Director Dean Smith Leaving Cornell University Press

Earlier today, Duke University Press announced that Dean Smith will be their next director. Dean, of course, has served Cornell University as its press director since 2015. This morning, Dean gathered the CUP staff together and told us his bittersweet news.

Surprise and shock greeted his startling announcement, but also pride, good wishes, and congratulations. During his four years here, Dean has led us all with humor, intelligence, compassion, and wisdom. We have all benefited from his guidance and mentoring and we will be saddened when he departs us and moves south.

Dean leaves us at CUP with an emboldened mentality. He has given us the spirit and desire to fly ever higher, to dream ever bigger, and to achieve ever more. In the past four years, we have become leaders in open access publishing, we have moved into journal publishing, and we have grown our front list such that we now publish 150 new books a year. Dean has brokered the agreement with Northern Illinois University Press announced publicly last week. He has overseen the development of our regional trade imprint, Three Hills. We’ve forged new and lasting strategic partnerships and collaborations with various university departments and outside service providers. He moved us into a new reporting structure under the Cornell University Library where we now have full and solid support and advocacy. He has developed a nascent endowment and fundraising capacity. And he has acquired some of our best-selling books of the past few years.

Dean Smith’s time at Cornell University Press has been a spectacular success, and he leaves us positioned for success, sustainability, and growth. We all wish him the best in his new role and want him to know that he has given us the gift of confidence and strength as a publisher of incredible authors and books and in ourselves as purveyors of publishing knowledge and excellence.

Bon Voyage, Dean. We’ll miss your bow ties, Baltimore sports books, Grateful Dead references, and unstoppable optimism.

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Director Dean Smith Leaving Cornell University Press

A Rare Maverick in the House

Author Thomas W. Jones stopped by Sage House a few weeks ago to sign copies of From Willard Straight to Wall Street—purchasing more than 500 books for friends and colleagues.  He inscribed a personal note in each book and paid to have them mailed.

This is who Tom Jones is. He diligently worked for eight hours to make sure his positive message for our country and the world would get to the people that mattered most to him. As he has done throughout his life, he was embracing the importance of the moment and his place in it.

Fifty years ago, Tom and a group of African-American students occupied Cornell University’s Willard Straight Hall with a cache of weapons. It was 1969 and one year and days after the assassination of Martin Luther King. A cross had been burned on campus (or near campus). African-Americans were dying in Vietnam. Cornell’s black studies curriculum wasn’t moving fast enough and the atrocities of slavery were being omitted from the classroom. These students felt intellectual oppression. During the days of the standoff on a radio show, Tom told the university, “Cornell has three hours to live.”

***

IMG_0161I first met Tom in September of 2015 at the Statler Hotel on Cornell’s campus. His manuscript had arrived at the Press from former Cornell President Hunter R. Rawlings via our editor-in-chief Peter Potter. He was attending a meeting of the Cornell Board of Trustees.

The manuscript needed work but I couldn’t get the story out of my head—the shear humanity of it. This was a story only a university press could tell.

With a rifle on his shoulder, he was prepared to die for the idea of black history and culture finding its rightful place in the curriculum. He had wished his ancestors had made more progress in the fight against slavery.

“Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person…The wheel of history…had turned; my generation were to be tasked with the obligation and destiny to finally draw the line and end our oppression in America.”

Those lines stuck with me. Tom had led an armed occupation of Willard Straight Hall in 1969 and had gone on to a successful career on Wall Street—where he rose to power and was exonerated twice from SEC investigations.

He watched the planes hit the buildings on September 11th and walked uptown out of the rubble, turning back to see a gaping hole of evil in the North Tower. He had no idea that those buildings were metaphor as he bore witness to the collapse of the banking industry at Citicorp eight years later.

“Every day something was happening in the late sixties—the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic National Convention and Vietnam raging,” said Tom. “It was the same thing on Wall Street. Every day another scandal broke. In both cases, America was coming apart at the seams.”

