Still Fighting about Birthright Citizenship

by Carol Nackenoff & Julie Novkov, authors of American by Birth; Wong Kim Ark and the Battle for Citizenship

What is the importance of the Tenth Circuit’s June 15, 2021 decision in Fitisemanu v. United States, that American Samoans, who are residents of an “unincorporated territory” of the US, are not entitled to US citizenship? Is Fitisemanu the opening salvo in a broader attempt to get federal courts to revisit the issue of birthright citizenship that the Supreme Court appeared to settle in United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), and about which we have recently written in the University Press of Kansas’s (June 2021) American by Birth: Wong Kim Ark and the Battle for Citizenship?

Judge Lucero’s majority opinion in Fitisemanu (20-4017) held that the issue raised by the American Samoan individuals seeking citizenship was not resolved by the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which dictates that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” The Circuit Court’s majority opinion reversed a 2019 decision by the District Court of Utah that had been stayed pending the appeal. Judge Lucero held that Congress had the authority to determine the status of individuals born in territories acquired by the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, as it had when it granted most Hawaiians (not ethnic Chinese) US citizenship, or Puerto Ricans citizenship (and later, birthright citizenship). Congress had considered granting American Samoans US citizenship in the 1930s but had declined to do so—the measure to grant them citizenship passed the Senate but failed in the House. These Pacific Islanders are considered “non-citizen nationals,” and as such, they can live and work, but not vote, in the United States.

The lower court’s ruling, which granted birthright citizenship to individuals born in US territories, was based upon the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court opinion identified Wong Kim Ark as the binding precedent. The opinion accepted the plaintiff’s argument that they were born “within” the United States and thus entitled to citizenship; the Tenth Circuit’s position was that the Constitution (and the Fourteenth Amendment) did not necessarily “follow the flag,” relying on the Insular Cases (1901). The University Press of Kansas has published an excellent treatment of the Supreme Court’s decisions surrounding rights of residents of territories acquired by the US in the Spanish-American War in Bartholomew H. Sparrow’s The Insular Cases and the Emergence of American Empire.

While the case itself deals with a small number of individuals in unusual circumstances, its implications are broader. Recent efforts by the Trump administration and immigration restriction advocates to limit birthright citizenship, especially for children born in the United States to undocumented residents, loom in the background. Through administrative action, the Trump administration tried to restrict “birth tourism,” the organized and lucrative practice of arranging visits that included shopping and trips to Disneyland for pregnant women so that they could give birth in the United States, conferring US citizenship on their newborns. Building a wall served as a symbol of the resolve to deter would-be US entrants from crossing the border, and the Trump administration’s decision to separate children and parents who did manage to cross the border was designed as another deterrent. But the executive branch is limited in what it can do to end birthright citizenship—for now.

Congress, as the Circuit Court majority in Fitisemanu pointed out, also has some authority over citizenship, especially for those born outside the territorial boundaries of the United States to non-citizen parents. Congress may decide who can naturalize and exercised this authority to deny this opportunity to the Chinese in America from 1882 until 1943. Some have argued that Congress should thus be able to give or withhold its consent to the incorporation of a group as citizens (see Elk v. Wilkins, a 1884 case involving Native Americans that states “no one can become a citizen of a nation without its consent,” the General Allotment Act of 1887, and the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924). This position has been staked out by Peter Schuck and Rogers Smith in their 1985 book, Citizenship without Consent, and a subsequent article, where they claim that since illegal aliens were not a recognizable category at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, and since we cannot completely recover the intent of the framers of the Constitution or of the Fourteenth Amendment on this matter, the decision should be left to the people’s elected representatives in Congress. They reason that, in a liberal polity, the people ought to be allowed to give or withhold consent to membership, and Congress is the appropriate institution to make these determinations.

Drawing an analogy between the processes by which Native Americans were made citizens (including the nation’s consent statement in Elk v. Wilkins) and the situation for those born in the United States to non-citizen parents is faulty for a couple of reasons, however. First, Native Americans born into a tribe were, since the time of Chief Justice John Marshall, considered as members of distinct political communities and members of domestic dependent nations. In the reasoning of nineteenth-century jurists, they were in a state of pupilage, and it required action by the United States to change that status. The lands on which tribal Indians lived were not simply part of the United States and moving to an individual homestead away from the tribe did not erase tribal membership (although the General Allotment Act, passed in part to remedy that situation, did envision citizenship for those Native Americans who took up individual land allotments and lived and worked on them). These points surely could not be made with regard to the sons and daughters of English, Swedish, or even Irish, Italian, and other immigrants who came to the United States in the nineteenth century and whose offspring, born on US soil, had long been considered birthright citizens, whether or not the parents naturalized. Congress did not find it necessary to make the American-born sons and daughters of Caucasian or white immigrants citizens by birth (although an act of Congress at one time denationalized white women who married foreign men, rendering some of them stateless). English common law—recognized in early US court cases—and precedent made them birthright citizens.

Second, it is important to note that Justice Gray, who wrote the majority opinion in Elk v. Wilkins that granted Congress the power to determine Native American citizenship, also wrote the majority opinion in Wong Kim Ark. As Gray, an acknowledged expert on the law of sovereignty explained, the fundamental principle of the common law with regard to English nationality was “birth within the allegiance . . . of the King.” He noted that this principle had been followed almost without exception by courts when dealing with controversies in the colonies and the United States, even before passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. And while all conceded that the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to extend citizenship to formerly enslaved Black people and their heirs, Justice Gray’s opinion pointed out that the language was “general, not to say universal, restricted by place and jurisdiction and not by color or race.” The purpose of the text of the citizenship clause, he argued, was to carve out some very narrow exceptions to the general principle of extending jus soli citizenship (citizenship derived from birthplace)—exceptions chiefly relating to children of foreign ambassadors, children of military enemies, and children born at sea. Others born here were subject to the jurisdiction of the United States in the ordinary sense of being under obligation to obey US laws. And in the years after the decision, despite increasing concern about the new legal category of illegal immigration, Congress never passed any laws purporting to limit citizenship only to the descendants of legal US residents.

The federal courts have been key players in battles over citizenship. Following United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court upheld the principle of birthright citizenship twice again by the mid-twentieth century. Would a now-conservative Supreme Court overturn this decision? We think it highly unlikely. It is possible, however, that the current Court would consider an argument, if a case were presented, that Wong Kim Ark, whose parents were living and working in the US with permission, did not raise or cover the case of those whose parents were living here illegally.

