UCL shirks responsibility for internship from hell

A report has been passed to The Cheese Grater alleging serious safeguarding failures on an internship attended by over 10 UCL students last summer: the Toshin Global English Camp, run by Come On Out – Japan (COOJ).

The report catalogues a host of alleged failings, including the sexual assault of interns by a member of the English Camp Mentor Association, and an incident in which (non-UCL) interns were found to be sexually harassing the 13-17 year old high school students they were supposed to be teaching and continued to have access to the children.

COOJ also failed to take immediate action despite reports of racist abuse and dangerous accommodation, which interns ‘feared to be [in] a yakuza-controlled area.’ The report details how various female interns were ‘followed home by unknown men,’ and how others ‘witnessed a dead body being taken away by police in the street.’

A number of students from UCL and other universities staying at the Olympic Center found themselves sleeping on blood-stained mattresses that hadn’t been changed since 1964 in boiling hot, mouldy, vermin-infested accommodation.

All these concerns were dismissed by COOJ.

UCL shifts the blame

Students who attended the programme confirmed the contents of the report to CG. They described the failure of COOJ to offer clear standards of conduct and how their woefully inadequate misconduct and disciplinary procedures endangered children and interns alike.

A spokesperson for UCL Careers told CG that a number of students had received a bursary to attend the internship, a process which involved UCL ‘verify[ing] that the company is bona fide’ but that all students had taken initiative to find the internship themselves.

UCL Careers claim that the internship was sourced by students themselves, despite COOJ recruitment sessions that were held on campus.

However, COOJ held recruitment sessions in UCL teaching facilities, contradicting UCL’s assertion that it has no connection whatsoever with the organisation. These sessions have continued to take place this academic year, despite the incidents that took place on the programme this summer.

UCL’s new Global Internships programme brochure describes how ‘UCL Careers will discuss your internship proposal with you, promote it to UCL students and receive applications on your behalf,’ and lists an example internship as ‘Global English Camp, Japan’.

One student who attended the internship, after being sent details of the programme by their faculty, expressed the opinion that students should expect only reputable internship providers to be allowed to promote their opportunities on campus.

No negative feedback?

A UCL spokesperson told CG: ‘A number of our students did take part in the internship, which is self-sourced and not run or organised by UCL. At this stage, we have not received any negative feedback from any of these students.

‘The welfare and wellbeing of students at UCL is paramount and we are currently reviewing the report, to ensure we can offer appropriate advice to any future UCL students who may consider taking part in this or any other internship opportunity.’

Though questioned on these matters, UCL has not detailed their procedures for verifying legitimate internship providers or explained the fact that COOJ were recruiting on UCL property, and that the programme was mentioned in the Global Internships brochure.

A spokesperson for UCL Careers told CG that two students had expressed positive views of the programme.

Joanne Land
Featured Image credit: Giuseppe Milo
Image credit: UCL Digital Media 2018.

This article appeared in CG Issue 64.