Education or advocacy? Internships cause a stir

Riham Feshir

Internships in Israel promote extremism, not education, according to an Israeli nongovernmental organization.

NGO Monitor, which critically analyzes the international NGO community, released a full report today analyzing how internships with human rights organizations can alter students’ political views.

In a draft, NGO Monitor argues that “internships with highly politicized NGOs in areas of violent conflict often cross the boundary between education and advocacy.”

The University doesn’t offer internships in Israel on a regular basis, but some students are currently studying in Kenya, an area with recently emerged political conflicts.

The Kenya program has an internship component in which students receive credit for volunteering, according to the Learning Abroad Center.

Officials at the center emphasized that students don’t earn credits only by doing internships. Additionally, internships have to be part of academic programs.

Global studies adviser Bryan Kuzel has worked with students who’ve volunteered in countries such as Ecuador and Tanzania.

Conflicts in those areas are not as well known as the Arab-Israeli conflict, but the issues are still there.

“Whatever country you go to, there is going to be some sort of political issues,” Kuzel said.

Students at the University often work in health care, orphanages and wildlife management.

“With the Learning Abroad Center, or anything that our department would endorse, there is no indoctrination in any kind of political belief,” Kuzel said.

Some students study or research in areas of violent conflict on their own time, but they don’t come back with different views, he added.

“I haven’t seen anything where they’ve come back having extreme ideas,” Kuzel said.

According to the draft, internships present human rights and international law in a simplistic, partisan and misleading manner, in which the environment of terrorism is erased.

Director of career services at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Lynne Schuman said students put a lot of thought into selecting internship and academic programs, which don’t promote extremism.

“It’s not that they’re going out there to just advocate for a certain political view, they’re usually working more on concrete issues of trying to help people in need,” she said.

It’s difficult for anyone to come back supporting one side over the other, she added.

“I don’t think anybody comes back with a completely revised view of the world,” Schuman said.