Auctioning Internships

May 26th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Does buying the chance to work for free pervert the system?

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The Responsibility Project

“This seems wrong,” writes Baltimore Sun blogger Jay Hancock, about plum student internships being sold to the highest bidders at a charity auction. In this case, the money raised supports the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Hancock says, “But it’s still adding another layer to Auction America, where everything is available for a price.”

That price, Yahoo News reported, was $42,500 for an auctioned internship at Vogue magazine, $9,000 for the winning bid to “jump-start” your son or daughter’s career “in the blogosphere by way of the Huffington Post,” and $2,900 for a two-week internship “strolling the rarefied halls at Vanity Fair.”

The Wall Street Journal calls auctioned internships “intangibles” that “even the wealthiest parents can’t normally secure for their kids.” At a private school auction in Manhattan, The Journal reports, “parents had the chance to help their kids bypass the interview process and purchase a summer internship at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.” Starting bid: $6,000

Internships used to be “a way for companies to give back (and) help bright young people launch into the real world,” laments the Sun’s Hancock. Now he says, an elite auctioned internship is even “worse” than working for free because “you pay them.”

Does selling internships to the highest bidders give winners an unfair advantage?