Wayne State University Press Fires Three Managers, Sparks Controversy

Sixty authors, reviewers and academics have signed an open letter protesting Wayne State University Press's sudden firing of three senior staff members last week, the Detroit News reported.

The trio--editor-in-chief Annie Martin, marketing director Emily Nowak and design and production manager Kristin Harpster--were fired last Friday. While the press has not given a reason for the firing, a statement sent to its faculty editorial board said: "We believe, moving forward, our future can be created through leadership and staff collectively committed and open to new ideas, deeper community connectivity," and, in another statement, the press wrote that the firings "in no way (indicate) a lack of support for the press."

Additionally, a Wayne State spokesperson would not comment on the personnel decision, but did say the press "will continue to operate and publish books as it has for the last 75 years."

Tara Reeser has been named interim director. In a letter to the publisher's authors, Reeser wrote to "offer assurance that the press will continue to remain fully open, with initiatives that will move us forward" and noted that the press will begin hiring for "four critical positions," including a new editor-in-chief, very soon.

Once news of the firing spread on social media, many of the press's authors and past employees expressed shock and outrage. On Wednesday, the open letter demanding that Wayne State University Press immediately reinstate Martin, Nowak and Harpster drew 60 signatures.

The letter reads in part: "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."

Martin, Nowak, and Harpster have not commented publicly about the firing. The trio is being represented by attorney Jennifer McManus, who told the Detroit News that they are "still shocked by their termination, as it came without cause and no explanation has been given." She said the three women, who had worked for the press for a combined 54 years, are considering all legal options.
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