Should unpaid internships be illegal?

Richard Decker
Staff Writer

PHOTO BY RICHARD DECKER | The Hudsonian Student Newspaper

Students interested in government and politics can apply for Hudson Valley’s “Internship in Politics and Govt.” which provides the opportunity to work as an intern at the New York State Legislature.

Hudson Valley students are barreling towards the end of the semester with the anticipation of spring internships on the horizon. However, will they be paid for their work?

Although they provide an opportunity to explore career options, it is often difficult for students to reconcile the hours put in and the lack of compensation.

Unpaid internships have become a controversial topic, as the financial needs of college students have changed while the practices of college internships have not.

“I think people that go into an internship are looking for experience, but they also have to make ends meet, make time to be at that internship and pay just to live in general,” said Emily Nappi, a sophomore biology major. “So, yes, I think some internships need to be paid.”

Angela Wilk, a freshman business major, argues that unpaid internships provide invaluable opportunities for college students to learn about an industry. She feels that the knowledge they receive is in direct correlation with the effort they put forth.

“Internships are giving you an opportunity to create a background in that field of work. Interns get a lot of direction, instruction and attention. So, really, it’s a give and take for both parties. Some should be paid, but others are perfectly fair not [being] paid,” said Will.

However, other students, like freshman English major Hailey McLaughlin, contend that while internships provide vital experience, the opportunity cost of time lost as an adult is underestimated.

“I’ve done internships where I help with research and spend hours organizing data and getting data. I didn’t mind not getting paid because I was so young, but once you’re older and have to support yourself, it gets more difficult,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin also brought up the issue of the amount of work interns do in comparison to a full-time employee. “When you’re doing work that any other person in the field would get paid for, it’s almost like slavery. You’re doing the [same] work for them and it’s unpaid work,” she said.

The topic of unpaid internships has been one of mixed opinions on the fairness, or even legality, of interning without pay. Some students believe unpaid internships should be allowed based on circumstance.

“If [the internship] is not done through the school and through a private company, I feel like it must be a paid position,” said Tyler Slaver, a freshman networking and administration major. “However, if you are getting credit for it, then you’re already getting what you need,” he continued.

Nappi agrees but says a different way of measuring compensation is needed.

“It depends on the experience you receive as an intern, how much work you put into it and how productive you are. [You just have to] really show you want it.”

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