris

  • The Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Grace, Grit, and Glory (2016) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Kelly Fordon

  • I Have the Answer (2020)
  • Garden for the Blind (2015) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Kathryn Hellerstein, University of Pennsylvania

  • Paper Bridges: Selected Poems of Kadya Molodowsky 1999

Laura Levitt, Temple University

Gabriel Finder, University of Virginia

  • Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020)
  • Jewish Honor Courts: Revenge, Retribution, and Reconciliation in Europe and Israel after the Holocaust (2015) 2015 National Jewish Book Awards Finalist

Meridith Ridl

  • The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2018) Michigan Notable Book Award Winner

Nathan Abrams, Bangor University

  • Editor of Jewish Film & New Media

Chris Dombrowki

  • Ragged Anthem (2019)
  • Earth Again (2013) 2014 Independent Publisher’s Book Award Bronze Medal in the category of Poetry, 2014 ForeWord Book of the Year Award, Winner of the Silver Medal in the category of Poetry
  • By Cold Water (2009) 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist

Diane DeCillis

  • Strings Attached (2014) 2015 Michigan Notable Book Awards, 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award — Result: Winner in the Poetry category, 2015 AUPresses Book, Jacket & Journal Show Award Best cover design

Edna Nahshon, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

  • From the Ghetto to the Melting Pot: Israel Zangwill’s Plays (2005) 2009 Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards: Notable Selection

Sheila Jelen, University of Maryland, College Park

  • Salvage Poetics: Post-Holocaust American Jewish Folk Ethnographies (2020)
  • Reconstructing the Old Country: American Jewry in the Post-Holocaust Decades (2017)

Amy Horowitz

  • Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic (2010) 2010 Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards Honorable Mention in Social Science, Anthropology, and Folklore

Jonathan Skolnik, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Scott Richmond, University of Toronto

Ariel Mokdad, Wayne State University

  • Elemental (2018)

Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

  • 1968 and Global Cinema (2018)

TreaAndrea M. Russworm, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

  • Blackness Is Burning: Civil Rights, Popular Culture, and the Problem of Recognition (2016)

Elizabeth Schmuhl

  • Premonitions (2018) 2018 Foreword INDIES Book Awards Finalist, 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Awards First Horizon Award Finalist, 2019 Eric Hoffer Book Awards Honorable Mention, 2019 First Horizon Book Award from the Eric Hoffer Awards Finalist 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist

Peter C. Herman, San Diego State University

  • Squitter-wits and Muse-haters: Sidney, Spenser, Milton and Renaissance Antipoetic Sentiment (1996)

Anjeana K Hans, Wellesley College

  • Gender and the Uncanny in Films of the Weimar Republic (2014)

Marco Abel, University of Nebraska

  • The Berlin School and Its Global Contexts: A Transnational Art Cinema (2018) Willy Haas Prize Finalist Best book on German cinema

Scott Balcerzak, Northern Illinois University

  • Beyond Method: Stella Adler and the Male Actor (2018)
  • Buffoon Men: Classic Hollywood Comedians and Queered Masculinity (2013)

Jaimey Fisher, UC Davis

  • The Berlin School and Its Global Contexts (2018).2018 Willy Haas Prize Shortlisted for best book on German cinema
  • The Collapse of the Conventional (2010). 2011 Women in German Award: Best Article — For Barbara Mennel’s chapter, “The Global Elsewhere: Ursula Biemann’s Multimedia Countergeography”
  • Disciplining Germany (2007)

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