On Monday, faculty will vote on a measure that, if approved, would allow students to pursue and accept unpaid internships that require academic credit from the students' college or university. In the proposed policy, the College would acknowledge a student's successful completion of an internship with a notation on his or her transcript.
Under the College's current policy, the only way students may accept such internships is by coordinating an independent study that ties into the internship they've set their sights on, to be pursued once they return to campus after their unpaid summer experience. But this scenario is uncommon, and instead we bemoan that we're being robbed of potentially life-changing and worthwhile internship opportunities. Today, all kinds of companies offer unpaid internships that demand academic credit—investment banks, media corporations, and non-profit NGOs, to name a few.
Too many times students have been turned away from career opportunities because of Bowdoin's outright refusal to allow credit for internships. Although opinions on the ethics of unpaid internships or what they mean to the liberal arts vary, this issue has been a grievance of the student body for some time. By passing this bill, faculty would be responding to the pulse of the campus. Students want to keep every possible career avenue open, especially in the current economic climate, and these unpaid internships represent important opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Most importantly, one must remember that this measure does not inherently change the mission of the College or weaken our commitment to the liberal arts. It does not force unpaid internships upon the student body—it simply gives us a choice. Just as we are free to pursue volunteer work and unpaid extracurriculars on campus without restriction, this policy change would allow us to do the same beyond the College.
For this we endorse the proposal and ask the faculty to vote in its favor, if for no other reason than for those whom the change will affect the most: the students.