Tom Jones is an American-made success story—he believes in education and hard work. His story transcends race and cliché. He enrolled in Cornell at sixteen and was elected freshman class president. He had joined ROTC also in his first year but quit because of the number of black men dying in Vietnam. The Straight occupation arose from a number of factors but at its core was an intellectual argument for dignity and respect in the academy.

He became the first black CEO and President of TIAA-CREFF and was handling the pensions of the professors he challenged. He was unceremoniously walked out of Citicorp just before its demise and hit rock bottom. The spiritual foundation cultivated throughout his life saved him.

***

I struggled to find the right methodology to provide feedback during that first meeting. Like the former revolutionary I was facing, I made a short list of demands for the manuscript. I went in with guns blazing as an editor and an author.

We had a title we both liked—”Rare Maverick”—but not much else. The financial story was largely told through press releases. That moniker was coined by a reporter.

Three full edits and two years later, I told Tom that we couldn’t move forward—that he wouldn’t want his story to be told this way. We suggested that a ghostwriter could do this.

Then Tom hired a miracle worker—Emily Sanders Hopkins. She was a friend of our managing editor Ange Romeo Hall. She became the medium between publisher and author—channeling the best parts of the story into an entertaining structure.

Emily filled in the manuscript with detail and atmosphere. Working with Emily changed Tom. The stories became so powerful in her hands that he now freely lets the emotions wash over him when recounting them.

The story for me became more about Tom’s transformation and his journey. From Willard Straight to Wall Street is the new title because it gives a sense of his life’s expansiveness—the skills he learned on the steps of the Straight prepared him for the trials of the financial industry. He was chosen to witness, to fight for his beliefs and to prevail.

This journey also turned Thomas W. Jones into a fine writer.

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Dean Smith is the Director of Cornell University Press.


Upcoming events

 

April 16, 2019 at 6pm: Conversation with the Author: Thomas W. Jones ’69

April 24, 2019 at 8pm: From Willard Straight to Wall Street and Back: An Evening with Tom Jones ’69


You can find more information on the 50th Anniversary of the Willard Straight Hall Occupation of 1969, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rare Maverick in the House

Fair is Fair: how liberals can win the 2020 election

Fair is fair . . . until it isn’t. Let’s face it. Republican conservatives and Democrat liberals don’t get along in America. Every day conservative and liberal leaders argue that the other’s political platform is unfair to citizens because of this and that. But are either of the parties’ platforms really ‘fair’? And why does one party’s platform seem more ‘fair’ than the other? In the new book America the Fair, Dan Meegan dissects what Americans see as fair and how our approach to politics is affected by it.

Who we are and how we think. Meegan, a cognitive scientist, holds the reader’s hand as he explains why we all think the way we do when it comes to justice and politics.

““. . . liberals are more concerned about care than conservatives, and conservatives are more concerned about fairness than liberals.”

Need vs. Equity. Let’s say you are at a potluck and everyone is being served a soup they all brought ingredients for. However, not everyone was able to bring ingredients, so there ends up being people that contribute more to the dish than others. To go along with Meegan’s definition, liberals would be the people at the potluck who are more concerned with everyone getting fed rather than keeping track of who brought what to make the soup. They focus more on the “need” aspect of the equation rather than the “equity” portion. Conservatives, on other hand, would be more concerned about everyone’s serving being proportional to what ingredients they brought to make the soup in the first place.

The power of fairness. Whether we lean toward being more need or equity-minded affects when our personal injustice trigger – that little voice in the back of our heads that goes ‘that’s not fair!’ – decides to go off. This is what gives us our predisposition to what party platform we align ourselves to. For liberals wanting to utilize this cognitive behavior to overturn conservative power in America, Meegan offers his new book as “a how-to-guide for Democrats hoping to make that happen.”

The Key to Liberal Success: There’s a reason why the Republican party is one of the oldest political groups in America. Its conservative leaders know how to convey its values in a way that appeals to the equity-minded citizens, while making liberal policies seem ineffective. This not only secures them the support of the equity-minded citizens, but also the more squeamish need-minded citizens who get cold-feet on election day. For liberals to stand a better chance against conservatives, Meegan claims that they need to convince more equity-minded citizens to join their cause.