In American by Birth, we examine the history of birthright citizenship in the United States. The book explains how the Fourteenth Amendment was read to codify that history, extending the principle of citizenship by birth in a nation’s territory even to the American-born sons and daughters of Chinese immigrants who were so vilified that the parents were barred from naturalization in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. After being rebuffed in the federal court system, nativists and immigration restrictionists turned to other routes to keep undesirables from entry and subsequent citizenship. The Asiatic Barred Zones Act (1917) and the quota system adopted in immigration restriction measures in 1921 and 1924 were noteworthy; during the Depression, efforts also included ‘encouraging’ the out-migration of Mexicans (a not insignificant portion of whom were born here) who were seen as drains on public resources. The rigid application of the quota system was also an important factor behind US inaction in the face of the humanitarian refugee crisis during the Holocaust. The desire to keep America white strongly influenced how territorial acquisitions were treated. With a noteworthy increase in immigration from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean beginning around the 1970s, interest in policing the Southern border and in revisiting birthright citizenship increased. American by Birth brings the examination of birthright citizenship up through efforts during the Trump administration to change current law and practice—and the reading of the Fourteenth Amendment embraced in Wong Kim Ark. The United States is not alone among nations with generous citizenship provision in experiencing backlash, and in the final chapter, we consider the different methods by which American opponents of birthright citizenship are trying to effect change now.

Carol Nackenoff is the Richter Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College

Julie Novkov is interim dean of Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy and professor of political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University at Albany

Why is Car Insurance So Expensive? And Why Won’t Anyone Do Anything About it?

by Peter Kinzler, author of Highway Robbery; The Two-Decade Battle to Reform America’s Automobile Insurance System

If you think your auto insurance costs too much, you are not alone. Nearly everyone does. That is why, particularly in times of rising rates, there is public support for reforms that promise lower rates. As auto insurance is regulated at the state level, the demand for reform typically depends on the rates in any particular state. To see if there are changes that could help reduce what you pay for auto insurance, let’s start by looking at the highest cost in states today. Then, I will examine the reasons premiums are so high in those states and what changes might help reduce rates. Finally, I will discuss the largest single impediment to achieving reform: trial lawyers, the people whose economic interests would be adversely affected by reforms. They are the main reason why the auto insurance system remains too costly and why those changes are so hard to achieve.

In 1997, Louisiana and Michigan ranked as the twentieth and fifteenth most expensive states in auto insurance premiums. Not particularly high nor particularly low. Twenty years later, they were vying for the unwanted title of the most expensive auto insurance state in the country, words no driver in either state wants to hear. What changed in the intervening years? Was the source of the problem the same? And what can be done to remedy the problems?

Alas, the answers are not simple, starting with the fact that the two states have auto insurance systems that are polar opposites. Louisiana has a fault-based system under which the right to recover is based largely on the other driver’s degree of fault and the amount of any recovery is based on the level of the other driver’s coverage. The only way a driver can protect themself is to purchase health insurance or its auto insurance equivalent, MedPay. Both of those coverages are ones the driver pays for.

Michigan, by contrast, operates under a no-fault system. Like health insurance, no-fault pays for an injured person’s losses without regard to fault. To pay far more injured people more money than the fault system and to keep premiums from rising, no-fault laws limit lawsuits for pain and suffering (non-economic loss), typically to some defined set of very serious injuries.

To understand how to fix both the Louisiana and Michigan laws, you must first understand why some states have fault laws and some have no-fault laws and how most of them fail to deliver what insured people need—prompt, fair compensation in a timely manner for a reasonable price.

All states started with the fault system. Then, in 1932, a Columbia University study of the fault system identified inadequate compensation as the major flaw in the fault system. Later, in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, law school professors Robert Keeton and Jeffrey O’Connell and a twenty-six volume US Department of Transportation study expanded on the system’s deficiencies. They found that the requirement of fault deprived more than half of all victims of any recovery and that the system for determining fault—with the involvement of insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, and often the courts—took too long and paid almost twice as much to lawyers as it paid for the medical bills and lost wages of accident victims.

They recommended switching to a no-fault system that paid all injured persons without regard to fault, with the cost of the additional compensation being offset by strict limitations on the right to sue for pain and suffering. As the new system would deprive lawyers of substantial income, the lawyers fought back in two ways. First, they tried to preserve the fault system by proposing changes to it to improve compensation. Where that failed, they sought—and usually succeeded—in undermining the restrictions on lawsuits in no-fault states (called thresholds). That enabled them to sue in more cases than no-fault proponents wanted, undermining the basic no-fault trade-off and resulting in higher costs. The trial bar then turned around and argued against no-fault in other states and at the federal level on the ground that premiums were too high. As a result of these changes in the fault system and, in some cases, the creation of no-fault systems, compensation for injured persons improved. However, for reasons I will discuss later, only no-fault (done properly) can deliver both better compensation and lower premiums.

So, let’s start by examining Louisiana. As I mentioned, as a fault state, an injured person in Louisiana can only recover if the person was injured by another driver’s negligence. That standard has always denied recovery to nearly one-third of all people injured in accidents, those involved in single-car crashes, because no one is at fault. That will never change. Until the late 1960s, it also meant no recovery if the injured motorist was even partially at fault, the contributory negligence doctrine. These and other restrictive doctrines were the reason more than half of all injured persons recovered nothing in auto accidents in the late 1960s.

Louisiana joined fault states in seeking to remedy the compensation defects by making it easier to recover. Perhaps the most dramatic change was adopted in 1996, just one year prior to the time Louisiana ranked twentieth in premiums. The state moved to a pure comparative negligence standard, whereby motorists recover based on their percentage of fault, even when they are almost entirely at fault. In a worst-case scenario, a motorist who is 90 percent at fault could recover more than the person who is 10 percent at fault. That can happen if the primarily at-fault motorist suffers $90,000 of injuries and the largely free-from-fault driver suffered $5,000 in injuries. Advocates for change in Louisiana also contend that the state’s civil justice system contributed to the higher rates by encouraging settling all claims for policy limits ($15,000). Whatever the exact causes were, they all resulted in improved compensation. However, it is axiomatic that paying more injured people more dollars within the confines of the same system is more costly than paying fewer people. As a result of changes in the fault system and on the insurance side, the average premium jumped from $954 in 1997, placing the state twentieth in the country, to $2,480 in 2020, moving to second.

What was not the source of the dramatic rise in premiums was that Louisiana drivers had more accidents. The number of accidents in the state was in line with the rest of the country, but the number of claims was twice the average rate. Among the “reforms” adopted in 2020 were requiring an injured person to post a $5,000 cash bond within 60 days in order to file suit and changes in the collateral source doctrine. Supporters contended that these and other changes adopted by the legislature in 2020 would reduce premiums by 25 percent. Only months after the new law was adopted, one of the key insurance supporters of the changes said that Louisiana was likely to remain the most expensive state in the country. Even should the new law succeed in reducing rates somewhat, it will be because it will reduce compensation for injured persons, some of whom won’t be able to meet the new law’s financial requirements to bring suit.

