A tenure-track job is surely a valuable commodity, but would you pay for a shot at one?
The job ad states simply: “In lieu of postage and duplication costs you will be charged a fee of $15.”
Gary Voss, chair of Colorado State’s art department, confirmed in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed that there is a fee for applying for the position. The fee, he said, is paid to SlideRoom.com, the site that hosts the job listing and that applicants use to submit their portfolio. SlideRoom, which is used by a number of colleges and universities, is an applicant management system that allows for the transmission and organization of forms, references, creative materials and other parts of an application package. Colleges use the site for student applications as well as faculty applications.
Voss said Colorado State pays $1,850 for an annual subscription to SlideRoom and shares a portion of the application cost -- $1.50 per application -- with prospective faculty members. An application for an art faculty position requires 20-40 work samples, Voss noted, and with about 80 applicants expected, he said it becomes hard for the hiring committee to keep track of CDs or slides. SlideRoom helps streamline the process.
“Without the slideroom.com  subscription, art program job applicants may spend about $15 on postage and to create slides or CDs to submit samples of their work,” Voss wrote. “SlideRoom.com makes the process quicker than mailing in applications and samples.”
Still, William Pannapacker, an assistant professor of English at Hope College and one of the first to spot the $15 fee, said streamlining the process does not justify the fee.
“The savings should go to the applicant,” he said.
Temple University’s Tyler School of Art also uses SlideRoom, and currently has two faculty positions posted , one with a $15 fee and one with a $10 fee. The fee is set by SlideRoom, according to Hillel Hoffmann, a Temple spokesperson. SlideRoom's site says  the fee is based on the number of uploads required per submission.
The Tyler School of Art used to require faculty applicants to submit materials – typically 20 images of their own work and 20 images of their students’ work – by mail, with self-addressed, stamped envelopes included, according to Hoffmann. The school switched to SlideRoom because it was easier to manage and generally less of a hassle for applicants, too.
“It’s better for the environment, easier, and faster,” Hoffmann said.
Since the school switched to SlideRoom, only one applicant has requested to submit materials the traditional way, according to Hoffmann. In that case, the applicant was living in another country and was having technical difficulties with the program. That applicant was not charged a fee.
Hoffmann also emphasized that the fee is unique to the art school because of the specific portfolio requirements involved in submitting an application. The College Art Association did not respond to a request for comment.
But Pannapacker sees it as a slippery slope.
“Even if charging to apply for a job is unethical and the scholarly societies protest it, I suspect it's going to become more common in the absence of other options, and we're not far from a more dramatic reworking of the hiring process, since the current one has degenerated into something close to a lottery system,” he said.
He notes, though, that even if applicants are upset about the fee, they have little recourse: “It's easy for me to say, ‘Don't apply.’ I have a tenured position.”