INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 20, 2013, 08:51 AM

UND Writers Conference faces funding challenge

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — An annual writers' conference at the University of North Dakota that has brought students, faculty and townspeople together with literary giants for more than four decades could be in jeopardy because of money concerns.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — An annual writers' conference at the University of North Dakota that has brought students, faculty and townspeople together with literary giants for more than four decades could be in jeopardy because of money concerns.

Debbie Storrs, the new dean of the university's College of Arts and Sciences, has asked organizers of the annual spring event to come up with a long-term funding plan or consider scaling back or even ending the conference, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

"It is an important conference, important not only to our internal UND community but also to the wider Grand Forks community," Storrs said. "We'd love to see it continue with the same quality of authors. It's a great way to pull people together to think and learn. But this is one of many competing demands for resources."

It costs as much as $100,000 a year to bring nationally and internationally known writers to campus for a weeklong series of readings and panel discussions. One of the featured writers for next year's conference is Robert Pinsky, appointed U.S. poet laureate three times by the Library of Congress.

Storrs calls it "a significant expense" and said the conference might not be able to count on continuing support from the university or such outside sources as the National Endowment for the Arts. She has asked a conference planning committee led by Crystal Alberts, a member of the English Department faculty and co-director of the conference, to look into the financing.

"It's been an expensive process over the years to get the quality of authors to come to campus," Storrs said. "It takes resources. I've asked her to think about a viable long-term strategy to support the conference. We can scale back, we can offer it every other year, not offer it, or partner with others."

Alberts declined to comment on Storrs' request.

The conference does not charge for readings and panel discussions.

"The English faculty want to continue to provide this open access," Storrs said. "They really don't want to go to a fee model. I respect that, but that means we need to find other ways to support it."

Eric Wolfe, chairman of the English Department, said he and others in the department understand the situation but remain "hopeful there will still be money to fund something that's been such a resource for the campus and the community."

Storrs suggested that alumni and other fans of the conference step up to keep it going.

"It's been a gift to the community for 45 years," she said. "But if it's not important enough to the community for people to help fund it, maybe we don't do it every year. Maybe we offer it every other year."

Tags: