Welcome to our weekend conversation!
Many of you have likely already heard the news: Gettysburg Review announced this past week that Gettysburg College would cease the magazine’s publication.
On the magazine’s site, Editor Mark Drew posted,
After thirty-five years of editorial and publishing excellence, the president of Gettysburg College has decided to end the Gettysburg Review. Lauren [Hohle] and I are understandably devastated. We have been offered a rationale for this decision, but it’s frankly one that neither Lauren nor I understand or accept. It was made clear to us that they know little about who we are, what we do, and what our value is, and could be, to the Gettysburg College campus.
This news hit a lot of people hard, myself included. My first response was shock. But we just read that magazine!, I thought, the way people sometimes respond after hearing terrible news about a person—But I just saw them!
A literary magazine is not a person, of course. But the closure of this particular journal means not only the loss of another vital home for beautiful and important contemporary writing, but the loss of jobs for the editors. I interviewed Lauren about a week ago, as part of our Lit Mag Reading Club discussion of Gettysburg Review. She was engaged, funny, and clearly passionate about this work.
If the magazine’s closing felt shocking to me, I cannot imagine how these editors feel. From what they’ve tweeted, it appears they were completely excluded from this decision.
It also appears the editors were given no warning that this was coming, and that there was no negotiation option made available to them. Nor, it seems, was there any effort to seek a buyer for the magazine. The college board met last week and presumably discussed this situation. The editors, from what I gather, were not part of that discussion.
Evidently too, the college president’s reasons for closing the magazine are not based on facts. According to the editors, he inflated the magazine’s budget when speaking with the faculty. He also hinted at layoffs which suggest a need for budget-cutting overall. Yet just last week, the college received a $10 million-dollar donation from a former English major. The editors are right to ask, where is that money going?
Another question, of course, is what can be done?
Several magazines have gone through threats of closure over the years, then pulled through. In spring of 2022 Conjunctions almost stopped publication, but then didn’t, after outcry and public pressure upon Bard College. In the Story Magazine newsletter from a few days ago, Editor Michael Nye recounted the way people rallied behind and ultimately saved Missouri Review.
The editors of Gettysburg Review are encouraging readers to reach out to the president and provost of Gettysburg College.
You might also try this contact:
If you need some inspiration, here is a letter from Dr. Corey Van Landingham, Assistant Professor in the Gettysburg English Department. She writes,
Dear President Iuliano, Provost Bookwala, and Gettysburg College, …You have stated that you need to implement a “more intentional focus” and that your efforts must relate to student demand and experience —but what exactly is your intent? To make the humanities less human? To continue, as other colleges and universities have recently done, bulldozing the arts out of the liberal arts? And how much do you know about the student experience of the coveted internships with the Gettysburg Review? About the import, as a young undergraduate reader and writer, of having a renowned novelist, memoirist, or poet visit your classroom, answer your questions, give readings on campus, sign your books? For the Review doesn’t only bring writing to life on the page—pages that reach across, and outside of, the country, pages that have and continue to contain the nation’s most important writers, pages that consistently feature work that wins the country’s top literary prizes and recognition—but off the page as well.
Dear President Iuliano, Provost Bookwala, and Gettysburg College,
…You have stated that you need to implement a “more intentional focus” and that your efforts must relate to student demand and experience —but what exactly is your intent? To make the humanities less human? To continue, as other colleges and universities have recently done, bulldozing the arts out of the liberal arts? And how much do you know about the student experience of the coveted internships with the Gettysburg Review? About the import, as a young undergraduate reader and writer, of having a renowned novelist, memoirist, or poet visit your classroom, answer your questions, give readings on campus, sign your books? For the Review doesn’t only bring writing to life on the page—pages that reach across, and outside of, the country, pages that have and continue to contain the nation’s most important writers, pages that consistently feature work that wins the country’s top literary prizes and recognition—but off the page as well.
Another powerful letter was written and posted by writer A.C. Francis.
I wrote and posted a letter of my own, which is here.
If you feel compelled to speak up on behalf of this magazine and the jobs of its editors, do so! Call, write letters, tweet, tell your influential friends to reach out to the college president, write an article, find reporters who may be interested and make some noise.
If you need added incentive to write an open letter, Ninth Letter is waiving submission fees for anyone who does so.
“What exactly is your intent?” Professor Landingham asks the school principal and provost in her open letter. “To make the humanities less human?”
It very well may be.
We ought not let that happen.
What say you, friends?
Were you surprised by this news?
If you have a connection to this journal, did you speak out in some capacity?
Do you have your own experiences with rescuing a lit mag, and its staff, from closure?
