An online petition to reform Seton Hall’s internship policy has received over 200 signatures from Seton Hall students and other supporters.
The petition, posted on change.org, calls into question Seton Hall’s current policy, which requires students pay for internship credits in order to register the internship with the University.
The letter accompanying the petition specifies that it will be delivered to the University President Gabriel Esteban, Provost Dr. Larry Robinson, the Seton Hall Board of Regents and Seton Hall Administration.
The petition, created by Joshua Siegel, a senior international relations and diplomacy major, has one overriding message: “Students shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege to work.”
Reesa Greenwald, Director of SHU’s Career Center, saidthe statement that students must pay to work is a misrepresentation of the facts.
“The headline that jumps out at you, that students have to pay their university to work, is a total misperception,” Greenwald said in response to the petition. “Nobody is paying to work.”
Before posting the petition, Siegel asked Seton Hall students from other majors about their internship requirements in addition to performing his own research on other universities’ internship policies around the nation.
Siegel mentioned, both in the petition’s letter and in an email interview, that Seton Hall is not the only university that charges students for internship credits.
“The petition was a means of assessing on-campus support for the initiative and cultivating the foundation for a much stronger movement,” Siegel said.
Siegel added that since many majors require the completion of an internship for graduation, the cost of credits is “an unnecessary barrier.”
Siegel has had personal experience with the internship policy. This past semester, he was required to pay for his Practicum course, the class accompanying his required field experience with the Bergen County Democratic Committee.
“I started the petition because I find the procedure to be deeply unfair and unjustifiable,” Siegel said of the cost associated with being an intern.
Jacqueline Cardini, a junior broadcasting and philosophy double-major, is also familiar with the internship process. She completed an unpaid internship in New York City. Her job was to help put media plans into action for high-profile clients.
Cardini worked three days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and opted to take the internship for credit, as it was unpaid.
“The travel alone was thousands,” Cardini said. “After three months of interning, my bank account was depleted.”
Greenwald said that she believes the real issue is that some internships require students to take an internship course for credit. This requirement comes from either the employer or the academic department.
“When a student takes a course, an internship course, like any other course that has credits associated with it, you get a tuition statement,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald explained that internships are often more affordable during the school year because students are paying “comprehensive tuition”, meaning that as long as the internship credits don’t put the student over the 18-credits-per-semester limit, tuition is a flat rate of $18,550 per semester, according to Seton Hall’s website.
For every credit exceeding 18, and for every summer credit, students must pay $1,330. As fall and spring internship courses often fall within the 18-credit limit, summer internship courses end up being more expensive.
Greenwald said that many academic departments have added a summer one-credit option so students can meet their requirement of taking their
internship for credit while not breaking the bank. The one-credit option costs $1,330, compared to the three-credit option, which costs $3,990.
“Nobody is disagreeing with the concept of being paid for work. You should be paid for work,” Greenwald said. “However, an internship was not created to pay for college. It was created to give you experiences that you can only have in a professional work environment.”
Cardini said that her internship was not worth the experience.
“I would never recommend an unpaid internship to anyone for credit. It is the most degrading and draining experience,” Cardini said. “I wish I had done better research about unpaid internships. Unless you are extremely wealthy, these types of internships are simply not worth it.”
Cardini said that she hopes the petition will bring experiences like hers to light so the faculty might change its policy.
Greenwald said that she wishes she could make every company pay their interns, but she would never withhold a great opportunity for networking and experiential learning from a student simply because the opportunity is unpaid.
“Students know before they apply what they’re applying for,” Greenwald said.
Brianna Bernath can be reached at Brianna.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @briannabernath.