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Rosenthal Takes Over a Troubled Press

He Foresees a Resurgence of Harvard's Operation, Despite Problems

By Steven M. Luxemberg

President Bok's appointment last month of Arthur J Rosenthal, former Chairman of the Board of Basic Books Inc., as the new director of the Harvard University Press ended a six month search that began with the firing of the former director and the stark realization that the Press might lose $500,000 in fiscal year 1972.

Rosenthal has experience both as an editor and as an executive. He founded Basic Books--a company which publishes scholarly works similar to those sought by the Harvard Press--in 1950 I consider myself an editor first rather than an administrator said Rosenthal "I want the Press to become a vibrant part of the Harvard community a place where both faculty and students are welcome.

Why Rosenthal left the comfortable position of Editor-in-Chief with a successful book company--earthier this year Basic Books was sold to Harper & Row--to take over the reins of the troubled Harvard Press is a puzzling question Rosenthal said that he left because "Harvard's press is going to be the top book company in the next decade."

"Commercial presses are in for a few problems in the next 10 years. Besides my move to Harvard is a natural extension of the work I did with Basic Books," he added.

Still a $500,000 deficit is not to be taken lightly, although it is largely the reason Rosenthal was hired at all. Since the 1971-1972 budget had called for the Press to break even, the sudden appearance of a half-million dollar deficit created quite a stir in Massachusetts Hall and eventually the dismissal of the director, Mark S. Carroll '50.

Six months later, however, it appears that the Press is well on its very to solvency. The projected $500,000 loss has been cut to $250,000 and according to the Press's operation manager Bryan Murphy, this year's deficit might not exceed $100,000.

Apparently last year's large loss came as no surprise to Stephen S.J. Hall, administrative vice-president. Hall, ex officio member of the Press's Board of Directors, said that he realized the Press would be unable to break even as soon as he examined the budget in August 1971.

Hall's influence on the Press cannot be underestimated. Prior to his arrival with the Bok administration, the Press had been on shaky footing at best. In 1970-71, the deficit exceeded $450,000, and the Press has run in the red since 1967-68. The Press's creed that it existed "to publish as many good scholarly works as possible, short of bankruptcy," seemed to have been taken literally.

As the financial crisis deepened, the Bok administration took drastic measures to put the Press back on its feet. Carroll's abrupt dismissal, although a surprise to the director himself came after long deliberations between Bok, Hall, and the Board of Directors. When the decision was made to ask Carroll for his resignation, however, Carroll refused to resign, and Bok dismissed him.

Part of Carroll's problem as director stemmed from differences of opinion with Hall Both Hall and Carroll have admitted to personal antagonism, but the differences didn't stop there Hall viewed the Press as a business while Carroll's attitude stuck closely to the Press's academic and scholarly ideals The conflict that developed between economics and scholarly pursuits seemed inevitable.

As new director, Rosenthal has inherited an organization that has changed abruptly in the past six months. Last March, the Press switched its warehouse and shipping operation from Harvard's Computer Center to Technical Impex Corporation (TIC) in Lawrence. TIC is a more efficient outfit which has saved the Press close to $200,000. Although TIC has had trouble handling orders in 72 hours, as their contract with the Press demands, since August they've handled about 90 per cent of all orders in less than three days.

Rosenthal brings the executive experience to the Press which Carroll seemed to lack. During his 20 years as head of Basic Books. Rosenthal established a company well known for its publication of scholarly works while at the same time maintaining a sound economic operation.

According to Hall. Rosenthal's appointment makes Harvard's press the best in the country. "Rosenthal has a fine eye for what constitutes a scholarly work." Hall said. "He is both an editor and an astute business man."

Hall's confidence in Rosenthal and the Press marks a change from his position when the search committee for a new director was organized last February. The search committee's task wasn't made any easier by the resignation of the acting director. David H. Horne, in May. Horne left to head the University Press of New England. Oscar Handlin, Warren Professor of American History replaced him.

While Handlin quietly struggled to keep the Press's head above water the search committee began reducing the list of 100 possible directors. The committee--chaired by James Q. Wilson, chairman of the Government Department--narrowed the list down to five, and chatted informally with Rosenthal and others before making its final decision.

"I had extensive talks with the committee. We talked quite openly about my strengths and weaknesses," Rosenthal said.

How well Rosenthal and Hall will work together is still a matter of speculation. Rosenthal says that he is "bursting" with new ideas for the Press, which he will start instituting after he assumes command October 1. But when Hall became a member of the Board of Directors, he devised a management plan for the administration of the Press which in cluded a program that would balance the budget within five years. Wherever or not Rosenthal will be free to develop his own plan is yet to be decided.

Hall's plan brought the Press into a general arrangement consisting of the ten service organizations of the University. But Hall maintains that he has no desire to dictate the editorial policy of the Press. "We will continue to publish outstanding scholarly works, regardless of possible loss." Hall has stated repeatedly. But Hall has indicated that he hopes the Press will publish more reference books that will provide a steady market yield.

Rosenthal, however, says that while such books are good for the Press financially, they are not the Press's primary concern. "They may make money, but I don't consider them a penetrating statement of scholarly value," he said.

As administrative vice-president, Hall will keep a heavy hand on the Press, placing emphasis on the budget, and he will insist that it be attained. "For the past two years the policy has been to report a budget that states the Press will break even, even if it didn't. Well we don't want any surprises for the Corporation this year," he said.

In keeping with this philosophy, Hall projects a $139,000 deficit for 1972-73. The exact savings over last year is difficult to estimate because of a large accounts receivable foul-up which the Press will eliminate, by tacking the loss onto the 1971-72 deficit But despite the confusing rature of the figures, it appears that Hall will have reduced the deficit by $250,000 in two years.

Hall attributes this savings to the TIC switch and a highly successful book sale last April in Memorial Hall. "In fact, we're planning another sale for this year. Hall said.

One expense--severance pay for former director Carroll--no longer requires payment by the Press. Bok promised Carroll six months pay when he was dismissed with the condition that he would receive six months' more if he could not find another job last week. Hall announced that Carroll had been hired by the circulation department of the National Park Service and the Press would cease payment of the severance pay on November 1.

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