Interns of the world unite

In a savvy bit of viral marketing, a new organization called Z University has created a spoof campaign called BETI - Businesses for the Ethical...

In a savvy bit of viral marketing, a new organization called Z University has created a spoof campaign called BETI - Businesses for the Ethical Treatment of Interns. Z University is actually a Web site selling video and information packets intended to teach businesses how to manage and create internship programs. When you go to BETI.org, however, you're greeted by a series of SNL-like skit videos and a link to the Z University site.

Even the press release is part of the chicanery. It begins urgently - "STOP INTERN ABUSE NOW!" - calling internships "the last bastion of of legalized slave labor" and saying that BETI will radicalize if their message isn't heeded.

However, there is one bit that they're serious about - Matthew Zinman, executive director and founder, says he looked through 14 semesters worth of intern timesheets and found that an intern supervisor could gain up to 225 full work days of productivity in a year if they made more effective use of their interns.

"If we were to come to the market with a serious tone, I don't believe people would respond," says Zinman. He says the goal is to "get internships on the radar screen of the American business community... [to] move the needle among executives and HR professions to implement internships and all of the strategic advantages that come with them." Treat them with respect because they are future professionals he says. As a former intern, I can appreciate any effort to improve the lot of this underappreciated group.

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