Any other ideas for ways to push back on college administrations who don’t value lit mags?
Is our literary culture speeding headlong into heck in a handbasket?
Leave a comment
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I hardly have enough standing in the Lit community to be making appeals to the Presidents of colleges to preserve their literary journals. I am an aspiring fiction writer, beginning fresh, at sixty-six years old. But I was a media executive for many years with a Bird’s eye view of changes in the information diet of society, which I witnessed reduce to bite size, resulting in emaciated attention spans. Flash, sudden, micro. Poof. Gettysburg’s decision scares me for fear the back story among the higher ups will be that the literary journal has lost its relevance in the world. I will write to the college with that message, as a person, not an author. It’s not about art, it’s about humanity.
If not the literary journal, what? If not now, when?
Warning: this comment is not about literary magazines, this is about how universities operate. The secret (surprise!) is money. Who gives the college a lot of money? Who is the big alumni donor? Who could potentially rob the college of future donations?
- We need to find the name of any big donors, and ask them to contact the university president.
- We need to find alumni and ask them to tell the university president that they have decided not to donate this year, because of what's happened to The Gettysburg Review.
- We need to find out what companies have made donations to Gettysburg College, and get them sufficiently worried about their own reputations to tell Gettysburg College that the funds are going to dry up.
I visit Gettysburg at least once a year. I love that town. In spite of how much the town means to me, I know nothing about Gettysburg College except for the fact that the Gettysburg Review is published there. It’s hard to believe, just from a practical perspective, that the college would want to punt the outsized esteem their lit mag brings them. I can only guess they just don’t know what they have. It has to be worth more, in real dollar terms, than it costs them just to have that kind of gravitas.
I'm not surprised at all. I've seen the Humanities slashed and burned across the country over the last twenty years (at least) at one university and college after another. Reading the Chronicle is like reading the obituary page in a daily newspaper. It hurts me as someone who grew up the son and grandson of a teacher and who taught as well.
I run a small independent magazine. It’s a constant struggle to stay afloat—my labor for the magazine on an editorial and admin level translates to many many unpaid hours a week, stealing away my writing and person time. Our entire editorial staff is unpaid. (We do pay some of our admin assistants.) Together we constantly struggle to find ways to finance the magazine. It’s been ten years, and the more we grow, the more the burden. The idea gets floated now and then that we could try to find university support. (The idea of having a guaranteed operating budget, let alone any of kind of salary is so appealing.) But the rest of this comment writes itself: institutional support makes you vulnerable to forces far outside your control. I’ve spent my whole life in arts admin (in addition to university teaching and being an actual writer) and while I, too, hope that the outcry from our little voices will reach the ears of the university admins, I also know that in disciplines that viewed from the outside as niche or even hobbies (“poetry”, classical music) you need a taste for entrepreneurship and gumption to survive.
Contacted the pres & provost when I first heard. Have been posting and sharing the news and updates with others. It IS shocking that such a well-established, prestigious journal could be unceremoniously yanked. Sort of like buying Twitter only to wreck everything good about it....
I just wrote a letter to the president of Gettysburg College and also to their AVP for Development. If she wants to raise money, she'll have a harder time if the review is gone. If money is the problem, I hope she'll step in. Here's my letter:
Aline Soules <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sat, Oct 7 at 7:24 AM
I can't imagine knowing anything about Gettysburg College if it were not for the stalwart presence of The Gettysburg Review. This is one of the more prestigious literary journals in the country and now you intend to end it.
As someone who has worked in higher education for decades, the erosion of arts and writing in our universities and colleges appalls me. We go on and on about our fear of losing our democracy in this country and don't seem to understand that the foundation of a democracy is an educated populace. An educated populace includes the arts and our current trend of gutting them from our institutions of higher learning will only contribute to this country's downfall.
I ask you to reconsider this decision. Not everything is about money.
Writer and Activist
Meditation on Woman, https://amzn.to/2CHEhst
Evening Sun: a Widow's Journey, https://amzn.to/2OTFXVE
I would absolutely contribute out of my skint writer's pockets to a fund a re-startup as an independent entity of this magazine. Call it the G Review and middle fingers up at Gettysburg College!
I've written a letter to the president and provost. Let's release a flash flood of support for The Gettysburg Review! #TheGettysburgReview #GettysburgCollege #SaveTheGettysburgReview
I do intend to write. But if anyone here is a Gettysburg College alum (I'm not), yours is a voice that might carry more weight than mine, since they turn to you for donations. Alumni, in addition to writing to the president and others, can submit letters and articles to the alumni newsletter, which appears to be titled Bullet Points, to alert other alumni/donors to what's happening.