If increasing compensation under the fault system addresses one problem (inadequate compensation) while creating another (higher premiums), is there a way to achieve both better compensation and lower premiums? Strangely, the answer lies in examining the Michigan’s no-fault system, which pretty much shares the top spot with Louisiana for the highest premiums.

The Michigan law, adopted in 1973, most closely resembles the model state law and the federal no-fault bills that were considered by Congress for most of the decade. While the federal bills floundered, Michigan succeeded in adopting a law with very generous benefits—including unlimited medical and rehabilitation—without increasing costs initially. It accomplished better compensation by a trade-off—guaranteed benefits in return for limiting the right to sue in very serious injury cases. The underlying concept is that motorists largely give up the right to sue for pain and suffering in return for an assured right to recover for their medical (and wage) losses, just as they do with health insurance. In fact, no-fault auto insurance is largely health insurance by another name.

The law provided benefits for all the roughly 50 percent of injured people who could not recover anything from the fault system at the time. The cost of providing guaranteed high levels of benefits to all injured people was offset by the dramatic reduction in lawsuits and the accompanying attorney fees. Its “threshold” to sue reduced both recoveries of pain and suffering in cases of small injury and the costs of attorney fees. In fault states, both of these categories exceeded the amount paid from the insurance dollar for out-of-pocket costs.

The Michigan law was an unqualified success for some twenty-five years, with the state’s premiums ranking only fifteenth in the country in 1997. Why, then, is it in a virtual tie with Louisiana as the most expensive auto insurance state today? And why do 25 percent of motorists drive without insurance? Common sense provides the obvious answers—the difficulty of predicting human behavior, changing attitudes, and ticking time bombs in the legislation. No legislation is ever perfect. It is the job of the supporters of major legislation to monitor its implementation for possible issues that might arise and to be prepared to defend its integrity and make any necessary changes to preserve its purposes.

The Michigan law started off ideally from the standpoint of its supporters, both substantively and politically. Substantively, it benefitted from the findings of the deficiencies of the tort system in a twenty-six volume US Department of Transportation study in 1970, a model state law in 1973, and the early political experience of the US Senate in considering and developing legislation. Politically, Michigan benefitted from support among the major players across the political spectrum—from Republican Governor George Romney to the powerful United Auto Workers. It even had the support of the Michigan Bar Association, though not the trial bar. The law also had the benefit of being in a midwestern state where there were fewer trial lawyers per square mile than in other states with large urban centers, such as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

These differences from the eastern states enabled the Michigan law to operate as intended for roughly twenty-five years, with much better compensation and steady rates. The one unintended problem was that the law was mandating the Cadillac of insurance for all people, including those who could afford a Ford, at best. The result has been uninsured rates as high as twenty-five percent in Detroit and other areas with many low-income people. They need a much less costly form of insurance, one that would permit them to balance protecting themselves against injury with far more desperate needs to feed their families and pay the rent.

Where cost problems arose in other no-fault states, the primary reason was the retention of too many lawsuits. In all of them, the portion of the premium for lawsuits is higher than for the no-fault benefits. That is not the definition of a no-fault system. By contrast, in Michigan, the problems are primarily associated with its very generous no-fault benefits. Unlike in other no-fault jurisdictions, most of the cause of rising rates were the result of problems on the benefit side of the law. First, the benefits were higher than in any other form of insurance in the United States. There is no health insurance policy—Medicaid, Medicare, or private health insurance—that pays all the costs of all injuries with no limits. The original Michigan law had few of the cost controls that are traditionally contained in health insurance policies, such as deductibles, copayments, fee schedules, and limits on certain kinds of providers and the number of visits. Over time, particularly in serious injury cases, the absence of these common limitations resulted in skyrocketing benefit costs. Take, for example, personal attendant care for seriously injured people. It’s a wonderful idea if we as a society had unlimited resources. Medicare does not offer such coverage nor do traditional health insurance plans. The cost of these and other care for the very few catastrophic injury cases in Michigan eventually overwhelmed the costs of all other injuries combined.

Despite its very tight restriction on the right to sue, Michigan ultimately was not immune to its courts weakening the initial interpretation of and permissible grounds for suit. The Kreiner decision in 2010 made it easier for people to bring cases. With the cost of no-fault benefits rising well beyond the level originally anticipated and with the threshold weakened, this double whammy led to consistently rising rates until Michigan arrived in a virtual tie with Louisiana as the most expensive state for auto insurance in the country.

Thus, Michigan was faced with making reforms on both the no-fault and fault sides of the law. Recent reforms, which went into effect in July 2020, are beginning to bring down costs. People are now permitted to purchase lower levels of benefits, from $250,000 to $500,000 and $50,000 for people on Medicaid. Motorists can also opt out of buying no-fault coverage if they have qualified health coverage that applies to auto accidents. There is a fee schedule for medical providers and hospitals, although it is generous, starting at 200 percent of the Medicare rate before declining on an annual basis. Motorists now also have a managed care option, with deductibles and copayments, in return for a lower premium. Importantly, with regard to the cost of unlimited coverage, the new law limits reimbursement of family members who provide personal attendant care services to fifty-six hours a week.

So far, the reforms have led to a 60 percent drop in the charge for catastrophic coverage. Also, the option to purchase lower levels of no-fault benefits will bring down costs, but more needs to be done to fulfill the promises of no-fault. Further tightening on the benefit side will also reduce costs while leaving injured Michigan motorists with the most comprehensive coverage for auto accidents of any state in the country.

Stepping back for a minute from the problems in Louisiana and Michigan, think about what states had the highest premiums when the no-fault issue first arose in the mid-1960s. They were states with large urban populations where more accidents occurred and states with large, aggressive attorney populations. They included New York, New Jersey, and Florida. On the other hand, the lower cost states were largely rural where there were far fewer accidents, although many resulted in serious injuries. They included North Dakota, Maine, Iowa, Idaho, and South Dakota.

Nearly fifty years later, these states still fit into the same categories of cost, regardless of whether they have fault or no-fault laws, and the question remains: is it possible to lower premiums while improving compensation for the injured?

