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Internship is for Learning

student interns as unpaid workers is not a model we should emulate

Below is written in response to a "call for interns" from Trans Bodies, Trans Selves project.

Forum: Trans-Academics
Date: 11/03/2010

Hello everyone,

I'm concerned generally about the use of "interns" as unpaid assistants in corporate and non-profit worlds alike, and in particular about how this "call for interns" is framed.

As I understand it, "internship" is supposed to be an educational opportunity first and foremost in which students learn through involvement in real-world situations. But this "call for interns" does not explain any particular ways in which "interns" will be supported in their learning process, or what outcomes they should expect, other than that their names will be printed in the final book.

In fact, the "call for interns" reads more like a job announcement, except there is no payment for students' labour. I understand that this sort of exploitation of student labour is common in both corporate and non-profit "internship" opportunities, but it is not a model our community should uncritically emulate.

Assuming that hiring assistants is not an option due to economic constraints, I think there are two possible ways to resolve this: first, the "call for interns" could be re-written to emphasise the educational goals and how its organisers and authors are prepared to assist students' learning (and make it genuine, rather than just on paper); alternatively, it could be upfront and seek volunteers, not interns.

Emi Koyama