We’re in the month of college basketball madness, and once again Duquesne University’s men’s basketball team is absent from the NCAA tournament. There is no shame in that. But there is madness and shame in misallocating valuable university resources. At the same time Duquesne is looking to spend tens of millions of dollars on its basketball complex, it has announced its intention to close down the first-rate and world-renowned Duquesne University Press.
In 2012, Duquesne doubled its hoops budget. In 2016, the university needed to make mid-year budget cuts. Earlier this month Pittsburgh Sports Now reported that the university is planning to spend about $40 million to renovate and upgrade the A.J. Palumbo Center. Yet in February the university announced its intention to shutter Duquesne University Press because it doesn’t earn back the roughly $200,000 it takes to run it.
Duquesne’s basketball team has appeared in the NCAA tournament five times, but not since 1977; its glory days were the 1950s. But Duquesne University Press’s glory days are now. A leading light in the publication of books on John Milton, Renaissance literature and philosophy, its titles regularly win prizes. Last month, one of its titles garnered a prestigious award to be presented by the French Embassy and the PEN American Center. And arguably the most distinguished prize for works about John Milton, The John Shawcross Award, has been won by Duquesne University Press books more often than by books from any other university press — and that includes Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Duquesne University describes its mission as providing “education for the mind, heart, and spirit.” But closing its press would go a long way toward showing it cares far less about the mind, the heart and the spirit than it does about male bodies and what they can do on a field of play. (Note: The women’s basketball team does better than the men’s team but doesn’t get the same economic support.)
Duquesne University Press is a first-rate academic press that does a lot for the national and international reputation of the university. Georgetown, Fordham, Notre Dame and Catholic University all have thriving presses. If Duquesne wishes to be a first-rate Catholic university like these other beacons, it needs to find a way to fund the small economic requirement of its stellar academic press before it once again spends millions on its basketball team.
Marc Berley, the editor of LitMag (litmag.com), published two books with Duquesne University Press, “After the Heavenly Tune” and “Reading the Renaissance.” He played basketball in high school (firstname.lastname@example.org).