The short answer is yes. My recently released book, Highway Robbery: The Two-Decade Battle to Reform America’s Automobile Insurance System, describes in detail one way to solve the problems not only of Louisiana and Michigan but of all other states, be they tort or no-fault states—Auto Choice. In tort states, motorists would have the option to purchase no-fault coverage that will pay in all injury cases, just like health insurance, but with coverage for roughly twice the level of the existing fault coverage (about $50,000) so that it is not so high that it prices low-income drivers out of the market. Also, there would be cost controls in the auto insurance system, just as there are with health insurance, and coordinating payments for injuries between the health and auto insurance systems holds out the potential for substantial cost savings by eliminating duplicate payments. The threshold would limit lawsuits based on fault to cases of excess economic loss—economic loss beyond the level covered by the no-fault benefits. No suits for noneconomic damages would be permitted except against drunk drivers and those who intentionally injure others. In July 2003, the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress estimated that the average driver in Louisiana who chose the no-fault option would see a drop of 70 percent in their personal injury premiums.

In no-fault states, the no-fault option would address the problems in no-fault states caused by both uncontrolled benefits and weak thresholds. The benefit levels would be modest, but about twice as much as one could recover in a fault state. The threshold would be the same as described above, eliminating all suits for non-economic loss. The 2003 JEC estimate of savings for the average person on their personal injury premiums for Michigan was 61 percent.

Importantly, the concept of Auto Choice would allow drivers choices they don’t have today—a choice between two different auto insurance systems and, if they choose the no-fault option, to pick the level of no-fault benefits and to opt out of the choice system entirely if they wish. They could choose simply to remain in the system that was in place in their state before this legislation was passed. In effect, the option to remain in the state’s existing system would provide fail-safe protection should the no-fault option not work as intended. That’s the kind of guarantee that simply isn’t offered in legislation.

Now all that’s needed are some politically courageous politicians in state capitals to resist the political pressure from those who would lose money under such a system—trial lawyers and insurers. At last count, about ten years ago, lawyer fees exceeded $11 billion a year. They won’t give up that largely easy money easily. Strong pressure from a public fed up with unnecessarily high premiums offers the most hopeful answer, with crowdfunding financing the effort instead of special interest money, and a little organizing help from that highly unpopular but often effective group—lobbyists.

Peter Kinzler served for twenty-five years as a staffer in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, most as a subcommittee counsel, and for ten years in the private sector as president of the Coalition for Auto-Insurance Reform. He is the retired president of Kinzler Consulting and lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bodies and Boarding Schools

By: David Wallace Adams, author of Education for Extinction; American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875–1928

Recent news of the discovery of hundreds of Native American children’s graves at a site of a former boarding school in Canada has brought to public attention one of the most tragic chapters in the history of Indigenous peoples in North America, including the United States—the story of how Native children were removed, often forcibly, from their families and communities and placed in distant boarding schools where missionaries or government officials went about the business of eradicating cultural identities in the name of “civilization” and assimilation.

Having spent more than forty years studying and writing about Indian boarding schools, I was not terribly surprised by recent revelations but felt compelled to comment on a subject so close to the focus of my own work. For those unfamiliar with this chapter in Native American history, it may be surprising to learn of the extent to which the systematic removal of Native children from their families and communities and placing them in boarding schools, both reservation and off-reservation, was a major component of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century federal Indian policy. While it is nearly impossible to calculate the number of Indigenous children who attended such schools, my own analysis is that if a survey of Native Americans had been made in 1930, it would have shown that approximately 70-80 percent of the population attended such an institution at some point in their life. It is also important to point out that, unlike Canada, most of the enrollment in the United States was in federal (not mission) schools.

While it is true that many children adapted to the regimentation of boarding school life and saw their time of enrollment as an opportunity for acquiring knowledge and skills that would facilitate their survival in white society, for most the prolonged separation from family constituted terribly traumatic experiences which left emotional scars for years to come. Not the least of these painful memories was seeing fellow students stricken by raging epidemics of influenza, measles, pneumonia, and tuberculosis that swept through the school. Overcrowded dormitories, inadequate food, severe discipline policies, military-like regimentation, and other institutional realities all contributed to one of the darkest consequences of the boarding school experience—school cemeteries. Many of the bigger schools possessed such plots. How many of these undiscovered grounds exist, we still do not know.

The graveyard at Carlisle Indian School, one of the largest of the off-reservation institutions, contains 192 bodies with names like Lucy Pretty Eagle, Maud Little Girl, Dennis Strikes First, as well as the gravestone marked Unknown. Similarly, there are some one hundred graves at Haskell Institute, located in Lawrence, Kansas. Again, the names: Jerry Wolf Chief, Maggie Big Fire, and Charles Panther. Students’ knowledge of the school cemeteries couldn’t help but rattle their minds. Would they ever make it home? In his memoir, My People the Sioux, Luther Standing Bear, who attended Carlisle in the early years, says the news of a fellow student dying “worked on our nerves to such an extent that it told on our bodies.”

Some thirty years ago I interviewed an elderly Navajo (Diné) man who attended the off-reservation school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and who at one point was so consumed by pneumonia that he lay in a hospital bed for several months. Near-death, and slipping in and out of consciousness, his only relief was hearing what he thought to be that of tinkling bells. It must be the sheep, he imagined. Back on the reservation, he had spent countless hours herding sheep. And now he was hearing the familiar sound. “I could hear the bells. I know the sheep was pretty close. Them days, if you don’t hear those bells, you’d better go look for them. So I had the dream all the time. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t hurtin’ no place.” And so he managed to pull through.

The number of children who never came home was a major reason why many parents resisted turning their children over to school officials. In 1891, a chief in the Spokane Nation, which had lost sixteen of the twenty-one youths sent to eastern schools, declared, “If I had white people’s children, I would have put their bodies in a coffin and sent them home so that they could see them. I do not know who did it, but they treated my people as if they were dogs.”

Meanwhile, boarding school employees scrambled to keep the death number down, and most cared for sick children in the most humane manner possible. Many reasoned that sending homesick children to the poverty of the reservation would only seal their fate. The long distances and weather also came into play. At the same time, however, some dismissed the school’s responsibility for school deaths by claiming that many children were already showing signs of illness before arriving at school and consequently it was not attributable to school conditions. And then there was the all-to-common motivation to send a stricken child home once a serious illness was discovered with the likeliness of death, thereby reducing the risk of raising bureaucratic eyebrows in Washington for the school’s rising death toll.

With Secretary of Interior Haaland’s recent announcement of a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to explore the extent of burials across the boarding school system, one cannot help but wonder whether the numbers unearthed will approaching those of Canada. A thorough investigation will tell us, but I suspect not. While Canadian and US systems were driven by similar motives, like the erasure of Native cultures and land dispossession, as suggested earlier, there were also significant differences. Besides the proportional difference in the number of schools operated by the churches, there were also differences in bureaucratic oversight, at least after the 1870s when policymakers created an inspection system to monitor developments in the field.

Whatever the outcome on numbers, the fact remains that the history of Indian boarding schools constitutes one of the darkest chapters in the nation’s past, a story strewn with pain, moral atrocities, and the ghosts of children crying out for home.