“. . . if enough of them abandoned the Republican Party for the Democratic Party, the former would be rendered powerless.”

Hate the sin not the sinner: “If liberals are going to compete with conservatives and win back America, they need to develop and use frames of their own that paint a very different picture.” Meegan doesn’t think that liberal policies themselves are the problem – the problem is that liberal leaders keep phrasing their policies in ways that only attract need-minded people, and not “equity” minded people. If liberals were to find a way to make their policies sound fairer for the latter, then they would be able to attract more support.

With a couple of psychological tweaks here and there, liberalism could invite a larger following and truly flourish in America. Then, claims Meegan, the country might take another step in the right direction for creating more fair society for everybody.

MEEGANYou can find more information about the author, or purchase America the Fair, here.


 

Christine Gaba is a senior writing major at Ithaca College with a minor in English. When she is not reading or writing you can find her playing her clarinet, in the kitchen baking, or at a coffee shop with friends.


Also of interest:

Cornell University Press Podcast 1869, Ep. 69 with Dan Meegan, author of America the Fair:

 

 

Fair is Fair: how liberals can win the 2020 election

Reframing Vaccination Controversies

Vaccines have saved millions of lives. The scourge of smallpox is gone from this planet, except for stockpiles kept in Siberia and Atlanta, and polio has almost been eradicated. Dangerous and burdensome diseases have been tamed, and child survival improved due to vaccines. Refusal of vaccination denies these historical and medical truths and puts all people at risk of infectious disease.

That’s one way to start a story about vaccine skepticism. Here’s another:

Ever since there have been vaccines, there has been vaccine dissent. Themes in antivaccination protest are remarkably cohesive: impure vaccine ingredients, physician and corporate greed, potential ill effects, and threats to bodily integrity animate historical and contemporary concerns. While significant majorities accept vaccination regimes across the globe, determined minorities rely on a variety of belief systems and evidence to support their claims that vaccines are damaging to individuals, populations, and the planet.

The first narrative initiates a story that only flows one way—toward excoriation of those who cannot, for whatever reason, see the truth. The next sentence in the story is some version of this one: Vaccine dissent is essentially selfish, foolish, and irrational.

The second narrative offers a more open-ended opportunity, but currently, in the United States and elsewhere, only the first is allowable. Try to argue that beliefs about vaccination are complex and socially contextual, or even that people’s individual beliefs matter when it comes to vaccination, and you will be targeted as an antivaxxer. Vaccine hesitant parents are vilified and ridiculed in the media; well-founded concerns about the political impact of strict vaccine mandates are automatically criticized; and any suggestion that vaccination policies and requirements could be adjusted in response to public concerns is labeled science denial.

What is going on? In the 1990s, major news outlets in the U.S. reported evenhandedly about parental worries about thimerosal, a mercury-containing vaccine preservative in use since the 1930s. In the 2000s, though, as mainstream consensus coalesced around the lack of a connection between vaccines and autism, reporting on vaccination shifted to a more critical stance toward those who still questioned vaccine safety. After 2006 and the roll-out of Gardasil, an HPV vaccine marketed to prevent cervical cancer (whose maker, Merck, lobbied for state-level mandates, angering Christian conservatives who objected to a school-entry mandate for a vaccine against a sexually-transmitted disease), it became commonplace to see inflammatory news reporting in traditionally reliable outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Anti/Vax: Reframing the Vaccination Controversy tries to reorient public debate around vaccination by reminding us that there are numerous currents in American culture that share the concerns of vaccine skeptics. In the book I try to change the way we tell the story of vaccine dissent, much like a recent New York Times article that identifies poverty, political and social unrest, international travel, and geographical barriers as significant deterrents to comprehensive measles vaccination coverage globally.

Vaccine dissent is only one factor affecting current measles outbreaks in the U.S., and probably not the most important one. Balanced reporting about vaccination and infectious disease can illuminate the highly complex context in which modern medical efforts often conflict with local traditions, personal and community beliefs, and political realities in the context of globalization.

