This session was one I was especially interested in, as a journalism student seeking a PAID internship. I am firmly against unpaid internships. I think it is illegal and I think it reduces the value of students’ work.
So, in this session, there was a panel consisting of two students who’d had or have internships, paid or unpaid and the position of them all pretty much seemed to be “Don’t be a cry baby. Suck it up. It’s the way of the world.”
According to the entire panel, any internship where you leave with experience and something to put on your resume is invaluable experience that should be scooped up eagerly without regard for payment or compensation. The “payment” is what you learn.
One of the panelists did bring up a great point about universities that make students pay for their internship credit. You pay X dollars per credit. The internship coordinator gets a small cut of that (even if they didn’t help you find the internship). But then, the school gets the rest of that money as cash right in their pockets. That’s right, if you are an unpaid intern getting credit from your school, you’re paying your university to work. That doesn’t seem fair in the least.
I struggle with this issue because a) I think my time is worth something and b) I don’t think anyone or any organization should benefit from my work without some reward. It’s also incredibly discriminatory that those who cannot afford to not work for pay at a summer job or cannot afford to live and intern at the same time are denied opportunities for personal and professional advancement. I think the only way to fix a broken system is by actively working to fix it so all I can do at this point, personally, is refuse to work without pay. And that is exactly what I plan on doing.