NAME WITHHELD, Dallas, New York
IF ONLY "better for the company" were synonymous with "ethical," I would have an easier job. Many employers and colleges justify paying their interns little or nothing by reasoning that the students will earn college credit and their experience will be essentially educational. Having made that bargain, both employer and college are bound by it. Interns should be assigned tasks that are at least potentially illuminating. If you want to hire people to run errands, do so but be candid about their duties.
Some flexibility is called for. Much can be learned just by hanging around an operation, and newbies must expect to do some scut work. (And, of course, learning coffee lingo could be regarded as professional training for those whose first post-college job is at Starbucks.)
So when tasks pile up and deadlines loom, interns may be sent on coffee runs. Such chores can teach them how co-workers help out in a crisis, but shouldn't become routine.
(The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 143, October 25, 2010)