Book Cover

The Vulnerability of Public Higher Education

Michael Bernard-Donals

218 pp. 6 x 9
Pub Date: October, 2023

Subjects: Rhetoric & Communication
Cultural Studies

order Hardcover $99.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1555-5
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“Bernard-Donals provides a shattering theory of institutional vulnerability and what this means for faculty members working in higher education today, exposing the unsettling of relations between academic freedom and responsibility, between stability and mobility, and between institutions and the public they were built to serve.” Debra Hawhee, author of A Sense of Urgency: How the Climate Crisis Is Changing Rhetoric

The Vulnerability of Public Higher Education is the most detailed rhetorical account yet available of the crisis in US university education. Bernard-Donals’s rhetorical approach to past problems and future challenges transforms the conditions of possibility for debates about universities in the current context of highly polarized American politics.” Steven Mailloux, author of Rhetoric’s Pragmatism: Essays in Rhetorical Hermeneutics

Reduced state funding to public institutions. The removal of tenure from state statutes. Attempts to silence faculty. Michael Bernard-Donals takes on these issues and other crises in higher education in The Vulnerability of Public Higher Education, exploring how values once used to justify higher education—the democratization of knowledge, the fostering of expertise, the creation of well-informed citizens, and critical engagement with issues—have been called into question.

Bernard-Donals argues that public higher education, especially the work of faculty, has become vulnerable—socially, politically, professionally—and this book takes seriously the idea of vulnerability, suggesting that university faculty see it not as an encumbrance to their work but as an opportunity to form relations of solidarity with one another through mutual recognition and shared, albeit different forms of, precarity. Through a series of case studies on faculty rights and responsibilities, the efficacy of diversity initiatives, and tenure and academic freedom, Bernard-Donals employs a rhetorical perspective to show how vulnerability can reshape faculty work and provide ways to shift the relations of materiality and power while opening up new forms of deliberation, engagement, and knowledge production.

Michael Bernard-Donals is Chaim Perelman Professor of Rhetoric and Culture and Nancy Hoefs Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.



Introduction    The Vulnerability of Public Higher Education
Chapter 1        Commonplaces of Governance
Chapter 2        Faculty Rights and Responsibilities and the Urgency of Justice
Chapter 3        Academic Freedom, Democracy, and Professional Rights
Chapter 4        Expertise, Discipline, and Faculty Autonomy
Chapter 5        The Vulnerabilities of Institutional Diversity
Chapter 6        Becoming Rhetorical

Works Cited

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