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The way we tell stories matter. Storytelling can open up or shut down meaningful conversation. We are at a time in American history when talking across barriers of belief, ideology, and cultural identification are more important than ever. Vaccination controversy, and the contentious public debate that envelops it, is just one element in an increasingly polarized cultural conversation about what binds us and divides us as a nation.

We need to craft vaccination stories that differ from the inflammatory, accusatory, and vilifying narratives that we have created across social media and more traditional news platforms. Understanding vaccination controversy more deeply, with more attention to the features it shares with other cultural concerns, is one way to start.


Bernice L. Hausman is professor of humanities and public health sciences and chair of humanities at Penn State College of Medicine. The author of four single-author studies of medical controversies (including Anti/Vax), she has a background in women’s studies, literary and critical theory, and the medical humanities. 

You can purchase Anti/Vax: Reframing the Vaccination Controversy, here


Featured blog post image: ‘The Public Vaccinator’ by Lance Calkin. Credit: Wellcome CollectionCC BY

Reframing Vaccination Controversies

NATO and the Dangers of Democracy

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in crisis. NATO is one of the most successful and longest-lasting military alliances in history.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

A glance at news headlines from any of the last seven decades might leave you thinking NATO has been in a perpetual state of crisis since its origins in 1949. And yet, time and time again, the Presidents and Prime Ministers of NATO states have decided that NATO should – indeed must – remain in existence. What explains this cycle of crises accompanied by determination to keep NATO together? How can every generation’s pundits write headlines warning of the imminent demise of the alliance, while its leaders insist that the alliance must continue?

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The answer to the riddle lies in the fact that many of NATO’s largest and most important powers were led by governments that relied on public support for their political power. This led to what I call in Enduring Alliance: A History of NATO and the Postwar Global Order the “dangers of democracy.” It was these dangers that help us why NATO leaders thought the alliance was necessary but also why they constantly fretted about its future.

The leaders who formed and maintained NATO did so because they thought the alliance would protect members from being blackmailed by the Soviet Union. In the late 1940s, the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin argued that the Soviet Union would use its military and political power to compel other states to act as Moscow wished. The “Russians,” as Bevin called them, “seem to be fairly confident of getting the fruits of war without going to war.” Soviet pressure on Finland, in which Moscow gained significant influence in the shaping of Finland’s foreign policies, offered an example of how this might happen. A Soviet ultimatum to Norway, and later a coup in Czechoslovakia, suggested that the Soviets would gain influence in Europe by picking off one state at a time. In the aftermath of the Second World War, it seemed likely that Europeans, cajoled or bullied by the Soviet Union, would urge their leaders to give in to any Soviet demands rather than risk confrontation. George F. Kennan, the famous American diplomat and expert on the Soviet Union, explained this fear eloquently when he said that “it is the shadows rather than the substance of things that move the hearts, and sway the deeds, of statesmen.” And the Kremlin cast long shadows.

NATO offered a solution.

NATO’s integrated military commands were never so much about being able to defend against the Soviet Union in case of war, but in cancelling out the Soviet Union’s ability to influence and compel European states to do what Moscow wished. Ideally, NATO would ensure that the Soviet Union would not bother trying to pressure an ally. But if a crisis came, NATO’s military capability had to be real enough to ensure that leaders could convince their citizens they did not have to give in. The alternative would be for frightened voters to pressure their leaders – be it through elections or other public protest – to give into Soviet demands. NATO insured against one danger of democracy – a panicked electorate faced with crisis – that might have otherwise allowed for the “Finlandization” of more European states.

The NATO leaders’ other worry, however, was that in times of peace, or even cold war, their electorates were not interested in maintaining the defense spending on which NATO relied.

Periods of détente with the Soviet Union seemed to strip away the rationale for NATO. The public reaction to the Vietnam War in both the United States and Europe caused allies to wonder whether there had been an outright rejection of the military instrument of foreign policy. These worries were amplified in the 1970s and 1980s as some protesters challenged NATO’s reliance on nuclear weapons.

