“[Fox Searchlight Pictures] received the benefits of their unpaid work, which otherwise would have required paid employees.” – Judge William H. Pauley III on the suit brought against Fox by Eric Glatt ’91 (below) and Alex Footman ’09
In September 2011, we posted about two Wesleyan alumni, Alex Footman ’09 and Eric Glatt ’91 who brought a class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures. The two argued that, when they interned on the set of Black Swan, they performed menial tasks exclusively that had no educational value. By law, unpaid internships must provide some sort of educational experience and cannot simply be used to replace paid employees with unpaid labor. The two interns argued that they had not received the educational experience they should have gotten from the experience.
Just recently, Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that, as Fox Searchlight Pictures treated the workers as if they were regular paid employees and did not provide any sort of educational value to the internship, the interns should have been paid. The judge explained his logic to The Hollywood Reporter:
Of course, this question could be answered fairly quickly by any number of blogosphere navigators, but perhaps best by Daily Caller commenter “WHATTHEBLANK,” who characterized us as “leftists [who will] just get older and go to occupy protests and still drink smoke weed and act stupid.”
So, as one of those overprivileged WASPs that everyone is talking about, who better to give you your cheat sheet to the media coverage that Wesleyan is getting for our little tryst with the T-Rex?
Earlier this week Business Insider published a list of the 20 Most Expensive Colleges in America. Wesleyan made the cut at #5—$56,006 for tuition, fees, room and board in 2011-2012—topped only by Harvey Mudd, Columbia, NYU, and finally Sarah Lawrence, the tiny Yonkers campus whose total fees have been inching steadily closer to $60k. No surprise when you consider Wesleyan’s rising tuition, uncertain need-blind status (not considered in this ranking, but topically relevant), and other topics of discussion at April’s Affordability Forum. Last spring Wes was #2 on the list.
What should come as a surprising is the photo the magazine placed beneath Wesleyan’s name. Grander than Olin, the building appears nowhere on Wesleyan’s campus (and if it does, it’s been kept even more hidden than the Art Studio tunnels). What gives?
Remember that time Wesleyan became the “epicenter of surrealist Brooklyn pop”? The Village Voice cast an approving eye on Wesleyan’s music scene in August 2009—the dawn of my freshman year—back when MGMT was a fresh success story and Das Racist, Boy Crisis, and Bear Hands were all up-and-coming reference points. That article bears mention for a number of reason: it replaced the Hollywood “Wesleyan Mafia” with a slightly more bearded Brooklyn contingent; it brought VanWyngarden and friends to the mainstream of Wesleyan’s admissions information sessions and applicant pool (remember this?); and it contained this extraordinary sentence:
Thus did the young scholar soon find himself at a nearby co-ed fraternity called the Eclectic Society, rocking indeed with one Will Berman, now the drummer for Wesleyan-bred, quasi-hippie, semi-famous electro-rockers MGMT.
This time it’s USA Today’s College page; headlined “Student and alumni musicians bring ‘Wesleyan Wave’ to the national scene,” the article comes complete with a “Wesleyan Playlist” of Soundcloud embeds that runs the gamut from Das Racist and and Santigold to C¥BERGIGA and Lioness. Anyone smell hype? I smell hype.
What I like about this article—at least compared with the 2009 Voice piece—is that it extends its scope well beyond a few high-profile alumni. So yeah, it begins by pointing out that “MGMT, Das Racist, Santigold, Amazing Baby, Bear Hands and Fort Lean all boast [Wesleyan] diplomas” (no dice, AmandaPalmer’98, who both performed this fall and has written music about Wesleyan), but soon refocuses on current student activity, which includes both concert-booking (a smorgasbord of examples from the lastthreesemesters) and student bands (Peace Museum, Lioness, and Awesomefest all get shout-outs).
If you’re hungover as hell, you may have more in common with the average fruit fly than you think. According to a recent New York Times piece, the fruit flies species Drosophila melanogaster consumes yeast-produced alcohol and, well, gets drunk as a defense against parasites. “Drosophila melanogaster thrives on rotting fruit [because] it has evolved special enzymes that quickly detoxify alcohol,” demonstrated a recent Emory University study.
For another, the Times’ coverage gives quite the shout-out to Wesleyan’s own Biology department, specifically Professor Michael Singer, known for his studies on caterpillars and, less prominently, deep appreciation for soul and funk music. Apparently Emory’s study on fruit flies bears significant comparison to Wesleyan studies self-medicating wooly bear caterpillars, which make significant use of toxic plant leaves:
You have to hand it to Andrew Breitbart: at least he’s consistent. The conservative publisher and occasional Drudge Report editor, who in 2009 referred to Ted Kennedy as “a special pile of human excrement,” seriously has it in for ye olde Wes.
