The Newscripts gang always enjoys a good prank. We recently cracked up after reading about a blogger who challenged her readers to include a photograph of their rear end as part of an academic job application.
Rebecca Schuman is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and writes about career issues in academia at her blog Pan Kisses Kafka. She thought up the posterior photo challenge as a way to mock the absurdity of the application process in the humanities.
Schuman often writes about the hoops humanities job seekers must jump through, including writing responses to questions from university search committees that rival a Dickens novel in length. Schuman argues that many of these questions ask candidates to demonstrate vague qualities about themselves, such as scholarly potential. And with hundreds of 80-plus-page applications landing on their desks, she doubts committee members actually wade through the entire torrent of text.
So Schuman issued a challenge earlier this month on her blog and on Twitter, using the #ButtScan hashtag. There were a few rules. The applicant’s bottom had to be clothed, to avoid legal trouble. The butt photo had to be submitted as a response to a vague question or requirement in the application. And the person had to be qualified for the position. The first person to prove submission of an appropriate butt scan received $100.
At first Schuman thought no one would accept the challenge. But in just 48 hours, she found a winner. To prove the photo had been submitted, the applicant sent Schuman an online password to access the submitted digital application. Schuman, obviously, won’t reveal the identity of the person but says “it was somebody that had obviously been spending time doing super squats.”
Not everyone has found humor in the challenge. One critic complained to Schuman that the challenge accomplished little. Schuman says her goal was never to solve a problem, just to highlight one. “It was a call-out to search committees for taking themselves too seriously,” she says. “It was a joke. The fact that someone actually did it shows how ridiculous the job market is right now.”
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