ASMSU unanimously passed Bill 57-79 during its general assembly meeting on March 4 to support the petition for the College of Education to reassess the state of the 5th year internship program for teaching students.
The petition, which has garnered over 670 signatures since Feb. 12, is asking for the College of Education to acknowledge the negative impact of the program on students’ finances and mental health.
“Although the fifth-year internship may boost the College of Education's national ranking, it comes at the expense of our future educators,” said College of Education Representative Aaron Iturralde, who introduced the bill. “It requires students to take 24 credit hours along with a full-time unpaid internship. And in the same time, it is negatively impacting the mental health of those interns and students. But however, probably the worst effect that has; it is already turning away future educators before they get into their own classrooms because of its inaccessibility and unaffordability.”
Five students spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. They shared their own experiences and problems with the program and called for action from MSU administration.
“I've chosen to not do my internship next year,” said elementary education senior Mary Stout. “I am a first-generation college student, I come from a low-income family and it's just simply something I simply can't afford. I find it extremely frustrating. I feel as though my education is incomplete. I feel as though I've been promised a full education with this internship year that I just financially cannot complete.”
Students said that the unrealistic financial requirements for the program making it inequitable and catered to students from middle and upper-class families.
“We all know that MSU is a P.W.I., a predominantly white institution, but practices such as these perpetuate that classification,” said 5th-year intern Greg McClure. “And they continue to close the doors that MSU is offering for people to become teachers, for people to become educators. And they continue to exacerbate the problems that we're already having with our teacher force.”
Students called on MSU administration and President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., who was in attendance for just over the first hour of the meeting, to seriously examine the state of the internship program and to make changes to make it more inclusive and supportive for all students in the College of Education.
“We call upon not only MSU and the College of Education to act on the concern of future educators but also call upon President Stanley, Provost (Teresa) Woodruff, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education (Mark) Largent, the Council of Graduate Students, the University Committee of Undergraduate Education and the MSU Board of Trustees to enact the changes that students are demanding,” said 5th-year intern Julia Alvarez, one of the students who started the petition.
Stanley spoke briefly about the state of the internship program at the beginning of his remarks to address public comments from students.
“I thank everyone who came to speak forward tonight about the issue around the fifth year in education,” said Stanley. “Certainly, it's something I'm learning about. I think I first learned about it, probably earlier this week, was the first I've learned about the issue. But I certainly will be looking into it, and I know Provost Woodruff will as well. So we will be listening. And I have heard, obviously, some serious concerns that you're expressing about it.”
There is no set timetable for action regarding the petition from MSU, but students are hopeful that the bill passed by ASMSU will be enough support to cause change.
“My hope is that with ASMSU support, we can begin to make serious improvements to the program,” said secondary education english senior Olivia Gundrum, who also helped start the petition. “We are the number one college of education in the country. But we shouldn't be number one because we set unrealistic expectations that ultimately result in teacher burnout before we even get the chance to be teachers. We should be the number one college of education because we recognize that educators are a foundational pillar of our society, and we deserve to be supported and compensated for the truly essential work that we do.”
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