A Pride Month Reading List

The University Press of Kansas is proud to help celebrate Pride Month with a curated list of books studying the legal battle for gay rights…

No Place Like Home; Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas

by C.J. Janovy

Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states. No Place Like Home was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for LBGTQ Nonfiction, winner of the Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, and A Kansas Notable Book

 

The Courts, the Ballot Box, and Gay Rights; How Our Governing Institutions Shape the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

by Joseph Mello

If the same-sex marriage debate tells us one thing, it is that rights do not exist in a vacuum. What works for one side at the ballot box often fails in the courtroom. Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage used appeals to religious liberty and parental rights to win ballot measure campaigns, but could not duplicate this success in court. Looking at the same-sex marriage debate at the ballot box and in the courts, this timely book offers unique insights into one of the most fluid social and legal issues of our day—and into the role of institutional context in how rights are used.

 

Judging the Boy Scouts of America; Gay Rights, Freedom of Association, and the Dale Case

by Richard J. Ellis

As Americans, we cherish the freedom to associate. However, with the freedom to associate comes the right to exclude those who do not share our values and goals. What happens when the freedom of association collides with the equally cherished principle that every individual should be free from invidious discrimination? This is precisely the question posed in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, a lawsuit that made its way through the courts over the course of a decade, culminating in 2000 with a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Judging the Boy Scouts of America, Richard J. Ellis tells the fascinating story of the Dale case, placing it in the context of legal principles and precedents, Scouts’ policies, gay rights, and the culture wars in American politics.

 

The Case for Gay Rights; From Bowers to Lawrence and Beyond

by David A. J. Richards

As Americans wrestle with red-versus-blue debates over traditional values, defense of marriage, and gay rights, reason often seems to take a back seat to emotion. In response, David Richards, a widely respected legal scholar and long-time champion of gay rights, reflects upon the constitutional and democratic principles—relating to privacy, intimate life, free speech, tolerance, and conscience-that underpin these often-heated debates.

 

The Sharon Kowalski Case; Lesbian and Gay Rights on Trial

by Casey Charles

While car-crash victim Sharon Kowalski lay comatose in the hospital, battle lines were drawn between her parents and her lesbian companion Karen Thompson, initiating a nearly decade-long struggle over the guardianship of Kowalski. The ensuing litigation became a rallying point for gays and lesbians frustrated by laws and social stigmas that treated them as second-class citizens. Considered the most compelling case of his lifetime by the late Tom Stoddard, former executive director of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, the Kowalski legal saga also resonated deeply among AIDS patients who worried that they too might be legally deprived of their partners’ care.

UPK to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

On January 9, 1940, the Committee on Publication and Printing recommended to the Faculty Senate “that the Administration be invited to consider establishing a University of Kansas Press.” It took 6 years, but on July 1, 1946, the University of Kansas Press opened (changing to the University Press of Kansas in 1967 to be inclusive of the six state schools that fund the Press: Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, the University of Kansas, and Wichita State University). 

This year we celebrate our 75 years of publishing acclaimed books on American politics (including the presidency, American political thought, and public policy), military history and intelligence studies, American history (especially political, cultural, intellectual, and western), environmental policy and history, American studies, film studies, law and legal history, Native American studies, and books about Kansas and the Midwest. Our books have reached a wide audience both inside and outside the academy and have been recognized for their contributions to important scholarly and public debates.

The Kansas state motto “Ad Astra per Aspera” is Latin for “to the stars through difficulties.” Our 74th year was difficult, but we are shooting for the stars and ready to celebrate our 75th.

We have a bunch of fun things planned: guest blogs, GREAT SALES, giveaways, unique partnerships, and maybe even a party. Let’s get this party started with a t-shirt sale! Our first-ever merchandise is available for pre-order and shirts will ship on 7/14.

See https://stores.inksoft.com/university_press_of_kansas/shop/home to order.

 

Diehl Ends 35-Year UPK Career

Few things are more interconnected with the University Press of Kansas than Direct Mail and Exhibits Manager Debra Diehl and, after 35 years, May 14 marks her final day with the Press.

Diehl’s responsibilities at UPK extend far beyond those covered by her job title. She’s the resident expert on Press history, official favorite person in the office of visiting kids, and long-time recruiter of local wildlife.

“Debra’s career with UPK has been inspirational,” said Kelly Chrisman Jacques, UPK managing director. “While I wish her chapter in UPK’s book had been a couple of years longer, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to work alongside her and learn from her. Deb’s sincerity, enthusiasm, patience, efficiency, and kindness have set the gold standard of exemplary performance and collegiality. She’s incomparable! I’ll miss Deb dearly, but I wish her only the best in her next chapter.”

Diehl’s extensive experience reaches beyond UPK’s walls. She’s represented the Press at meetings across the country and made sure books have traveled to events large and small. If there’s an event at which UPK books might be displayed, Deb knows about it.

“Deb is hands down the best exhibits manager I’ve worked with in over thirty years in publishing,” said Joyce Harrison, editor in chief. “It’s such a joy to come into an exhibit space, with tables to be put into place and boxes to open, and know that all of the books and supplies you need are there. Exhibits require a lot of advance work, and Deb goes about this work with stunning efficiency, especially considering the number of conferences we attend each year.”

As part of the marketing department team, Deb focused on promoting UPK books via the mail—postal and email—and arranging for them to be on display at conferences and events. Deb was originally hired as an office assistant and has worked for every department at the Press. Eventually, when the Press was able to increase its staff, a marketing assistant position was created and she started working with marketing. When the marketing department added another position, Deb moved into her role as direct mail and exhibits manager.

“Debra was on the committee that hired me,” said Suzanne Galle, marketing assistant. “In the many years that have transpired since, she has been a colleague, friend, and confidante all in one. I think all who have had the good fortune to work with her would say the same. Her skill, professionalism, and generosity have been a boon to both the press and all who have worked here. I will sorely miss working with her, but I look forward to seeing the good things that life’s next chapter has in store for her.”

Deb will begin work with Bowersock Capital Partners in Lawrence. It is undecided who will feed the birds and squirrels outside her office window.

“I’m glad that I help market a quality product,” Deb said. “Seeing a book ‘do well,’ whether that’s defined by sales, an award, or getting the author’s next project, is gratifying. But the most rewarding aspect of being at UPK is that I work with great people— people that I respect and like and admire. That’s been the case since day one.”

