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Subject: Unpaid graduate internships

Unpaid graduate internships

From: Larry Shutts <botticelli1972>
Date: Friday, December 19, 2003
As a recent program graduate who is struggling to make ends meet, I
am appalled at the recent posting of a "prestigious" institution for
a one year unpaid graduate level internship.  The AIC's Guidelines
for Practice Commentary 9 simply does not go far enough to safeguard
students from being taken advantage of. Commentary 9--Education; in
part, simply states "Conservation professionals must avoid the
exploitation of a one to one educational situation as a means of
obtaining inexpensive labor."  This statement is much too vague and
open to broad interpretation and, in my opinion, is not doing enough
to protect graduate students.

Graduate level conservation students are quite proficient and do not
require constant monitoring as with pre-program interns.  As a
graduate intern I completed numerous treatments that would have
otherwise been completed by a salaried staff member, contracted out
to private conservators or most likely never been accomplished. My
institution was unique in their generous financial support and
should be looked upon as a model for how an advanced intern should
be treated.  It is an outrage that all institutions are not required
to treat their graduate interns so well.

My concern with this posting, and numerous ones like it before, is
that they continue the impression of a field full of children of
wealth and privilege and that we should be happy to earn less, or
nothing at all, for the "privilege" of interning for a "prestigious"
institution.  However, the truth is that today there are more
conservators like myself who must pay their own way through school
and life than ever before.  It is my sincerest belief that offerings
such as these perpetuate the conditions of low pay and low
recognition for our skills in spite of our levels of training and
education. It is also my belief that the DistList itself is doing
conservators around the world a disservice in publishing such
advertisements.  For if one institution can get skilled labor for
free why should any of them pay for it.

I would like to see all publications which list conservation
positions, including fellowships and internships, require that a
salary range be included, not simply the words "commensurate with
experience." If this proposed salary is not reasonably proportionate
with the level of skill requested the advertisement should be
refused for publication.  Everyone in this field, including graduate
students, deserves to earn a living wage.

**** Moderator's comments: Without otherwise taking issue with your
    thesis, the notion that unpaid internships are "free" to the
    institution is naive.  It may be the case that some internships
    are an attempt to exploit unpaid labor; as often, an institution
    is lucky to recoups in kind, what it has contributed in
    planning, staff time, and disruption of its regular program.

Larry Shutts
Post-Graduate Conservation Fellow
National Air and Space Museum

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:47
                 Distributed: Friday, December 19, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-17-47-003
Received on Friday, 19 December, 2003

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