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Oct. 27, 2005
CONTACT: Carol Anderson
734.487.4400
carol.anderson@emich.edu

EMU survey finds body art reflects negatively for those applying to be teachers

YPSILANTI - If you think first impressions don’t count, think again—especially if you plan to be a teacher. Put artwork on a canvas, not on your body, is part of the message revealed in a recent survey by Eastern Michigan University’s Jeffrey Schulz, associate professor in the College of Health and Human Services.

            The  “School Administrator’s Perception of Employee Health Characteristics” survey examined the extent to which candidates’ health-related physical and behavioral characteristics influenced the attitudes, perceptions and hiring practices of school administrators. Schulz distributed questionnaires to recruiters at the Teacher Job Fair at EMU’s Convocation Center in April 2005.

            “Employers do pay attention to piercings and tattoos.  Body art does play a part in the hiring practices,” said Schulz, who identified 18-22 years of age as the peak age range that body art is acquired.

            The 61-item questionnaire delved into how school administrators who hire teachers are influenced by a candidate’s weight, smoking habit and visible body art. Ear piercing by both sexes was not included in the study since it is a commonly acceptable practice, he said.

            For example, when administrators were asked if they would employ a teacher with visible body art, 53 percent said “yes” to a person with a tattoo while only 38 percent would consider a person with a piercing anywhere other than the ear.

            But, when employers had the opportunity to choose between equally qualified candidates, 65 percent said they would be influenced by a visible tattoo and 77 percent said the same for a piercing.

            “Self-expression is the number one reason students decide to get a tattoo or body piercing,” said Schulz. “The second most popular reason for a tattoo was to indicate a value for something or

someone they cared about. For body piercing, it was the image associated with the piercing.”

            The survey also revealed that an overweight applicant who smokes in addition to having a tattoo(s) or body piercings will have a hard time getting a public school teaching position, especially in physical or health education. Specifically:

  • Eighty-two percent of the administrators said they would hire someone who was “visibly” overweight; but only 35 percent would do so if the position were in physical or health education.
  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents said weight would not influence their decision in choosing between someone who was of “average” weight or an “overweight” candidate, but 70 percent said they would be influenced if the position were in physical or health education.
  • The definition of  “overweight” was left up to the respondents. If they viewed a person as such, then they were, said Schulz.
  • Smoking also was a liability. Sixty-seven percent said they would hire a teacher who they thought smoked, while only 45 percent would do so if the person were to teach physical or health education.
  • If two suitable job applicants – one who smoked and one who did not – were available for a physical or health education job, 80 percent said they would be influenced negatively if a candidate smelled of cigarettes. Seventy-two percent would be influenced negatively when the question referred to a non-health or non-physical education position.

            The majority of the 112 school administrators who responded were Caucasian males, 45 years of age or older, with at least a master’s degree. Half of them had five or fewer years of experience as an administrator and 87 percent represented public schools.

            The survey concludes there is a need for discussion about these topics between academic counselors and students enrolled in teacher education programs, said Schulz.

            Co-authors of the survey are Christine Karshin, assistant professor, and Kay Woodiel, associate professor, both in the College of Health and Human Services; and Jaclynn Tracy, professor in the College of Education.

            Schulz will present these results at the American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Conference in Salt Lake City in March 2006.

            For additional information, contact Schulz at 487.0077.

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.

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Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.


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