Students Against Unpaid Internships Disappointed by Lack of Dialogue

President Expecting Internship Recommendations in The Fall

  • A senate committee looking into unpaid internships started meeting in January, despite being formed in Spring 2018. Courtesy John Hutton

After a Concordia senate meeting in late February, President Alan Shepard said he would prefer if students didn’t go on strike against unpaid internships.

“I think there’s other ways to solve the issue, rather than through strikes,” Shepard told The Link.

A week later, students from the Communications department and the School of Community and Public Affairs voted in favour of striking. Following the Journalism department, all three departments will be striking in March.

Communications will be holding their strike March 6 to 8. Strike for SCPA students will be held on March 8, to mark international women’s day. They will also be on strike along with the Journalism department from March 18 to the 22.

Resources are now available for associations looking to strike or protest against unpaid internships through the The Concordia Student Union and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations.

Strike funding from the CSU can be requested through the union’s community action fund, which provides about $1000 to applicants. ASFA said $200 can be used by any departments in the association who choose to go on strike.

“The administration here is not so much plugged into what’s going on with the community and with its students.” — Sean Illman-White

“It’s good to see that students are on the same page and that they are willing to mobilize,” said Hannah Gold-Apel from the Coms Guild. “The more students are willing to actively protest about something, the more successful it is.”

Gold-Apel said that there are members within the department who are in support of the cause.

“The Department of Communication Studies supports our students in their efforts to bring attention to the important issue of compensation for internships,” said Charles Acland, the chair of the department, in an email to The Link.

“The student action planned for next week should be an effective contribution to a wider discussion about the role internships play,” he continued.

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Sean Illman-White from the SCPA’s student association said he expects a harmonious negotiation with the program. However, Daniel Salée, acting principle of SCPA, said “I can’t speak for my colleagues, the department does not really have a position at this point.”

Demands against unpaid internships will largely be focused on pressuring the provincial government, explained Illman-White, but students have also voiced concerns over the lack of engagement coming from the administration.

“The fact that the university is kind of barely addressing the issue […] it lets down the community,” Illman-White said. “We should be able, as a community, to have discussions.”

Illman-White said Concordia should be providing more resources to help students find paid internship opportunities, and to remove restrictions that demand students only take on unpaid internships in exchange for course-credit.

He hopes the movement will spark a dialogue between students and the administration, but admitted he doesn’t expect them to engage.

“The administration here is not so much plugged into what’s going on with the community and with its students,” said Illman-White. “We’ve come to understand that the main goal of the Concordia administration seems to be the continued commodification of education and profit, above the wellbeing of students.”

In April 2018, senate opened a new committee to study and review internships at Concordia. The committee, co-chaired by Nadia Bhuiyan and Sandra Gabriele, is mandated to review the school’s regulations around internships and provide recommendations in response to students’ complaints surrounding unpaid internships.

Shepard told The Link the committee began meeting in January and are expecting to present a number of proposals by the fall.

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