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June 27, 2008

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Malachy Walsh

You’ve posted on this before. And my feelings haven’t changed.

Unpaid internships are a form of slavery and should be outlawed.

In the meantime, many of the organizations that offer such internships are simply helping to harden the lines between the haves and have-nots.

Which is why stories about kids making it out of poverty to conquer all is still considered newsworthy. It’s unusual.

A personal story about this subject: When I was just getting started HARPER'S MAGAZINE, run by Lewis H. Lapham whose column often railed against the advantages of the privileged class, offered an internship to help people get started.

It required the interns live in NY for 3-6 months.

And it was unpaid.

Now what kind of kids do you think can afford to live in NY for 3-6 months with no income while working at a magazine?

Certainly not the unprivileged kids. Not even middle class kids.

I cancelled my subscription immediately.

Director

I'm in total agreement. Unpaid internships are basically taking advantage of someone else's willingness to learn. My day job is web design and not a day goes by that I see at least one company offering to "help out" new graduates by offering them an internship -- unpaid, of course. Sorry, but a full-time unpaid internship doesn't pay the bills.

I wouldn't be adverse to taking an internship for Directing or for Ruby on Rails Web Development if it would pay for my bills (even if it JUST covers my bills). I just simply can't work for free, and anyone who wants me to just wants to take advantage of me.

Asking me to volunteer on my own terms is a completely different matter, though.

sashanaomi

I couldn't agree more. I had several stipend (the stipend was a joke) internships back in the day. The existence of unpaid and low-paying internships in any industry means that people who already have money (in my case, my parents helped me out for a little bit) are just getting higher on the ladder, while the already poor sink lower with paid jobs at places with no opportunity for growth. (Then again, in the theatre industry, internships usually lead to a paid job with no growth too.) The place where this practice is most abominable is the UN. The richest people from all over the world come to NYC to have their parents pay for Manhattan apts while they beef up their resume during the week on party on the weekend. Only a small fraction of UN interns actually work two jobs to sustain themselves.

Nitpicker

Unpaid internships in theatre can be a double scam. Students pay tuition to a college or university, then are sent to do an internship as part of their theatre degree program. The school keeps the money, the theatre gets unpaid labor. Not only are the students not being paid, they are actually paying for the privilege of working.

adam szymkowicz

I've been working at the Columbia School of Journalism for almost 4 years in the development department. Basically all my department does is try to raise money for scholarships so that the future of journalism will not be homogeneous but will be well educated. It's still expensive but it has become much cheaper and many more people get a free ride than did when I started.

Now I'm leaving the job so i think I can say all that in public, especially because it's all true and all complimentary.

adam szymkowicz

Seperately, I got my MFA from Columbia in playwriting and was required to do 2 internships. I did three. They were not unpaid (we had to get something) but they were practically unpaid. But I have to say both were extremely helpful. 4 years later i can look back and say I'm really glad to have worked in those lit offices and to know those people and to see that point of view of how things operate. I got my first agent that way and connections to a really great theater.

adam szymkowicz

but because of grad school I'm also in lots of debt--over 80 thou and it used to be more.

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