At a meeting with concerned students at the end of fall semester, 2015, President Ronald Berkman announced in a proud flourish that after at least a year of discussion about charging tuition for unpaid internships, CSU would change internship credit to a “zero-hour” credit, which would appear on a transcript, but not require a tuition payment, as it would now be “zero hours”. Problem solved, right? Wrong.
Instead of following up with a written and announced policy, as was promised at the meeting, the administration is instead now claiming that because the internship credit would be “zero hours”, any program with an internship component would then require another class of the student, to make up for the lost credit hours.
VP of Student Affairs Ernest Yarborough argues in an email, “If students currently receive 3 credits for an internship which they pay for, and under the new policy they receive 0 credits but do not have to pay, they still have to complete 120 credits.”
Political Science chair Charles Hersch explained in an email this is somehow tied to the change from quarters to semesters. “…after the 4-3 conversion, we increased the number of required courses to make the total number of credits required the same.”
In effect, CSU used unpaid internship work by students to bootstrap their way to keeping all programs at the same credit hour requirement. Woe unto the student who notices…you can’t really make this stuff up.
In my first go round at CSU, I interned through the political science program with Dennis Kucinich’s 1988 primary campaign. That internship was an elective, not a requirement, and the professor, then political science chair Jim Kweder, arranged the internships himself for every student. Today, CSU does the exact opposite – in the MAGI program, not one finger is lfted by any professor to help students find an internship, and that internship is required.
Meanwhile, as this policy gets “discussed” by the administration, students for at least 4 semesters have been forced to pay for the privelege of working for free all so CSU can keep bootstrapping credit hours off of their unpaid labor. Worse, CSU administrators and professors seem to think this is perfectly normal, to the point that the highest level decisions about credit hours in a university-wide transition from quarters to semesters explicitly relies on unpaid labor by students to clear the bar.
This is what 40 solid years of freeing markets gets you in public education. Such a grotesque, Dickensian exploitation is unworthy of a university the calibre of CSU. Viking students fight like hell to get where they are in life, overcoming obstacles not many other university students ever face in America. CSU should not exploit them, too. It is long past time for Dr. Berkman to solve this problem of the university’s own creation.
Enough is quite enough.
Tim Russo is a student in the Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI) program at CSU.