From Fear, Anger, and Grievance to Boring Competence: The Rhetorical Journey from Trump to Biden

by Robert C. Rowland, professor of communication studies, University of Kansas and author of The Rhetoric of Donald Trump: Nationalist Populism and American Democracy

Presidential elections often lead to a shift not only in policy, but in rhetoric. Jimmy Carter’s straightforward simplicity was followed by Ronald Reagan’s graceful narrative of America as a “shining city on a hill.” George W. Bush’s blunt direct style was followed by Barack Obama’s depiction of a nation in which there “never has been anything false about hope.” While shifts in rhetorical practice are common when one administration succeeds another, there has never previously been a shift as stark and dramatic as when President Joseph R. Biden succeeded Donald Trump. A rhetoric based in fear, anger, grievance, and self-praise was succeeded by one based in themes and language that best might be characterized as boring competence.

In my very recently published book, The Rhetoric of Donald Trump: Nationalist Populism and American Democracy (University Press of Kansas, April 2021), I explain how Trump activates negative emotions such as fear, hatred, and grievance, and then resolves that activation through presentation of himself as first the citizen-outsider and later the strongman president who can fix the problems facing the nation through strength of will. Trump’s rhetoric had and has undeniable power. It has made much of the current Republican Party into his personal rhetorical fiefdom, a point that is quite evident in the efforts to remove Liz Cheney from the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. Cheney’s sin was to put conservative principles ahead of loyalty to Trump. Only a few other Republican leaders have shown the same commitment to principle as Cheney, meaning that the current Republican Party probably should now be known not as the GOP, but as the POT (Party of Trump).

The source of the power of Trump’s rhetoric was not ideology, nor graceful style. Unlike principled small government Republicans (including, most notably, Ronald Reagan), Trump did not espouse a clear ideological perspective, nor was his rhetoric defined by an elegant style (there was very little artistry of any kind in his rhetoric), nor did Trump motivate his supporters by making a strong argument for a particular policy (in the way that Senator Bernie Sanders has captivated many progressive Democrats through advocacy for a single-payer health care system). Instead, Trump motivated his audience through emotional activation. He created fear and anger by warning of the dangers posed by groups who were Other than white Americans. Thus, he attacked undocumented immigrants, warned of the dangers of Islamic terrorists, attacked NFL players for protesting police violence against people of color, and so forth. His narrative of a nation where his core audience among the white working class was under siege from threatening Others was fundamentally false, but emotionally resonant. As I show in the book, Trump’s narrative was most powerful in places with few immigrants or representatives of the other groups he attacked and least successful in places where the groups he attacked were common. This explains why Trump’s message worked so well in places with few immigrants, such as North and South Dakota, but fell flat in places with many immigrants, such as California and New York.

In addition to fear and anger, Trump activated grievance against elites who he said disrespected and ignored “real” (white) Americans. He also used this strategy to undermine scrutiny of his campaign, presidency, and business by, for example, attacking the media as “Fake News” or even “the enemy of the people.” Finally, Trump resolved the strongly negative emotions of fear, hatred, and grievance by claiming that, as he said in his 2016 Republican National Convention acceptance address, “I alone can fix” this nation.

Since Trump’s rhetoric was defined by emotional activation and then resolution of that emotion through adulation for Trump, he hardly ever engaged in policy argument and never presented an important policy speech, either as a candidate or president. In the book, I detail the way that he took occasions that called for rhetoric focused on policy, such as the State of the Union address or COVID-19 briefings during the pandemic, and transformed them into speeches quite similar to his rally speeches. The same thing occurred on social media, which Trump used not to advance an argument, but to activate and resolve negative emotions. Trump’s focus on emotional activation was so heavy that there are individual speeches by President Barack Obama that contained more sustained argument about policy than in all of Trump’s presidential rhetoric combined.

In contrast to Trump, much of the appeal of the rhetoric of President Biden can be traced not to a particularly graceful style, but to the fact that Biden’s boring competence was for many Americans a very welcome contrast with Trump’s rhetoric of fear, anger, grievance, and self-congratulation. As commentator Ezra Klein observed, Biden’s “quieter strategy” of using rhetoric to “turn down ‘the temperature’ on American politics” actually opened “space for a bolder agenda.” Without the scary emotional thrill ride that Trump’s rhetoric produced, there was more space to lay out and defend actual policy proposals.

The difference between the two approaches to rhetoric was quite evident in the contrast between President Biden’s recent address to Congress that took the place of a State of the Union address and the State of the Union addresses that Trump presented in his term. Biden’s speech to Congress on April 28, 2021, was short on poetry, but long on substance. It lacked the grace, for example, of the heroes-in-the-room theme found in State of the Union addresses from Reagan to Obama. At the same time, he laid out a coherent agenda for confronting the pandemic, rebuilding the economy, counteracting global warming, and acting on a host of other issues. In contrast to Biden, I explain in the book how Trump eviscerated generic norms for the State of the Union, transforming the normally policy-heavy speeches into something similar to rally speeches. For example, in his 2018 State of the Union there was relatively little actual policy exposition, but a great deal of time spent activating fear of undocumented immigrants, accusing NFL players of being unpatriotic for protesting police violence, discussing imaginary threats to gun rights, and so forth. The bottom line is that the only message Trump had was that of emotional activation and resolution. Consequently, every speech became a rally speech, every briefing (even the pandemic briefings he presided over in the spring of 2020) a rally briefing, and nearly every tweet a snippet of a rally speech.

In contrast, Biden’s focus on clearly describing his agenda, his promise of boring competence, which in normal times might have fallen flat, was quite appealing to many. It was not only that Biden had a clear plan for confronting the pandemic, revitalizing the economy, and so forth, but that this style functioned as what Frank Bruni described as “an exorcism of Donald Trump.” Bruni noted that Biden was “less showboat than tugboat,” but added that the “tugboat [was] humbly poised to pull us out of perilous waters.” Over time, Biden’s “boring competence” may wear thin, but in the immediate aftermath of a presidency defined by constant efforts to activate negative emotions, both boredom and competence were virtues that many Americans found quite appealing.

Joseph R. Biden, “Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by President Biden — Address to a Joint Session of Congress,” Whitehouse.gov, April 28, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/28/remarks-as-prepared-for-delivery-by-president-biden-address-to-a-joint-session-of-congress.
Frank Bruni, “Biden Has Disappeared,” New York Times, March 21, 2021, SR3.
Ezra Klein, “Biden is the Anti-Trump, and It’s Working,” New York Times, March 5, 2021, A20.
Donald J. Trump, “Full text: Donald Trump 2016 RNC draft speech transcript,” Politico, July 21, 2016, https://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/full-transcript-donald-trump-nomination-acceptance-speech-at-rnc-225974.
Donald J. Trump, “President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union Address,” Whitehouse.gov, January 31, 2018, https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-state-union-address.

