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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Eagle

Unpaid internships, are they worth it?

I was ecstatic when I found out I had received an unpaid internship position at Time Warner Cable for the fall semester. When I got my acceptance email the fact that I would not be paid didn’t faze me and I jumped up and down in joy. Why was I so excited to work for free?

To most of us the unpaid internship is inevitable and necessary if you want to graduate with a job. Recently however there have been debates on whether unpaid internships are right, or even guarantee you a job after graduation.

Medium recently posted on The Nib, its political cartoons and comics journalism section, an elaborate cartoon by Matt Bors entitled ‘Unpaid Internships Must Be Destroyed – File your lawsuit today.’

In the cartoon, Bors begins by telling the story of Rashida Salaam, an ex-Bad Boy Records intern who filed a class-action lawsuit against P. Diddy’s music company for violating labor laws with its unpaid internships.

According to Bors, more and more cases similar to Salaam’s are being brought to employers.

A study done by The National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that 37 percent of college graduates were offered a job after an unpaid internship, while 63 percent of college graduates who had paid internships got jobs and were usually paid better.

Bors and Maurice Pianko, a lawyer for internjustice.com, conclude that unpaid internships are not only illegal but do not benefit students.

This had me reflecting on my own internship experiences so far. In a week, I’ll be at my first unpaid internship. It’s a huge change from my summer internship where I was not only paid, but also lived at home for free. I made lots of money and was treated like a real employee. I had an email address and a time sheet. The fact that I was only a temporary college-level worker did not seem to bother my boss. I was told to return next summer and would be offered a larger salary.

During my first internship, I remember being excited when I was told I would be paid, only to be disappointed at how little I received. I felt as if I had been taken advantage of and deserved more compensation for the amounts of work I did. Why did I not feel this now when I was told I would receive nothing at all for my fall internship?

I do not know if I will be treated differently at Time Warner Cable because I am an unpaid intern, or if it will impact my success in finding a job after graduation. I do have a feeling, however, that once essays are due and exams come up, I’ll become slightly annoyed at the fact that I am not getting paid.

Something propels students to work, compete and pray to get unpaid internships. Is the experience, really worth it, or are we just being exploited and tossed aside? Worse, will we find out when its too late and jobs after graduation are scarce?

Filing a lawsuit may seem intimidating and excessive. However, putting our feet through the door, as Bors puts it, and bringing this topic to awareness may be the next step needed to make this debate more prominent.

Julia Greenwald is a junior in the School of Communication.

edpage@theeagleonline.com


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