[Coral-List] 'Internships'

Ashton Williams ashton.n.williams at gmail.com
Sat Mar 18 04:14:12 EDT 2017

In 2015, Auriel M.V. Fournier and Alexander Bond looked at the prevalence
of unpaid work in their opinion piece "Volunteer Field Technicians Are Bad
for Wildlife Ecology."  It's a short read and available on ResearchGate.
They found that nearly 40% of positions posted were either unpaid or
pay-to-work, and argued that "unpaid technician positions create a sharp
class divide, do not promote diversity, and disproportionately affect
minorities because only the already privileged are able to be unpaid for
lengths of time."

>From a student perspective, 'internships' are often nothing more than
fraudulently-advertised volunteer positions.  Many of these positions
exploit interns, 'allowing' them to perform grunt work and offering them no
marketable skills or knowledge.  Students typically must also pay for
academic credits for these internships.  I personally had a terrible
experience with an 'internship' at an aquarium; interns were promised a
curriculum that included hands-on training, assignments, readings, etc.,
but in reality received none of those things and did nothing more than
clean poop and prepare meals.  I paid $1600 for that credit hour and got
nothing in return.  Can that truly be considered an internship?

To be clear, I'm not arguing against volunteer positions.  But there is a
difference between a 'volunteer position' and an 'internship.'  An
internship promises skills, knowledge, and valuable experience.  A
volunteer position is for fun and personal enrichment.  We need to stop
conflating the two.

The fact is that low-income and minority students and early-career
scientists don't have access to the same opportunities as more affluent
white students, and 'internships' are making it worse.  I'm sure there are
good internships, but they are few and far between.  If we truly want
science to be a meritocracy, then how can we justify these unethical
practices and continue to exploit students and young scientists?

I'm sure there are plenty of coral-listers who have had unpaid interns come
through their labs, and may even have unpaid interns right now.  I wonder
how many of those interns were from affluent families, and how many were
minorities or from low-income families?  I suspect we already know the
answer, but I would appreciate hearing from the other side of the fence on
this issue.


On Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 4:13 AM, Dennis Hubbard <dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu>

> Hi all:
> I've been seeing a lot of posts on this topic and was wondering where the
> discussion might be headed; sorry if I missed that entry. Do we have the
> power to determine a legal definition for an internship or to influence
> what those offering them can call such instruments.
> Dennis
> On Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 1:36 PM, Lili Jones <Acropora at protonmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Nicole Crane said, "Ok everyone, please provide YOUR exact definition of
> > an internship."
> >
> > We could start with the definition Wikipedia gives for "Internship"
> >
> > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internship
> >
> > or the online dictionary definition,
> >
> > http://www.dictionary.com/browse/internship?s=t
> >
> > I know some of us don't like Wikipedia, but if you take a look at the
> > references, that's a pretty good place to follow up the reading of the
> > article.
> >
> > What might be interesting is if some of you academicians for marine
> > laboratories got together at one of the big science conferences and
> > declared a formal definition to be adopted by all marine laboratories.
> The
> > Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean and other similar
> > organizations could be in on the meeting, too. In addition to
> "Internship,"
> > other similar (but misleading, at times) suggestions for nomenclature
> might
> > be adopted. Maybe there would be subgroupings of internships so as to
> make
> > the designation clearer for the proposed activity.
> >
> > Or maybe coral-list is where we decide this?
> >
> > Lili
> > ...................................................................
> >
> > Subject:Re: [Coral-List] 'Internships'
> > From:Nicole Crane <nicrane at cabrillo.edu>
> > Date:3/17/17, 11:59 AM
> >
> > To:Will Nuckols <wnuckols at erols.com>
> > CC: "steven.carrion" <steven.carrion at knights.ucf.edu>, "
> > s1681966 at sms.ed.ac.uk" <s1681966 at sms.ed.ac.uk>, Coral -List <
> > coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> >
> > Ok everyone, please provide YOUR exact definition of an internship.  I
> > have yet to find one that meets these criteria (below).  Mentored, unpaid
> > or minimally paid work in marine stations or with organizations serving
> > marine causes around here (Monterey and Santa Cruz California) are
> > advertised as internships often.  Those are usually unpaid but do not
> > require students to pay.  But WAIT.  Those students still need to pay for
> > their gas, food, their own rent and any other expenses.  Why is that
> > different than offering the exact same type of experience but in a remote
> > location where they ALSO have to pay those costs, but they happen to be
> > more expensive.  If we take the actual work they do, the description of
> the
> > actual internship out of those costs, I am still not sure how they
> differ..
> > Will, you offer some fancy distinctions below between different kinds of
> > activities.  Honestly, if a student came to me looking for resume and
> skill
> > building opportunities, I would not know how to wade through them.  This:
> > "If a student undertakes an opportunity and supports themselves while
> > giving to a worthy cause, that is an act of charity, not an internship”.
> > Really?  always? What if they support themselves through an unpaid job
> > experience that is also a worthy cause, also builds a resume, also
> provides
> > valuable skills, and hey, how about one that also provides units? (Our
> > school specifically has internships, some of which are PAID and through a
> > special agreement with employers also provide units towards their
> degree)..
> > How do we define those?
> >
> > I suggest we not try and define these by things like “an act of charity’
> > implying in a way that students who do these might be among the wealthy
> who
> > just want to participate in charity programs to make themselves and
> perhaps
> > their family feel good.  That feels so insulting.  I have many students
> who
> > participate in exactly these kinds of activities who are UNDERserved but
> > benefit immensely from the skills, and the exposure to potential jobs
> they
> > may not ever have been exposed to.
> >
> > These opportunities, ALL of them, are about opening up doors for young
> > people.  Please let’s do whatever we can to open as many of those doors
> as
> > possible?
> > Nicole
> > _______________________________________________
> > Coral-List mailing list
> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> --
> Dennis Hubbard
> Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
> (440) 775-8346
> * "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
>  Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"
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