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Students in the University of Michigan School of Social Work drafted a Payment for Providers petition calling for Masters of Social Work students to be financially compensated for field work. A similar version of the petition was drafted in 2017, but the majority of field work positions through the SSW remain unpaid. 

MSW students must complete 16 hours of field work a week in their first semester and 28 hours a week in the following semesters, according to criteria set by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). 

In accordance with Central Student Government Resolution 11-036, which demands compensation for degree-required internships, the petition asks SSW administrators to convene and research avenues in which the University can source funding for field work. The petition does not specify a set pay level or ask for a standardized pay scale, allowing the task force to explore ways in which students can be compensated equitably. 

CSG’s resolution notes, “not only are social work students not compensated for their work, but students are also essentially paying the University to work part-time for free, as these placements are counted for credit hours.” The students of the program are required to complete these hours in order to complete their degree, limiting the amount of personal time that can be used to hold other jobs. 

Comparable programs in other schools, including the Masters of Public Policy and Business Administration programs, all provide some form of aid or compensation for field work and mandatory internships. 

Hasna Kazi, a graduate intern clinician at the Social Work School, wrote in an email to The Daily that if other schools can compensate their student interns, the Social Work School should follow.

“If such efforts can be made at other schools to prioritize students and provide compensation for their labor then I don’t see why the School of Social Work cannot do the same,” Kazi wrote.

Social Work student Arie Davey, who co-wrote the petition, said the University’s inaction is strategic, and they see the quick turnover of students — who typically complete the program in 16 months — as a way to stall progress. Davey works 16 hours per week at their degree-required internship and will have completed 914 hours of uncompensated field work upon finishing the program. 

“The goal of the petition is to lift me and my colleagues out of poverty, food insecurity and living paycheck to paycheck,” Davey said.

The petition calls for a task force to convene by Feb. 11, with a compensation plan proposed by April 15 and implemented by May 3. The plan to compensate students, as specified by the petition, includes those enrolled during the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 semesters. As of Jan. 27, 277 Social Work students, 36 alumni and 75 additional faculty members, colleagues, friends and family members have all signed the petition. 

Social Work student Matt Dargay, SSW’s representative on Central Student Government, wrote in an email to The Daily that SSW students behind the petition are working on a survey expressing the impact of not being compensated. Dargay also wrote the findings will be sent to the student body and reported publicly. The group also plans to release a document addressing the need for compensation, including what it means to be compensated equitably.

“I would be remiss to not mention that nearly every other professional student at the University of Michigan is compensated in some way, shape, or form, for their required field hours or practicum — as well they should,” Dargay wrote. “It’s time for Social Work students to join them in recognizing our field placements for what (they are): work.”

Daily Staff Reporter Madison Kraft can be reached at madimk@umich.edu.