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.