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Publications unit to close Aug. 31

STANFORD -- The Stanford Publication Services Graphic Center will close Aug. 31 due to its large operating deficit, University Communications Director Terry Shepard announced Wednesday, July 20. Layoff notices have been given to 19 staff members.

The department's other unit - Document Express, which comprises three copy centers - will continue to operate.

Located in the Press Building, the Graphic Center has provided service for university departments and organizations in publications planning, design, writing, graphic production and the procurement of printing.

Shepard acknowledged that the closure "will be a hardship for client departments," but said publications staff members are committed to helping their clients with the transition (see separate story).

Several of the employees said they are considering setting up independent businesses to continue the kind of work they have done for the Graphic Center.

The shutdown is one of the largest on campus in the last few years.

The Graphic Center ran a deficit of $277,000 in 1992-93 and is expected to have a similar deficit this year, Shepard said.

For many years, the university fully subsidized a design and consulting unit that was part of News and Publications Service. In 1988, the publications portion was merged with a publications/instructional media unit at the Medical Center and a campus typesetting/print shop. For a time, the combined service center operated with the old Publications Service general funds subsidy.

Then budget problems hit the university. The department's $350,000 subsidy in 1991-92 was reduced to $77,000 in 1992-93 and eliminated this year.

As the general funds support diminished, the unit tried to make ends meet by cutting operating expenses, increasing rates, closing its satellite operation at the Medical Center and reducing management and staff positions.

Shepard said the Graphic Center staff "is not to blame" for the closure.

"They have done high-quality work, but today we're in a changed economic environment that no one could really control. The economics of 1994 are vastly different than they were five years ago," he said.

In the end, the Graphic Center was caught in a bind. Shepard said it was unable to charge enough to cover its costs and also unable, as a campus service center, to solicit off-campus business that could have generated additional revenue.

The change is consistent, he said, with the principle that unit managers will be responsible for their own budgets and cannot expect hidden subsidies.

Shepard said he hoped that department managers could make good publications decisions.

"In some cases they may find cheaper ways to do things," he said. "Many publications projects already are done off campus and I assume that's because the sponsors think there is some advantage to it."

University oversight on publications

Stanford Publication Services has functioned as a central oversight group, helping academic and administrative departments communicate with the university community, alumni, prospective students and the general public.

Among the department's major clients are Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Development, which became a big customer last year after closing its own publications unit.

Last year, Publication Services produced more than 3,000 publications, ranging from stationery and business cards to brochures, handbooks, reports, calendars, magazines, annual reports, commencement materials and promotional pieces aimed at prospective freshmen and transfer students.

The department played a key role in the centennial celebration, designing large packets of information for thousands of alumni.

Stephen Peeps, associate vice president for development and former head staff member for the centennial celebration, praised the publications group as "first rate," and said it "has been gratifying to watch them evolve to a level of professionalism, quality and customer service as good as anything available outside campus."

"It is unfortunate," Peeps said, "that current budget circumstances don't allow us the opportunity to maintain such a fine operation. We will certainly miss what they've brought to us in Development and the contribution they made to the university's overall communications capabilities."

Among its annual tasks, the publications unit each year has created university maps and organized an annual university-wide purchase of printed envelopes that produced lower unit costs for each participating department.

Shepard said he will seek to have the annual envelope order and print-buying function retained somewhere in the university, and to help client departments find other ways to produce core publications.

Shepard acknowledged that the closure will result in loss of institutional memory and make more difficult projecting consistent themes and graphic images in university publications.

"We're aware that something will be lost, but it was not something we could afford to pay for," he said. He said that efforts would be made to coordinate themes and graphic images "through the units themselves on the publications that most present Stanford to the outside world."

Initiated self-study

Last January, publications director Sue Cretarolo and her staff initiated a major study of the department's financial situation, identifying several options for allowing the Graphic Center to continue. Cretarolo said that "we blew the whistle on ourselves because we knew we had to do something about the problems."

Shepard said Cretarolo and he chose the option that offered the best chance of success "and tried to make it work, but it turned out not to be feasible."

Frustrated as officials debated the unit's future, Cretarolo announced June 28 that she would resign effective July 29.

"Unfortunately, the university would not commit to or support a centralized publications service," Cretarolo said.

Cretarolo paid tribute to the graphics staff, some with service dating back more than a dozen years, for the work it produced during months of uncertainty about its future.

"It's amazing that this group accomplished what it did given the environment," she said.

"You will never find a more capable, qualified, dedicated group of people," she said of the close-knit department. "You'll never find another group that has the same kind of spirit these people do."

In recent years, Stanford Publication Services has garnered dozens of design and editorial awards from such organizations as the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the University and College Designers Association and Print magazine.

While the Graphic Center is closing, Document Express will remain open with its three operations in Tresidder Union, the Law School and the Business School. Work will continue on eliminating that unit's much smaller deficit, Shepard said. Its manager, Alena Lee, also recently resigned, citing a desire for career and personal development.

Document Express provides digital electronic publishing and copying services. It produces about 35 million to 40 million printing impressions per year, including course readers.

The eligible laid-off Graphic Center employees will receive normal severance pay. Shepard said that where possible, staff members would be assisted in finding other university openings.

A team of employee relations and benefits staff members has met with publications workers, offering assistance that included copies of a layoff packet that looked familiar.

The publications staff designed and produced it last year.



The Graphic Center of Stanford Publication Services, slated to close its doors Aug. 31, will spend its last several weeks of operation advising and helping clients, even on jobs it will not have time to complete.

By Aug. 31, staff members will have developed a blueprint for units to use in developing their own publications, according to Terry Shepard, director of university communications. This will include guidelines on university policies relating to publications and information on how to find needed help.

The Graphic Center, located in the Press Building on the side facing the Old Firehouse, will stop accepting orders for business cards, letterhead and envelopes as of 5 p.m. Friday, July 29. After that, the staff will provide advice on how those jobs can be done.

All other new projects will be evaluated on a case-by- case basis to determine whether there is adequate time to complete them. Client departments with questions are encouraged to contact their account representative directly.

Stanford Publication Services has been storing artwork and negatives for many brochures, booklets, reports and other projects. Clients are encouraged to collect these items between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., any time until Thursday, Aug. 25.

Stanford Publication Services Director Sue Cretarolo has resigned her post effective July 29. Paula Murray-Richman will serve as acting director during the unit's last month of operation.

For more information, call the publications unit at 723- 4811.


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