Lawyer: Fired WSU Press staffers to return next week

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Three Wayne State University Press managers who were fired this month are slated to return to work next week, their attorney said Friday.

Jennifer McManus said after talks with her and university officials, editor-in-chief Annie Martin; design and production manager Kristin Harpster; and sales/marketing director Emily Nowak were offered their jobs back starting Tuesday.

They accepted and "are really happy to return," McManus told The Detroit News. "They really believe in the authors they work with and they didn't want to let those people down."

In an email to The News on Friday night, Wayne State spokesman Matt Lockwood said "the university re-hired Kathryn Wildfong as interim director and empowered her to make personnel decisions in the best interest of the Press, and we'll support her decisions, but we cannot comment further on specific moves."  

Wayne State Press is located in the center of campus at, 4809 Woodward Ave, Detroit.

McManus said the university has not apologized or given a reason for the firings, which prompted outcry from the publishing house's editorial board as well as others who demanded the staffers be reinstated.

"They’re still considering what their options are for what they endured over the last two weeks," she said.

The decision to terminate the three was "reached only after careful and deep consideration at every level," according to a statement to the faculty editorial board obtained by The News. In a letter Feb. 14 to colleagues, Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson declined to discuss personnel matters but said: "I understand the rationale behind them."

Last week, 60 writers, editors and affiliates of the Press called the firings "a breach of trust with the authors who have built relationships and served as ambassadors of the press in the academic and wider community," one that would "undermine the ability of Wayne State Press to recruit and serve scholars and writers at all stages of the publication process."

In his letter days later, Wilson said the press would report to his office through chief of staff Michael Wright, who leads WDET and is vice president of marketing and communications for the university. Wilson also wrote that a search had started to replace the fired staffers.

The WSU Press has been a leading publisher of Great Lakes books, Judaica and African American studies since 1941. It publishes 35-40 new books and 11 journals each year.