AUSTIN (KXAN) – University of Texas at Austin social work students are planning a demonstration Tuesday to protest unpaid field placements.
The students will hold the rally on the front steps of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. They hope this rally will encourage school administrators to find a solution where students can be compensated for their work during field placements, according to a press release.
The demonstration was set up by UT FED UP, an organization fighting for universal fair-pay internship stipends.
“Paying tuition to work for free is a structurally unjust model that discriminates against low-income students and, disproportionately, students of color,” Beth Wagner, student body president and FED UP organizer, said in a press release. “Saddling social work students with crushing debt and dangerous stress undermines the educational process, depresses wages, and ultimately hurts our clients. There are stacks of literature on the harms of unpaid internships. The debate is over – it’s time for social work institutions to focus on solutions,” she continued.
KXAN reached out to UT for a comment. This story will be updated with a response.
UT FED UP conducted a survey last year and found that over four of five UT- Austin social work students reported consistent distress about being able to pay for monthly expenses. Further, in the same survey, 95% of social work students said that receiving a $17 to $20 an hour stipend for their work would allow them to work other jobs outside of the program substantially less or not at all.
“UT’s motto is ‘what starts here changes the world’, and it’s high time for this practice of unpaid labor to change. The status quo for practicum education is failing social work students, crushing our mental health, and hurting the workforce. We want our school’s administration to be on our side and work with us in our efforts to create change,” said Parham Daghighi, a graduate student and FED UP organizer, in a press release.