In a world where tenured law professors are starting to face layoffs, prospective law professors need to craft job applications that not only let them stand out above the rest, but also convey the sort of low-maintenance attitude that an administration can work with in the changing law school landscape. Why add a prima donna when you’ve already got professors bitterly complaining that daring to question whether their 3L seminars teach practical legal skills is an attack on their personhood? (And, yes, that happened after I published this story… it was hilarious.)
So this application is halfway there. It certainly stands out above the rest in that it’s completely insane. But it utterly fails the prima donna test, since more than half of the application is a list of his demands upon the administration and faculty in return for his services as — wait for it — “one of the top legal researchers in the US”….
As far as we can tell, this entirely unsolicited application was blasted into the mailboxes of law schools around the country. I couldn’t even tell if it was serious or a hoax or an elaborate trolling. But if it’s trolling, I can’t quite tell what aspect of legal academia he’s trying to troll. Here’s how this thing kicks off:
From: Steve Trask
Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 1:30 PM
Subject: Application: University Professor (Autonomy Studies)
(1) I am one of the top legal researchers in the US.
(2) I spend hours reading the world’s most scholarly publications while other people teach.
(3) As a result of being number one, I get to set policy for US law schools.
Calling all law schools! Don’t let this one slip away. This list format is how he likes to write generally. But we can forgive the Buzzfeed scholarship since he’s one of the top legal researchers in the U.S., right? The CATO Institute’s Timothy Sandefur doesn’t agree:
In my opinion, a recent article in the Chapman Law Review, addressing the controversy over teaching evolution and/or creationism in public school classrooms, fell beneath the acceptable standard of scholarly discourse. The author, Stephen Trask, failed to address obvious objections to his thesis, cited virtually none of the scholarly literature on the subject — even the literature that might support his thesis — and found not a shred of support in the caselaw.
Well, everyone’s a critic. Sandefur is annoyed that Trask employs postmodern philosophy in an effort to prove creationism. Unfortunately, Sandefur takes Trask’s misapplication of postmodernism — because Foucault was clearly arguing that we needed to accept religion more — and then makes ludicrous and unsupported attacks on postmodernism. In a way, the most postmodern thing ever is watching two people grapple with a subject they mutually agree to not understand.
Anyway, back to Trask’s job application:
(4) I want a tenured full Professor law school position at one of the top 100 law schools in the US.
(5) I do not care what law school does it.
(6) I only care that my demands get met.
It’s always a good sign when the sixth line-item of a job application sounds like a villain from Die Hard is on the other end. On that note, who would have been the better law professor: Hans or Simon Gruber? Discuss amongst yourselves.
(5) I want to be a Professor of Autonomy Studies.
(6) I want to make $200,000 a year paid in cash form (no check or deposit)
(7) I want free use of university graduate housing and university food services.
(8) I want to be a non-tax independent contractor.
Oh, that’s all? And he only wants to work 20 hours a week and never teach. But all the tax stuff is where this moved from trolling “research-focused law professors who don’t teach” to feeling like an earnest job application from someone fearing UN Black Helicopters. It’s unclear what “Autonomy Studies” are, but Trask includes a lengthy block quote on the necessity defense and how it allows individuals to make their own law under certain circumstances, so I guess that’s it? Maybe? So perhaps this is a more elaborate prank where he sets out to describe the most autonomous and individualistic possible law professor, but then why ask for money from another institution? Why not form Walden Pond Law School? It’s so confusing.
Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, yes the numbers have rebooted for some reason (with items #5 and #6 repeated). He’s the best researcher in America, not the best copy-editor.
(15) I need to be transported in a university van from Chula Vista, CA to your location
The only way to travel.
And just when you’ve convinced yourself this can’t be real, he appends a résumé complete with his social security number (which we blacked out). So is this real, or not?
Either way it’s entertaining.
If you want to see the whole “application” — and trust me, you do — it’s on the next page….