In February 2010 we reported on Breitbart’s keynote address to the First National Tea Party Convention, where the commentator offered this piece of warning:
“Bad, racist, homophobic—all those buzzwords that they learned in their freshman orientation class at Wesleyan—are used as weapons to try to destroy you and intimidate you to not speak up.”
No one quite knows the root of Breitbart’s grudge, but apparently that wasn’t the last of it. At CPAC this weekend, Breitbart namedropped Wes again, aligning us with the “totalitarian freaks” in Obama’s White House. The shout-out comes about eight minutes into the video above, but here’s the text.
Debate: is it time for the unpaid intern to rise up?
Most students leave their unpaid internships with a few bullet points on a resume, maybe a letter of recommendation—standard mementos from a few months spent running errands or exploring the sensual world of data entry. Not so for Alex Footman ’09, who emerged from his internship on the set of Black Swan with an open class-action lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures and nationalmedia coverage. Not bad for a lowly intern, eh?
We reported on the lawsuit in November, when NPR picked up the story. The gist of it is simple: Footman, an aspiring filmmaker, claims that his six-month internship with Black Swan was nothing more than unpaid labor (preparing coffee, taking lunch orders, running errors); that “it was not a learning experience” or one that advanced his career in any way; and that Fox Searchlight had broken minimum wage and overtime laws by using unpaid interns without providing any educational value in return. (Labor laws presently permit employers to hire unpaid interns as long as they provide a reasonably valuable educational experience in return.)
So he’s suing not only to be paid for the hours he worked, but also to prevent Fox Searchlight from using intern labor in the future.
That about brings us to this week, when Footman penned a New York Times op-ed arguing for increased government regulation of unpaid internships and active enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act. “The expectation that interns can regulate this practice,” Footman claims, “is absurd.” They have, after all, neither the work experience nor the legal expertise to rail against a system that’s exploiting them:
The Boston Phoenix’s “Muzzle Awards” highlight rash acts of censorship, so it’s fairly disconcerting—but not altogether surprising—to see Wes and Betagate get a mention:
In an attempt to control student life outside the campus confines, Wesleyan proposed a prohibition, to take effect in August, on certain activities in “private societies that are not recognized by the University,” such as “taking meals” and “participating in social activities.” Recognizing that the policy was strikingly broad, Wesleyan students protested; after all, even houses of worship are private societies. The university responded with a policy revision in May. Problem solved?
Today’s NYT-Wesleyan connection (okay, fine, this article appeared in yesterday’s paper) is the first in “an occasional series profiling individual New York families.” Its subject, you may have gathered, is not the traditional American family.
Meet Caroline Einhorn ’84, a nonprofit fund-raiser, formerly a singer and songwriter, presently a 48-year-old single mother in Brooklyn whose 18-month-old son, Griffin, was conceived in 2008 via in vitro fertilization. The sperm donor and part-time babysitter but not-quite-father is George Russel ’83, a good friend and chiropractor whom Einhorn met after graduating from Wesleyan, where he majored in Dance and COL. Add to the mix David, Russel’s domestic partner of a few years, and you’ve got an overview of this family’s dizzying, and exciting, experiment beyond the boundaries of the conventional nuclear family:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, Mr. Russell stays in the spare room of Ms. Einhorn’s apartment. The other three days he lives on President Street with his domestic partner, David Nimmons, 54, an administrator at a nonprofit. Most Sundays, they all have dinner together.
For us, it’s reality. For our parents’ generation (or whoever’s out there on the NYT‘s The Choice blog), it’s still pretty revolutionary. This week, Caren Osten Gerszberg P ’15 compares her own experiences starting college 30 years ago to her daughter’s experiences making connections on the super-active WesAdmits2015 group:
Eventually, and inevitably, Nicole came across a girl with whom she had a mutual Facebook friend. They started a dialogue online and it turned out the girl lives in a nearby town. They met for ice cream one Sunday afternoon, and there it was — a new friend with whom she could text and meet while visiting their future school in April for WesFest, a long weekend of classes, seminars, performances and parties for parents and students, both current and future.
Gerszberg wonders if it’s all for the best:
And who knows what’s better, the comfort obtainable nowadays via e-mail and the Internet, or the feeling of walking onto a campus not knowing a soul?