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Fall 2022, 52.5 pages: 433-447

Commonplaces of Governance and the Vulnerability of Faculty Work


Shared governance, the principle that faculty members have a role in governing the institutions in which they work, in the American university is in crisis. Do the principles that underlie shared governance retain their efficacy in the contemporary, neo-liberal university? In this essay, I examine the commonplaces that underwrite our contemporary understanding of university shared governance and the practices that are animated by them: the idea of the university as a public good, the idea that faculty expertise grants them a governance role, and the assumption that governance provides stability, security, and continuity to the institution. The essay examines the development of shared governance as a (rhetorical) means of providing order through consensus, analyzes recent instances of governance crises in American higher education, and proposes an alternative set of commonplaces with which to address a period in American public higher education characterized by mobility, unsettlement, and vulnerability.

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