The State University of New York Executive Committee Student Assembly in Albany unanimously passed a resolution to improve the supervision of unpaid interns who receive college credit.
Three SUNY schools—Cobleskill, Oneonta and College of Technology at Delhi—are already implementing this resolution as of October—which Geneseo has not yet received, according to Associate Director for Internship Opportunities Rob DiCarlo.
“All it does is promote the idea of best practice for internships,” DiCarlo said. According to DiCarlo, “best practice” refers to internships that are registered for credit, involve academic and meaningful work, document hours and give periodic feedback and evaluation.
In the ideal internship that this resolution advocates for, the student works enough to learn, but not so much that they are replacing paid labor. Geneseo has practices in place—such as contracts and supervision—to ensure this balance, according to DiCarlo.
“I don’t want to minimize its importance but when resolutions get passed, it’s for things that everyone would support anyway,” DiCarlo said. This resolution falls in line with national standards to ensure a productive internship experience.
This resolution—if adopted by Geneseo—will reinforce the actions already taken to protect interns’ best interests through the Department of Career Development.
“I think it’s really important that the school takes initiative to make sure our internships are actually worth the credit hours we get for them, especially the unpaid ones,” junior Gina Girardi said. “Companies get away with overworking the interns and they end up doing busy work that no one else wants to do.”
“It would really probably fall to me in my office,” DiCarlo said. “From what I’ve seen of the resolution, it doesn’t ask us to do anything that we’re not already doing.”
“Geneseo students—especially if they are taking an internship for credit—are generally going to want to put their best effort into it,” College Communications intern junior Megan Tomaszewski said. “If you’re not getting something out of it I feel like … you are going to say something and figure out how to make the experience better.”
Students do have the option to speak up at the Department of Career Development; the office also holds more official regulations to ensure fair treatment.
“It’s good that the students are concerned about this because there’s times when interns are being taken advantage of by their employer and that’s when the learning contract comes into play,” DiCarlo said.
Many students take on internships without registering for credit and therefore would not receive the benefits of this program. DiCarlo explained that if the resolution gets adopted, students would be more likely to academically register for internships, even if they do not need the credit.
He added that he is currently working on introducing an option for students to register for zero-credit internships. That way, they could benefit from the regulation and services Geneseo could provide even if they do not want or need the academic credit.
According to DiCarlo, internships are “supposed to be for the benefit of the student,” with the employer benefitting as a side effect of the intern gaining knowledge and skill.
“We want internships to be educational and purposeful, not just free labor for employers,” he said.