Earlier this week, The Atlantic announced an internal decision to pay its interns, to which I can only say, “Bravo!”
Unfortunately, they are able to solve only half the problem. Too often, colleges and graduate schools mandate that students obtain internships, then charge them for the credits they earn, even though the employer is doing all of the work.
As Jeff Bercovici points out in the linked article, some internships are truly meaningless (coffee runs and sorting mail come to mind). But in almost all cases, the sending school makes a tidy profit on a student’s right to work.
In some cases, I’ve employed for-credit interns whose school made compensation “either – or”: you could get paid, or you could get credit. That seemed odd then, and now.
I’ve also come up against at least one school that was reluctant to give a student credit for Magellan internship because the firm was “too small”. The work plan was not an issue; nor was my supervision. I walked away from the discussion with the sense that “too small” meant “not big enough to send any of your staff to our program down the road”.
So I applaud The Atlantic and hope that schools see it as an opportunity to revisit the concept. If publishers should think about readers, centers of higher education can think a bit more about students.
Edited April 8 to add: For a sense of how interns are treated, spend some time with Jennifer Topper’s self-published book, 29 Jobs and a Million Lies, available from the author as well as on Amazon.
Edited April 28 to add: While we’re at it, let’s try paying freelancers on a timely basis, as well. It’s only fair.