(KPLR) - There are new rules for legislators and interns in the Missouri State Capitol this session. College students who blew the whistle last year on bad experiences with two lawmakers prompted the changes. But there are other efforts underway to be sure college student interns across the state work in safe workplace cultures.
A $10,000 donation from Missourian US senator Claire McCaskill launched the intern resource project at the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Nine public and private universities are participating in the effort to identify resources and contacts for college interns across the state. Students, eager to make potential work connections and to receive positive recommendations, are often hesitant to report harassment by a supervisor in an internship. Matthew Hoffman, a program development specialist with the advocacy group that fights sexual violence, said "This is one way we can start promoting prevention and awareness and how we can work to create safer workplace cultures." He also added that it is important to talk about the issue and encourage bystanders to speak out when they see inappropriate behavior. Power and privilege on the part of adults in a workplace environment can put the young college student at a disadvantage.
Another new not-for-profit organization is hoping to provide mentoring particularly to female interns and young women beginning careers in government. The recently formed group, the Women's Policy Network of Missouri, will be non-partisan. Members plan to work across corporate and regional lines. One of the founders, Christine Page, Government Policy Director for Missouri American Water Company, said "strengthening the network of professionals that the interns feel connected to really gives them a sense that there are people they can turn to if the situation arises that they don't feel comfortable with or possibly is getting out of control. "
The Missouri General Assembly also has new procedures in place for handling any investigation of complaints involving interns.