NATO’s champion believed the alliance prevented crises and would allow them to prevail if one did occur.

They also believed that NATO worked, in a sense, too well – that it caused their voters to forget why NATO was important. On its 70th anniversary, the greatest challenge to the alliance may be an American president who ignores these nuances and does not understand the power of shadows.

 


About the author of this blog post: Timothy Andrews Sayle is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto and a Senior Fellow of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History. He is the author of Enduring Alliance: A History of NATO and the Postwar Global Order, and the editor, with Jeffrey A. Engel, Hal Brands, and William Inboden of The Last Card: Inside George W. Bush’s Decisions to Surge in Iraq, forthcoming from Cornell University Press.

NATO and the Dangers of Democracy

150 Notable Books: American Bird Songs (on vinyl, not paper!)

As part of CUP’s150th anniversary, current and former staff compiled a list of 150 of our most notable books. But one of the entries on this list is not a book at all—and is all the more significant for its differences. In 1942, Comstock Publishing began a partnership with the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell to produce our first record album—American Bird Songs. This unusual publication is in fact a set of six 78-rpm records that marked innovations in both scholarly publishing and ornithological study.

This may not have been the first record album to be issued by a university press—I confess I have not researched the matter exhaustively—but it is highly unlikely that there were any earlier university press–issued wildlife recordings. The debut of this album was also the first step in creating a new imprint at the press: the Cornell Records Division. Over the next two decades, Cornell Records and the Lab of Ornithology produced twelve albums of recordings of songbirds from the United States, Mexico, and Africa; frogs and toads; and insects. American Bird Songs included familiar blue jays and mourning doves, water birds like loons and whistling swans, marsh birds like bitterns and Wilson’s snipe, and a wide variety of warblers. Thousands of copies of this album were purchased by amateur bird lovers and professional ornithologists alike—and for students at camps and schools.

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These recordings showcased the emerging field of wildlife recording, which was virtually invented at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. In the late 1920s, Professor Arthur Allen produced the first recordings of birds made in the wild in North America. He worked with Peter Paul Kellogg, a graduate student, to develop the technologies to produce better recordings, including Kellogg’s concept of the first portable (under twenty pounds!) tape recorder for fieldwork. Peter Keane, an undergraduate student, came up with the concept of using a parabolic dish to isolate the sound of a particular bird. Albert R. Brand, a former stockbroker who became an adult student at Cornell, funded much of the early recording work and produced the first album of bird songs.

The Lab of Ornithology’s sound recording collection now includes tens of thousands of wildlife sounds and the lab continues its technological innovations. Cornell University Press and Comstock Publishing are proud to have played an early role in sharing their work with the world.


About the author of this blog post: Karen Laun is the self-proclaimed press historian and an enthusiast of all things old and dusty. In her spare time, she is a Senior Production Editor and also works in the ultramodern world of e-books as Digital Publishing Editor.

150 Notable Books: American Bird Songs (on vinyl, not paper!)

Book readers perceive HP inkjet print quality to be comparable to litho

Cornell University Press recently completed a research study around book readers’ perceptions and preferences, revealing compelling print quality attributes of inkjet-printed print-on-demand books. In this study, book readers were shown two side-by-side copies of the same book title, with one copy printed on an offset press and the other printed digitally on an HP PageWide Web Press. When asked about print quality comparisons, 40% expressed preference for the HP-printed copy, while just 33% preferred the litho print quality. The remaining 27% expressed no preference between the two.

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Cornell University Press conducted the study, entitled “The Printing Challenge,” in partnership with HP Inc. at association conferences and book fairs in various U.S. cities between September 2018 and January 2019. Respondents to this survey were 109 event attendees who were qualified as book readers.

When asked about accessibility to book titles, 76% of respondents said it was somewhat or extremely important that a book they would want to read would be available globally and sourced from local printers. When asked about getting updated content in their books, 63% of respondents stated it was somewhat or extremely important that their desired book is easy to update and change after its original publishing.

