In 2013, the Chronicle for Higher Education featured an inside look of two public university faculty searches for assistant professors. Through an open records request, the Chronicle discovered that Ohio University drew 117 applicants for one spot in the English department. The University of Florida drew 71 applicants for a spot in the linguistics department. This is an acceptance rate of 0.85% at Ohio and 1.4% at Florida.
Each of the applicants were extraordinarily talented. An MFA or PhD was required at Ohio. Each applicant had to have published at least one book. One applicant’s novel had been adapted into a film. Many won prestigious awards. All published numerous articles in respected peer-reviewed journals. Regardless of their awards, only one got the job.
Academics in other fields don’t fare any better. Rebecca Schuman noted last year that the MLA Jobs Information List announced that a grand total of only nine tenure-track jobs opened in German studies in the fall of 2014: “9. Single digits. This is utter carnage.”
Which is why the story of Eric Jarosinski’s rise to academic stardom by using Twitter is so strange.