Goldstein on Mondale: “Truly consequential”

The death of Walter F. Mondale on April 19, 2021, brought an outpouring of tributes recognizing that the United States had lost an exceptional public servant and exemplary person. I shared that sentiment but for me, he was also the hero of my book, The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden (2016). I never would have written that book had Mondale not become vice president and much of it focused on his work in the historic undertaking to make the vice presidency truly consequential, work often performed in tandem with his partner in the undertaking, Jimmy Carter. Four chapters were devoted entirely to their work as were parts of six of the remaining 12 chapters.

My earlier book on the vice presidency, The Modern American Vice Presidency: The Transformation of a Political Institution (1982), written primarily during the late 1970s, had focused on the office during the quarter-century between the vice presidencies of Richard M. Nixon (1953-61) and Mondale (1977-81). It had traced the office’s dramatic move into the executive branch during Nixon’s vice presidency and the consolidation of that development to sweeping changes in American life and government that began with the New Deal and World War II. The book noted Mondale’s greatly enhanced role as a presidential adviser and recommended the Mondale model vice presidency but was written long before internal documents and other important information about Mondale’s term became available or before it became clear whether the new arrangements would continue after Carter and Mondale left office.

Yet by the early 21st century, if not before, it became clear that the vice presidencies that followed Mondale’s—those of George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle, Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Joe Biden—resembled Mondale’s tenure much more than those of Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Spiro T. Agnew, Gerald Ford or Nelson A. Rockefeller. Clearly, Mondale’s vice presidency had initiated an entirely new period for the office rather than being part of the Nixon era executive branch vice presidency.  Mondale’s recent predecessors had migrated to the executive branch but they spent little time in the West Wing. Yet that’s where Mondale and his successors operated.  Vice presidents from Nixon to Rockefeller often performed peripheral matters and rarely saw the president but Mondale and later vice presidents were in the president’s inner circle. They handled assignments that mattered and spent more hours with the president in a day than their predecessors had in a month. And the changes weren’t limited to time in office but extended to the selection and campaign roles. Beginning with Mondale, vice presidents were vetted extensively before selection, they participated in vice-presidential debates, and pre-convention rollouts soon became the norm, an innovation Mondale began in 1984 when he announced his historic selection of Representative Geraldine Ferraro before the convention.

The White House Vice Presidency began as an effort to describe the office that Mondale and his successors held and to understand how it had become a fixture in the inner sanctum of the West Wing. That investigation kept returning me to Mondale. Carter and Mondale had created the Mondale model vice presidency and the supporting practices and institutions which other administrations had then adopted.

Yet that statement, that Carter and Mondale created the new vice presidency, is misleading since its very simplicity diminishes the difficulty and magnitude of their accomplishment. It was a very big deal!  The unprecedented arrangement required a complicated sequence of steps and created a new model that endured long after they left office. Carter and Mondale needed to reach a mutual commitment that an engaged and empowered vice presidency was in their interests and made sense, to understand the office, its failures and frustrations to create a new vision, to identify and provide the resources to give the new vision a chance to function and to implement it faithfully amidst the stresses of governing to confirm that what seemed good in theory could work in practice. And even if they successfully accomplished each step, their creation would extend beyond their terms in office only if they transmitted the model to their successors and demonstrated its merit and feasibility.

My research led me to appreciate the complexity of their achievement, the necessary steps that were hidden from public view. Mondale had undertaken an intensive study of the vice presidency to understand its vulnerabilities and recurring failures and to identify ways in which it could enhance American government. That study led him to think about the office in a novel way—not principally as a president in waiting but as a senior, elected official committed to helping the president succeed now.  The new perspective on the office accompanied a new vision of the vice-presidential role. Rather than accumulating vice-presidential portfolios, Mondale concluded that the vice president should function as a senior, across-the-board presidential adviser and troubleshooter for high-level assignments. Long before Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Aaron Burr memorably sung of the allure of being in “The Room Where it Happens,” Mondale appreciated lessons implicit in that wonderful song as the secret to a consequential vice-presidency. Mondale recognized that being in the room with Carter would allow him to offer Carter uniquely useful advice—the candid counsel of a fellow elected public servant with a similar perspective and shared political destiny—and would enhance his ability to undertake presidential assignments. Mondale understood that the new vice-presidential vision of a general adviser and troubleshooter wouldn’t just happen. It required new vice-presidential resources—access to the president and the information he got and presidential support. Carter, anxious to have Mondale’s help, gave Mondale every resource he requested and demonstrated his commitment to the project by adding others. Mondale implemented the new vision for four years, giving Carter candid advice and handling high-level assignments skillfully. And then, after Carter and Mondale lost their re-election campaign to Ronald Reagan and Bush, Mondale and his aides schooled Bush and his associates on how to be a successful vice president even though Mondale knew that he would be embarking on a presidential campaign in 1984 which would likely match him against Reagan and/or Bush.

The innovations that Carter and Mondale put in place regarding the White House vice presidency, and the selection, rollout, and campaign roles of vice-presidential candidates have been institutionalized since then. To be sure, those features have been tweaked and updated and different vice presidents have done things a bit differently. But the vision, resources, and institutions Carter and Mondale put in place have survived on a bipartisan basis during the succeeding presidential administrations. They created the office Vice President Kamala Harris now holds.

The White House Vice Presidency thus became not simply a book about the vice presidency as it now exists. It also became a study of an important type of constitutional change, a consideration of how enduring institutional change can occur through the repetition of practices until they become established norms.

What triggered this constitutional change was political leadership, principally the commitment, imagination, planning, and performance of Carter and Mondale in finding a way to recreate America’s most problematic governmental institution into a position of lasting consequence. They were the leaders who made the change happen. Writing the book left me with an appreciation of Mondale’s deep understanding of American constitutional government and political behavior, his creativity in reformulating the vice presidency into a consequential and productive institution of government, and his skill and character in discharging his public trust. I hope the book conveys that picture of the leadership and character of this remarkable public servant and person.

Joel K. Goldstein is the the Vincent C. Immel Professor of Law Emeritus, Saint Louis University School of Law. He is the author of numerous works on the vice presidency, presidential succession, and constitutional law.

Kevin L. Smith Named Director of University Press of Kansas

The University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees, which is composed of the provosts from each of the six Kansas Regents institutions, has confirmed University of Kansas Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith to serve as director of the University Press of Kansas (UPK). Smith joined KU Libraries as dean in May 2016. He previously served as the director of copyright and scholarly communication at Duke University.

During his tenure at Duke, Smith advised faculty, staff, and students on issues of copyright, intellectual property licenses, and scholarly publishing. He played a vital role in coordinating online publishing, offered instructional opportunities on copyright, and increased awareness surrounding intellectual property and open access to the Duke community and beyond.

Smith earned a J.D. from Capital University Law School, a master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, and a master of arts in religion from Yale University Divinity School. Prior to his work at Duke, he was the director of Library and Instructional Resources at Defiance College. He has also worked as an instructor, reference librarian, and assistant librarian.