The college says, on its "Give" page, "Support for the Gettysburg Fund enables the College to say “yes!” to opportunities that help current students develop a set of enduring skills that will prepare them for lives of meaning and impact." Clearly that statement has been strained through the administration's (re)interpretive sieve.
Laurel Ferejohn, writer (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry) and editor
I wrote a passionate letter to the President and Provost about this decision. So foolish for so many reasons.
This reminds me of the death of the Antioch Review (I'm an alum of Antioch College). Although they say that this important literary magazine, founded in 1941!, "remains on a thoughtful pause," that pause has been 3 years now and the writing is on the wall. Very sad.
I'm of two minds on this. First, hell yeah, write letters, protest, notify the dunderheaded powers-that-be of the outsized gem they have in their midst. Second, I'm not so sure. I love Jarvis' pithy summation above of our literary death spiral--"Flash, sudden, micro, poof"--but at the same time the question he ends with, "If not literary journals, then what?" needs to be answered. To butcher a bit of Yeats, what strange beast will rouse, is already rousing, itself from the ashes to be born? Some sort of anti-literature, non-language based, post-celluloid mutant Instagram offspring, no doubt. And is there any way we writers, editors, readers, the upholders of tradition, can participate in its creation? What do the kids say? What's happening in whatever virtual garages they are gathering in?
I'll write, but how about getting in touch with some of their 'noted' alumni and getting them to write a letter, like Ron Paul or Carlson Kressley?
Given the reputation of The Gettysburg Review, I'm shocked to hear that the University has killed it, without so much as a by-your-leave.
Definitely a short-sighted blunder on the part of Gettysburg College. The Review pays for itself by giving the college prestige and renown it otherwise wouldn't have. Positive PR, if you will. Like many readers and writers, I've known of Gettysburg College only because of the Gettysburg Review.
Now the college has created for itself a firestorm of negative PR. Not very smart!
I have read TGR for many years (like all of us), and I get through that part of Mid-State Pennsylvania quite frequently for my work. But this one is hitting me harder for reasons that I am still processing...
I am very thankful, Becky, that you've posted this (and all the ancillary links as well). *ugh*
Yeah, this situation just feels so, so wrong. *double ugh*
A (Bad) Sonnet for The Gettysburg Review to the Office of the Provost
My son was accepted at Gettysburg, and we are so glad he'll never go there.
Shame on you, I hope your 10 million dollar donor retracts it, takes it all back.
May you rot in the STEM hell you make for yourselves. You, bottom liners,
snouty capitalist pigs, farting on the world's best humanity. What do you teach?
The Gettysburg Review burns on your quad, a tribute to a fascism
you seem to applaud. Mole rats can't tell a rare and true gift
when it radiates from their own dark holes. You don't deserve the Review.
Without you, it wouldn't fold. The Gettysburg Review shall rise again
while you, bereft, green scum sip your own gall off the surface of a stinking pond.
Ignorant decisions from rancid people with all the wrong answers.
The world sees you and your ilk in all of your cancers.
Thanks for doing your part, Becky. You know I've read a million literary journals, and Gettysburg basically has the highest "I like it" scores of any journal in my database (tied with Zoetrope and a few others). Absolutely, a great, great journal. I hope it does not rest in peace (that is, to be clear, I hope it comes back to life).
I'm surprised nobody has connected the dots. Small private colleges are under intense pressure. The money is in conferring STEM degrees now. STEM baby. It's in all the strategic makeovers. Colleges want a piece of it. So, colleges are upping the ante on STEM. It's in vogue. Humanities are being kept alive to use in "integrated" curricula, AKA technical degrees where the college wants to develop "the whole engineer." The "Whole health care provider." Etc. Colleges have to get in the race for opulent "learning facilities also." And don't forget athletics! It's like churches, got to compete or die .
About a year ago the WSJ had an article titled "Broke Colleges Resort to Mergers."
I watched what Wake Forest has done over the last 2 decades. The millions raised and spent on new buildings is astounding. It has transformed itself from a middling mostly liberal arts Baptist college into a country club cum Ivy League of The South. That is very hard to compete with if you're a little college in Gettysburg PA.
Like Earl Butz the commissioner or agriculture under Nixon told the farmers, "Get big or get out." Same for colleges now. Likely Gettysburg is truly operating in survival mode.
Writers who want to be revered need to move to Ireland. The trend here in the U.S. is pretty well established. Gettysburg's closure is shocking but probably shouldn't be surprising.