Officials at Louisiana State University (LSU) say funding cuts under consideration by the state legislature could threaten the survival of the Southern Review and LSU Press. The revered literary journal and the state’s only university-supported publishing house were among those singled out in a preliminary budget reduction proposal that trims millions from “academic support units.”
LSU administrators say the measures are a necessary response to an expected 15 percent reduction in state appropriations to colleges. While the Louisiana House of Representatives recently restored some $60 million of the $219 million cut from higher education by governor Bobby Jindal, LSU still faces declining revenues. The system’s flagship campus at Baton Rouge—home to both the Southern Review and LSU Press—saw its funding drop by $10 million in January and is anticipating a further $35 million in cuts when the new fiscal year begins on July 1. In a statement released earlier this month, LSU chancellor Michael Martin said the administration’s budget proposals were part of an attempt to “protect the academic core of LSU first and foremost.” “We hope the governor and our legislature will provide sufficient funding to maintain support of LSU Press,” he said, “as it is a very valuable asset to this university, the people of the state and many beyond.”
Since its founding in 1935, LSU Press has published over three thousand titles and garnered nearly every major publishing award. Four of its books, including John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), have won the Pulitzer Prize—more than any other academic press. The Southern Review, which was cofounded by Robert Penn Warren in 1935, is edited by Jeanne Leiby, who succeeded Brett Lott last year.
The looming budget cuts have elicited concern from insiders. “Things are tough everywhere,” Peter Givler, executive director of the Association of American University Presses, recently told Inside Higher Ed, “and everybody is making sacrifices, but the idea of shutting down a press that has brought so much national distinction and honor to LSU, and to Louisiana, is just plain nuts.”