The intern aristocracy
by Kyle Schoenbelen
Cleaning my apartment the other day, I came across a mug buried under the couch. The mug is emblazoned with the logo—and heady if not pretentious motto—of my employer from the summer of 2012: “Bridging the gap between thought and action.” I ended summer 2012 one mug up because I completed a full-time internship at a prestigious Washington D.C. think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This year’s University of Pennsylvania rankings place the organization at as the fourth most influential of its kind in the world, and the intern selection process was correspondingly competitive. I worked hard and learned much from my experience over 3 months at the center. I also made exactly zero dollars.
Not that I have any complaints. The experience was well worth it; the net gain from my time at CSIS far outweighed my temporary lack of beer money. I was an undergraduate and my unpaid colleagues, most of whom were graduate students (and some of whom were married with families) obviously felt the same way.
It is an open secret that large swaths of DC run on the sweat and tears of unpaid interns, and this arrangement is generally taken for granted. Internships for congressional representatives, government agencies, think tanks, and NGOs are almost universally unpaid. This means that if students want to acquire direct experience in policy, they must either live in the Washington area, have parents who are willing to front the cost, or be one of the few who are able to win a scholarship or grant for summer work. For many students at schools like UVA, Princeton, or Georgetown, this isn’t an issue. Taking an unpaid summer is viewed as a necessary sacrifice for long-term career prospects– a sort of price of entry into the field. For the vast majority of people, however, the idea of spending an entire summer working full time for no pay while dealing with DC’s significant cost of living seems downright ridiculous.
Frequently, young adults who raise the issue of unpaid internships are caricatured as whiny, over-educated rich kids upset because they have to order Jim Beam instead of Maker’s Mark during their nights out in Adams Morgan. “The dry-cleaning bill for that bourbon stain on my Barbour jacket isn’t going to pay itself,” thinks the girl whose lobbyist uncle set her up with a Hill gig for the summer. “Good thing I have daddy’s Am-ex card for emergencies like these!” Such dismissive critiques, while humorous, implicitly define a decidedly un-humorous problem— only affluent students are in a position to complain about unpaid DC jobs in the first place. In real life, Charlie Young from West Wing doesn’t even get an interview.
A cure for the common Crimea
by Caitlin Cummings
While many disagree on the answer to Russia’s aggressive occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean territory, many in the West seem to agree on why it happened in the first place. WSJ’s Bret Stephens argues that Putin acted out of a lack of fear of retribution: “[t]he West could win a sanctions war with Russia, but it would take an iron political stomach. Mr. Putin knows Mr. Obama. He knows that the U.S. president has the digestive fortitude of a tourist in Tijuana.”
It’s a harsh statement, but it has proven a true enough explanation for Putin’s demeanor so far. Nothing the US and NATO-centered Europe has done has seemed to change his stance in Crimea, which is the only thing that would allow for the coalition in the West to back down.
We propose a two-part solution, which would create an opportunity for both sides of the conflict to leave feeling as if they had won. The US should take the steps necessary to sweeten a “100-year lease offer” of Crimea’s port, in order to maintain Ukraine’s sovereignty while giving Putin the win at home. By allowing Putin to “save face” while still backing down from his position, this would create a “golden bridge” by which a deal could be brokered. In order to get Putin’s attention for long enough to make a serious offer, Finland and Sweden should publicly seek entrance into NATO. This threat historically has gotten Putin in a considering, if not conciliatory, mood. While the above solution is risky, we believe it can alleviate much of the bias that has been barring any progress from being made.
by Elizabeth Brightwell, Ashley Badesch, and Kyle Schnoebelen
Many glorify the life of collegiate student-athletes. The gear, the travel, the coaching, the trainers and all of the other resources available to student-athletes contribute to this perception. These benefits, however, come at a cost largely ignored by the viewing public. Student-athletes wake up before the sun and, all day, shuttle between the athletic fields and the classroom. Bruised and exhausted, they ignore bodily demands and stay up late to avoid falling behind in the classroom. The demands on athletes, especially in revenue sports, are extremely high. Throughout their collegiate career, student-athletes lose control of their schedule and their bodies; this loss of autonomy is often startling. And when it comes to policy, many student-athletes feel powerless in their efforts to express dissatisfaction or have their voices heard. Under the control the NCAA, and more immediately, their educational institution and coaches, student-athletes operate, almost 24-hours a day, as part of a system in which the power of their voice does not match their contribution.
In January of 2014, Kain Colter, the former quarterback of Northwestern University’s football team, joined forces with Ramogi Huma, a former college football player from UCLA, and Luke Bonner, a former college basketball player, to address this discrepancy. Colter, Huma and Bonner formed the College Athletes Player Association (CAPA) in hopes of providing a collective voice for student athlete concerns, enabling them to more effectively bargain with the NCAA and their institutions in pursuit of comprehensive reform. CAPA’s demands have been radically misrepresented in the media. Their list of demands does not include pay for play; instead, the union’s specific demands—notably improved health coverage provisions and expanded academic support—could be accomplished through a formal voice in NCAA policymaking.
In order to more effectively bargain for these demands, CAPA decided to unionize. Kain Colter submitted a petition to the region’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking to recognize student athletes as employees, thereby making it possible for them to form a union. On March 26th, the Regional Director of the NLRB, Peter Ohr,decided that Northwestern student athletes did, in fact, qualify as employees, noting that football players devote as much as 40-50 hours a week to football related activities in spite of an NCAA policy that ostensibly limits players to 20 hours a week.
by Anindya Kundu
As defined in the 2010 Western, True Grit implies individual tenacity and passion, a tireless ability to dust yourself off and pull yourself up by the bootstraps. A related idea has emerged in contemporary conversations about public school achievement. Agritty student makes no excuses and meets any and all academic issues: head on.
There is no doubt these are praiseworthy character traits, but there are problems with viewing grit as an essential component of student success. The focus on grit overlooks inter-subjective factors, which shape the public education experience.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has convincingly argued that grit is a desirable trait that directly predicts student achievement. Duckworth also implies that every student has grit and the ability to access it.
But, here’s the problem: grit directs attention away from other factors that affect student success. Saying that student A achieves because she is gritty ignores the hurdles in the path of student B, whose underachievement is then simply attributed to his or her personality deficits. This logic follows that attitude is the sole basis for achievement. The problem is no longer our problem, but just theirs. As such, poor outcomes are due to student behavior and not a failure to address other key issues such as teacher performance.
The same idea underlies our ever-ubiquitous use of the phrase “achievement gap” instead of posing the problem as that of an “opportunity gap.” Hypothetically speaking, if all students had the same initial set of opportunities, then measuring grit would be more valuable and predictive of future success. But, access to opportunity is anything but equal. Social science research has consistently shown that that public school students with higher-income parents should expect to attain higher levels of educational attainment than other students.1 This is one of many reasons that only 6% of Americans born in the lowest income quintile make it to the top quintile. Similarly, only 9% of people from the top quintile ever end up at the bottom. As a result, the United States has the highest income inequality among developed nations.2
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