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Student Exploitation: Not As Hot As It Sounds

Poor college students. We are constantly being exploited, whether by Joe Francis, of Girls Gone Wild fame, credit card companies, or The Man. Now we’ve got another exploiter, in the form of internships.

Sonia Smith, a former intern, writes a terrible — TERRIBLE — piece of drivel for her former Mas’ah, This is some real sub-par high school journalism shit here.

 Slate was great (honest!), but I’d have much preferred a paycheck to the course credit. … But fulfillment won’t put money in your pocket. The credit I got for my internship was one of 19 that I accumulated above my school’s required number. And the credits are worthless for a lot of students: Because of the rise of Advanced Placement exams, savvy overachieving freshman (the same ones who tend to chase after internships) enter college with more credit hours than any previous generation.

 Yes, Sonia, that sounds awful. But here’s the catch: We’d all like to make vast amounts of money for the work we do. However, there are trade-offs that we make in life. These trade-offs can often be measured in opportunity costs. Getting an internship at a high powered company may not fill your pockets with gold bullion, but it will add an impressive line to your resume and allow you to network with professional mucky-mucks, some of whom might find some space in their on-line publication for your ignorant whining.

Smith isn’t the first to deride internships. Anya Kamenetz, author of the apparently abysmal Generation Debt, has been making a career out of it. Go to her blog and weep tears of anger. Anya Kamenetz is like an Ailee Slater with a book deal and professional cred. Will Wilkinson says all that needs to be said about Kamenetz here (hat tip: The Agitator)

 So I wonder, if internships are so terrible, why do college students apply for them? Or do I not understand Kamenetz and Smith’s point altogether?

Man, it’s, like, totally bullshit that we college students have to work within this capitalist system that exploits us so that these rich weasels can simply get richer. What we need to do is unionize the youth, and topple the power structures that feed the dominant paradigm … Oh, shit, I’m late for my brunch date with Jann Wenner at Le Cirque.

There must be people who read this blog who have gotten internships while in college. How were your experiences, and did you find them helpful in the future?

  1. Boss guy says:

    Jesus fucking Christ, Amanda, how many times do I have to tell you to get back to work? My back ain’t gonna grease itself.

  2. Andy says:

    Supply and demand Amanda. What you could do is work until your marginal product is *just* above the marginal cost of firing you and hiring someone else 😉

    Fuck this town!

  3. Amanda says:

    I’m currently doing an unpaid internship as its part of my study course. Even though Im working for “free” my boss exploits me by putting too much pressure at times and he knows that I cant esape as there aren’t many other companies who offer similar internships which are suited to my course in my town.He tries to bully me or make himself feel good by showing who is the Boss guy. Dismissing my suggestions or my own work even though its very good at times.I am trapped and trying to run as fast as I can. Is there any way I can make this company realize that exploiting free labor means bad work ethics?

  4. Timothy says:

    Reminds me of reading my old OC shit that way.

  5. Tyler says:

    Interesting points, Nathaniel. In many professions it is absolutely necessary to gain experience, and the easiest way is often to get an internship. What’s strange about Smith and Kemenetz’s bitching, however, is how readily available paid internships are within the journalism world (their world). And Kemenetz’s arguments almost always rely on surface level carping about how the kids today have it so rough. She draws an awful lot of generational distinctions that are spurious, I believe. Seriously, peruse her writing and be amazed at its mediocrity

  6. nathaniel says:

    The people internships are really exploiting are not students, but rather those who just get out of college. All of that free labor keeps down wages for those who are seeking entry level jobs, plus it makes those jobs harder to find as many of them no longer exist as paying positions but rather unpaid internships.

    Though what angers me most about my intern experience is I was basically forced to get one to graduate from American University where I got my MA. The reason this angers me was to recieve credit for it, I had to pay the normal tuition rate. This meant I paid about 2800 dollars to work for free.

    The current system of internships is terrible is because it is very difficult to get a job if you do not work for free. Many people can not afford to do this as they need to earn money to do things like pay rent and eat. Also as the article pointed out, many of the tasks interns perform are not things that allow the intern to improve their skills but rather is often mindless office work.

  7. Gabrielle says:

    I, too, was paid for my internship credit. Do your internship with PPPM because they figure payment is between you and your supervisor (not their business). In general you either get credit or pay. It is not that hard of a system to understand. The great thing about an internship is that they should understand when you know nothing or need time to study for mid-terms. My internship was a great experience!

  8. Michael G. says:

    Huh. I got paid for every intership I ever did. Perhaps one needs to investigate available internships before applying.

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