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Discussion: An Example of an Unpaid Internship

Pursuant to our ongoing discussions about unpaid internships, I thought this opportunity might be of interest:

Culture, Arts, and Innovation Summer Student – Baycrest Health Services, Toronto

http://current.ischool.utoronto.ca/jobsite/2014/culture-arts-innovation-cai-summer-student

(This link will eventually stop working; see excerpts instead)

CAI is seeking a summer student to oversee a comprehensive campus-wide project involving Baycrests’ permanent art collection (over 900,000 works of art), as well as assist in the coordination of several arts based events throughout the summer in partnership with the National Ballet School and units within our Long Term Care setting.

“The incumbent will oversee a campus-wide art initiative that seeks to expand upon and modernize our current art inventory records. Utilizing museum database program Past Perfect as well as Microsoft Excel, the student will scan our campus, update records, research artists and key collection pieces, with an end goal of creating a comprehensive up-to-date database of our permanent collection holdings. With this new found knowledge, the student will be asked to curate a series of digital exhibitions….

All the while, the student will be exposed to and called upon to contribute towards other exciting projects that are taking place in the summer months including the Dance Exchange, the National Ballet of Canada, and an industrial design project.”

 

Experience with Past Perfect? Curation, research, and collaboration with amazing cultural groups? 900,000 works of art?!

*chin-hands*

 

This is a voluntary position. There is no compensation.”

 

 

Baycrest is essentially a seniors’ retirement home that is also a research facility, “fully affiliated” with the University of Toronto. They partner with public and private organizations, they’re launching a line of “aging oriented products,” and their president and CEO made over $700,000 in 2012.  But they don’t pay summer students to manage huge database projects.

Now, I am not trying to public-shame anyone. But I want to use this as a very real example of what an unpaid internship looks like, and to ask whether or not our readers would think that this position is justified. The post doesn’t clarify whether this is full-time, part-time, or weekends-and-evenings, nor could I find a mirror of the job post on their site (under neither Volunteer nor Career Opportunities).

To me, the amount of experience it offers would make it very tempting — but if it was a full-time position without any compensation whatsoever, I would ready my rotten tomatoes.

Of course, I thought this was a good opportunity to follow my own advice about discussing unpaid internships with the hosting organizations themselves. I reached out to the listed contact and asked for more information about the position: one, why it was unpaid, and two, why there was no required background in art (for the sake of documenting, describing, and indexing: shouldn’t you at least know how to use the A&AT?). I sent out an email on May 7th, and didn’t receive a response.

I wish I had more to report, other than to say that I will probably continue to (politely) pester HR staff by email when similar posts pop up in the future, and I promise to keep everyone apprised.

In the meantime, what do you think?

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