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Dear Universities, Pay Your Social Media Interns

Pizza, service, and experience aren't enough

November 28, 2018
 
 

I have a lot of Google Alerts feeding my inbox on a daily basis. Search terms include a lot of variations on social media, digital engagement, higher education, technology, etc. These search queries pull in a variety of fascinating news stories, blog posts, and university webpages.

Recently, one of my alerts pulled in a university's “social media interns” recruitment post. Always on the lookout for such things, I clicked on the link to read more about the internship specifics.

Unfortunately, there are few aspects of the 'call' with which I definitely take umbrage.

For a quick bit of historical context, when I was at university, one of the most meaningful experiences that I had was during my internship within the division of student affairs. I learned a lot, developed my skills, and took home a much-needed paycheck.

Okay, now back to the student social media interns post...let's call this a critical dissection.

The Division of Student Affairs is looking for students who are interested in becoming student Social Media Interns.

The introduction is fairly banal. It sets the context of 'who' and 'what.'

Students need to have a vibrant social media presence and be comfortable with making Twitter and Instagram posts. Students should also show an interest in posting content about their lives as a University of ******* student to their personal account and sharing that with [official university] accounts. Content pulled from Social Media Interns will be given credit.

This paragraph is where things take an interesting turn. I wonder how “vibrant social media presence” is defined? Perhaps a high-level of engagement? Cross-posting from personal accounts to work accounts is nothing new, but this might be a bit too personal...even if 'credit will be given.'

Students will be selected to be interns based on their social media presence, an application, and resumes. Students interested in the position can fill out the application online.

I'm not sure why a resume is necessary for this particular position. And, I clicked on the online application. Looks like the internships are only available for undergraduate students.

Additionally, Social Media Interns though not paid, can receive service hours for their time spent working with the division.

What?!?! This is work. Work that will benefit multiple university departments. Service hours are great, but this social media internship is not service. It's a job trying to get free labor from undergraduate students. It's shameful that a university division is asking students (not sure how many are being recruited for these internships, but it's definitely plural) to create content, share their lives, and engage in professional-level work for zero monetary compensation.

****** ****, social media graduate assistant for Student Affairs, manages the division's social presence and will work with the Social Media Interns to use and repurpose their content, while building Student Affairs content.

Like most jobs, the social media interns will gain experience whilst on the job.

"This school has such amazing diversity and such a rich culture," ****** said. "I want to help show how the students love this campus. By using tweets, photos, and posts there are already making, this gives students an ownership of what is happening on their campus."

It's ironic that 'ownership' is used in this context as the interns will not be paid. Plus, this is strategic communications / digital engagement in practice. It's work.

"This was an amazing initiative that was done before, and I want to bring it back and make it better. I think an intern program will help do that," ****** said. "The students and campus are constantly changing, and I want to show that."

Just because an internship program didn't pay students in the past (I'm assuming?) doesn't mean it's okay to continue making students work for free.

Follow Student Affairs on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates on the Social Media Interns.

Hopefully one of the updates “on the interns” will be that they are now in paid positions that reflect the time/work being put in by these students.

If you're asking students to do work whilst at university for the university, pay them for their time.

If people do this exact type of work elsewhere to earn their living, doesn't it make sense that a university should pay students in these social media internships?

Experience, credit, service hours, and even pizza are great incentives for a university internship program. However, compensation matters just as much as non-monetary incentives. Students are graduating with more debt than ever before. Working for free for a university division takes away from time for studying, involvement opportunities, and paid work experiences.

 

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