In addition to the traditional model of buying high-volume offset-printed books for pre-sale inventory, Cornell University Press also publishes a variety of titles through its print-on-demand (POD) process. With this model, no inventory is held, but rather books are digitally printed on HP PageWide Web Presses by Cornell’s POD book supplier.

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For this study’s comparison, both books were printed in monochrome (black) and both were printed with the same paper. The inside pages had a combination of text-only pages and pages with halftones images and line drawings.

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When asked about where they buy their books, 45% of respondents say they prefer to buy books from Amazon, 15% from retail book chains, and 35% from independent book stores. As to why they prefer to buy books where they do, the largest group (31%) cited the ability to buy books whenever they wanted. Book reviews (35%) and word-of-mouth recommendations (24%) were the most popular means of learning about new book titles. The speed-to-market benefit of digital print was also evident in the responses: 69% of readers expect to get their book within five days of ordering it.

Established in 1869 in Ithaca, New York shortly after the founding of Cornell University, Cornell University Press is known as America’s first university publishing enterprise. The press publishes a broad range of nonfiction titles, with particular strengths in sciences, classics, geography, higher education, history, and urban studies.

HP is the world’s leading manufacturer of inkjet presses for the book publishing market and volume continues to grow. Estimates are that PageWide Web Presses account for 3% of all the world’s printed books.

 


 

This post was published by Global Marketing & Business Development Leader David J. Murphy. You can find the original LinkedIn article here.

Book readers perceive HP inkjet print quality to be comparable to litho

Striving for #BalanceForBetter in Publishing and Beyond

Forty-four years ago, the United Nations proclaimed March 8th as International Women’s Day (IWD) in an effort to recognize women’s rights and celebrate the many amazing things that women all over the world have contributed to the global community. In this past year alone, we have seen an unprecedented amount of women in congressional office, female entrepreneurship rates climb higher than before in sub-Saharan Africa, the #MeToo conversation grow to a global scale, and, in Ireland, a repeal of the eighth amendment of their constitution, paving the way for legalized abortion.

This year’s campaign theme for IWD is #BalanceForBetter—a call to action to strive for gender balance in every facet of society, across national lines and cultural boundaries. While we recognize that women have come a long way, we must also acknowledge that there is still more work to be done to to achieve true gender balance, whether in the workplace, at home, or on a greater societal scale. It is also not just about meeting a diversity quota; it is also about creating a culture of belonging, inclusion, acceptance, and acknowledgment for all women of all races, ages, nationalities, and creeds. Continue reading “Striving for #BalanceForBetter in Publishing and Beyond”

Striving for #BalanceForBetter in Publishing and Beyond

One Book at a Time

Gangs of Russia author Svetlana Stephenson wanted to become a sociologist after she read a collection of essays entitled American Sociology given to her by her father at the age of fifteen.

Growing up in Russia, she couldn’t obtain a degree in sociology from Moscow State University without having first worked in an industrial plant or for the party. So she studied history and later obtained a doctorate in sociology from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“I consider myself a historical sociologist,” she said. “This was the time of Gorbachev. I got a job at the Russian center for public opinion and I was lucky to have it.” Continue reading “One Book at a Time”

One Book at a Time

The Art of Stirring Things Up

When we look closely at myths and tales from around the world, we see that the archetype of the trickster plays an absolutely essential role in the growth and development of everyone else within the story. In fact, we can safely say that in many cases without a trickster there generally isn’t much of a story at all to tell. Noted scholar Lewis Hyde sums it up even further by stating succinctly: “Trickster makes this world.”

Obviously, tricksters are not simply found in stories, but everywhere you find surprise, laughter and a deeper understanding. There is a little bit of trickster in every single one of us, and a lot in those who consistently help us laugh at ourselves and our circumstances—our comedians.

Like the archetypal tricksters of myth, our best comedians not only are funny, they can help us see the world in a completely new way. They break boundaries by discussing things that are taboo in the society, and bringing them into the light to be seen and understood rather than remain in the shadows of fear. The status quo does not remain unchanged in the hands of a great comedian. Something new is brought forth. Continue reading “The Art of Stirring Things Up”

The Art of Stirring Things Up