UPK: What are your first orders of business as the UPK Director?

Smith: The first thing I need to do is to get to know the Press staff. I have been very impressed by their dedication and professionalism during the past few, very stressful months, and I am looking forward to learning about them and from them. Of course, I need to take a deep look at UPK’s finances and operations. And, then, we need to start planning our first steps toward the new initiatives we will undertake in digital publishing and open access.

What do you look forward to most in your new role as director?

As my previous answer indicates, I am looking forward to working with the UPK staff. I also anticipate some creative and exciting conversations about how UPK and the libraries, at KU and at the other Kansas Regents’ universities, can find new ways to collaborate.

How do you plan to balance your responsibilities as Dean of Libraries and Director of UPK?

Appointing Kelly Chrisman Jacques as Managing Director of the Press was a big step. I do not have either the time nor the expertise to oversee the daily operations of the Press, although I expect to learn a lot about how UPK works in the coming months, so Kelly’s new role is essential. Obviously, I will be spending a good deal of time meeting people, talking about the Press, and exploring new ways for the Press to fulfill its mission. Fortunately, the KU Libraries have a very strong leadership team, and I can lean on them quite a bit.

How can UPK collaborate with the KU library system and the library systems at the other Regents universities?

This is something we will need to explore together. The different libraries at the Regents’ universities have different approaches to digital publishing, so as we seek collaboration in that area, we will need to discuss how each of the libraries can work together with the Press, and what the most important objectives are in those collaborations.

A major point of focus moving forward will be developing an active Open Access program with UPK titles. Can you describe how that process will be implemented? What will it look like in 5 years?

It is much too early for me to start predicting the future, five years down the road! But an important goal for us will be to help the faculty at each of the Regents’ universities gain access to publishing expertise and to take advantage of the benefits that open access offers to scholars and scholarship.

The reorganization of a program and new initiatives can take time to implement and review; can you expound upon the anticipated timeframe for this process?

I would like to spend the rest of the spring and summer talking with people and learning about current processes and future possibilities. I hope we can have some basic planning in place by the start of the fall semester in order to facilitate outreach to the faculties at each university.

The Press receives a subsidy from the state of Kansas. That subsidy has not increased in 10 years and will decrease for the next fiscal year. What type of challenges does that present for UPK?

There are financial challenges facing us across higher education right now, and that is very likely to continue. Frankly, I am pleased that the subvention will continue. A big part of the reorganization plan adopted by the Trustees is cutting costs, and it will also be critical for us to identify project-based subventions to help with that goal. Overall, the challenge and the necessity is for the Press to live within its means.

While the Press was being reviewed by Rick Clements, public support for the mission of UPK swelled. How do you address supporters of the Press and instill confidence in the new direction?

First, I am very grateful for all of the support that was expressed for the Press, and I know that the staff is as well. All of the messages encouraging that the Press continue to fulfill its mission really did have a significant impact. The new directions we will be pursuing together are adjustments, efforts to take advantage of new technologies and opportunities; they do not alter that fundamental mission to publish excellent scholarship in the traditional areas of the Press’s expertise. Also, each of these newer trajectories are actually well-trodden paths, and we have lots of colleagues in the Association of University Presses and the Association of Research Libraries who are very willing to think with us to design successful plans.

How can we leverage this enthusiasm and support long-term? What fundraising plans do you have for UPK?

The 75th anniversary of the Press this year is a great opportunity to leverage the attention and support that the Press has received to build a firm foundation of supporters. I see three prongs to our fund-raising work. First, we will collaborate more closely with the KU endowment association to develop a fund-raising strategy.  Second, we will intensify our efforts to identify sources of project-specific subventions. Finally, we will look more closely at grant opportunities in the areas of digital publishing and open access. The Mellon-funded Kansas Open Books project that is currently underway actually advances us a good deal in the arena of digital publishing and open access, and it can serve as a model for what we can accomplish with the assistance of research funders.

University Press of Kansas to continue its work under leadership of KU Libraries dean

LAWRENCE — The University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees, which is composed of the provosts from each of the six Kansas Regents institutions, has confirmed University of Kansas Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith to serve as director of the University Press of Kansas (UPK).

Smith, a well-known authority in the field of scholarly communications, will continue his role as dean in addition to serving as director of the press. This change will allow UPK to take advantage of publishing and scholarly alignment opportunities as well as operate in a more cost-efficient manner.

“Founded in 1946, and established as a consortium by the Kansas Board of Regents, UPK has been a part of our scholarly and academic communities throughout its history,” said Shirley Lefever, chair of the Board of Trustees and Wichita State University interim executive vice president and provost. “We are appreciative of the resources provided by KU Libraries to allow the board to continue its conversations about how to preserve this history while exploring options for the press’ fiscally responsible future. The board is confident in Kevin’s ability to serve in this leadership role.”

As part of this move, UPK will also begin a number of exciting initiatives, including the development of a new open access digital publishing program. This multidisciplinary platform will initially be targeted at faculty at the six Regents institutions, with a goal to expand as capacity and demand permits. UPK will continue to publish books in a traditional manner but intends to reduce its annual production to about 45 books, maintaining high standards of peer review and editorial production. It will continue with a 60/40 mix of scholarly monographs and trade books.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of UPK, which specializes in publishing works on American politics, military history and intelligence studies, American history, environmental policy and history, American studies, film studies, law and legal history, Native American studies, and books about Kansas and the Midwest.

Please visit their websites to learn more about the University Press of Kansas and KU Libraries.

University Press of Kansas Board of Trustees

  • Jill Arensdorf, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Fort Hays State University
  • Barbara Bichelmeyer, provost and executive vice chancellor, KU
  • David Cordle, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Emporia State University
  • Shirley Lefever, board chair, interim executive vice president and provost, Wichita State University
  • Howard Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Pittsburg State University
  • Charles Taber, provost and executive vice president, Kansas State University

Kevin L. Smith, Dean of Libraries, University of Kansas

Smith earned a juris doctor from Capital University Law School, a master’s degree in library science from Kent State University and a master of arts in religion from Yale University Divinity School.

Smith joined KU Libraries as dean in May 2016. He previously served as the director of copyright and scholarly communication at Duke University and as the director of Library and Instructional Resources at Defiance College. Smith has also worked as an instructor, reference librarian and assistant librarian.

As the dean of KU Libraries, Smith advocates on behalf of the libraries, positioning the organization as an integral partner with the university’s academic and administrative units and ensuring its continued leadership in advancing research, teaching, inclusivity and global initiatives. Smith also facilitates external relations through outreach development and engaging in donor relations to solidify fundraising efforts.