Unpaid interns of the world unite! Rita Kogazon, a Harvard student I met last year as a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute, has a piece on the main page in which she dissects the problem of unpaid, grunt work-filled internships, which often amount to free labor and do nothing to further students’ education:
The unpaid internship is still something of a “First World Problem” — a complication generated by one’s own advantages. [Ross] Perlin estimates that up to 75 percent of students at four-year colleges take at least one internship before graduating…
But in “cultural” fields — media, politics, the arts, non-profits — unpaid, insubstantial, dead-end internships are increasingly a prerequisite for landing a full-time position. [Perlin’s book] Intern Nation is full of anecdotes of dismal “work” situations: “custodial interns” at Disney assigned to clean toilets, pyramid schemes stringing along interns in New York apartments, movie-studio interns running around L.A. trying in vain to secure a certain “discontinued flavor of Powerbar” for their bosses.
“The internship,” Perlin writes, “has emerged victorious as the unrivaled gateway to white-collar work, now backed by government policies across the globe, employers’ hiring practices, a nearly unanimous Academy, and a million auxiliary efforts.” Yet they are unregulated by the government, under-scrutinized by the universities that advertise and sometimes require or subsidize them, and blindly boosted by thousands of desperate college students and self-satisfied alumni.