Faculty says poor-paying internships unfair to students
By Sabrina Carinci
The debate between having to choose an unwanted summer job for the money or a valuable summer job for no money is being called unfair by some journalism faculty at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto.
The statement was made on account of the many requests for interns made by businesses, knowing they could take on an intern and not have to pay them. "It becomes exploitive," said Lynn Cunningham, assistant professor of journalism at Ryerson.
Rising tuition costs and lack of sufficient funds are also causing many students to turn down summer positions as interns. "It becomes discriminatory because if you don't have money, you can't [accept an unpaid summer internship]," said Suanne Kelman, professor of journalism at Ryerson.
She added many journalism students who attend Ryerson come from different countries including the United States and can not afford to work for free.
Kelman said she does not necessarily believe all interns should be paid, but agrees the use of interns has become excessive. "There have been rumours of interns having to get coffee, [employees] being rude to interns and we have certainly seen instances where the work-load was excessive that was mostly in small businesses," she said.
As a part of the program at Ryerson, students who specialize in broadcast or print journalism are required to complete a six-week internship many of which go unpaid.
Jaeny Baik, a Ryerson journalism student who began an unpaid internship at CBC Radio as a program assistant, decided to stay with CBC during the Christmas break and in February of this year and was offered a full-time job as an associate producer for the show As It Happens.
"I quit school to work [at the CBC Radio] I was lucky," Baik said, but admitted the decision was easy to make because her family resides in Toronto.
Some companies, such as Toronto Life magazine, do not believe interns should be paid. "There is a fair exchange going on. [Interns] supply us with labour for three months and we give them experience," said Editor John Macfarlane. He added internships at the magazine often result in full-time jobs. "I would say that it is difficult to get a job here without being an intern first."
Macfarlane also mentioned the magazine is now considering providing their interns with honorariums.
As a unionized newspaper, the London Free Press is required to pay interns a small negotiated amount of money. Interns who work at the paper for a school requirement or as a summer job, are paid between $250 to $550 per week, said Editor-in-Chief Philip McLeod.