The University of Michigan Press plans to release a statement this week outlining its decision on whether it will renew its contract with controversial British publisher Pluto Press.
The University Press’s executive committee made a decision regarding the renewal of its contract with Pluto Press in a closed meeting on Friday, but it has delayed releasing the decision to the public.
Speaking on behalf of the University Press, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the decision would likely be released sometime this week.
Cunningham said the Press’s contract with Pluto is renewed annually. The University Press has worked with Pluto Press for the last four years.
If the University decides to cancel the contract, it must notify Pluto by either November 30 or May 31, with the cancellation taking effect six months after the notification, Cunningham said.
University Press Director Phil Pachoda, who sits on the executive committee, said in an e-mail on Saturday that he wouldn’t comment on the Press’s position with regard to the Pluto contract until the statement’s release.
Two committee members, Law School Prof. Don Herzog and Peggy McCracken, an associate dean of Rackham Graduate School, also declined to comment.
The press came under attack in August from pro-Israel group Stand With Us Michigan for distributing “Overcoming Zionism,” a book published by Pluto Press.
Written by Bard College Prof. Joel Kovel, the book argues against the existence of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state and proposes a single-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The University announced in September that the press would immediately suspend distribution of the book, citing “serious questions” about the book raised by “members of the University community.”
The press’s executive committee announced a day later that it would resume distribution of the book despite having “deep reservations” about the book’s content.
The committee said in a statement that “it would be a blow against free speech to remove the book from distribution.”
The executive committee did say, however, that it would reevaluate its contract with Pluto.
In an open letter to the public, author and historian Howard Zinn said the University’s threat to cancel the contract would be “a serious blow to the principles of pluralism, academic freedom and free speech.”
Currently, there are no records available to the public describing the decisions and actions taken by the Press’s executive committee at its monthly meetings.
According to the University Board of Regents bylaws, the University Press has direct ties to the University, as its director is recommended by the University president and appointed by the Regents.
The Board of Regents bylaws stipulate that the University Press is maintained for the purpose of publishing and selling books and other documents “on behalf of the University.”
Additionally, the bylaws state that the Press’s executive committee is responsible for reviewing books that the Press is considering for publications.
Pachoda said in a phone interview yesterday that due to the nature of the executive committee’s faculty review process, the group’s proceedings must remain confidential.
“(The committee members) are there to make final decisions on whether projects proceed for publication, and they couldn’t function if the meetings weren’t totally confidential,” Pochoda said.