Top 10 College Intern Scandals of All Time

Posted April 6, 2010

If you’re a college intern, the most exciting part of your day might be getting coffee for the boss or getting to run off press releases. But compared to these interns, you should consider yourself lucky that you have a stable paycheck and little to no temptation to ruin your chances of being asked back. All internships are learning experiences, however, whether you’re discovering how to apply concepts learned in class, in your criminal justice degree program, health degree program, liberal arts degree program, technology degree program or design degree program to the real world or getting busted for an affair or plagiarism are two different things.

  1. Senator Paul Stanley and McKenzie Morrison: Tennessee state Senator Paul Stanley resigned from office in 2009 after a scandal broke involving his 2008 affair with a 22-year-old intern named McKenzie Morrison. Stanley, who had been chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, was blackmailed by Joel Watts, Morrison’s boyfriend. Watts had obtained condemning photos that Stanley had taken of Morrison and planned to release them to the media unless Stanley paid him $10,000. Watts was charged with extortion, but Stanley, who was married and had two children at the time of the story, resigned anyway.
  2. David Letterman and Stephanie Birkitt: When longtime talk show host David Letterman admitted on-air that he had had sex with female employees at CBS, the public was shocked. Letterman married his girlfriend of over twenty years Regina Lasko in 2009, with whom he has a son, Harry Joseph, and with whom he has worked on The Late Show in the past. But when a Late Show producer Robert "Joe" Halderman attempted to blackmail Letterman for $2 million in exchange for not going public with the employee sex scandal, Letterman decided to come clean with his audience. One of the women he’d had sex with was Stephanie Birkitt, a young assistant who had appeared on the show numerous times as a perky sidekick. Birkitt interned in the writer’s studio of The Late Show in 1996 when she was a student at Wake Forest University, and ended the affair with Letterman sometime before 2003.
  3. The New York Times and Daniel Preysman: A New York Times intern from Dartmouth named Daniel Preysman was involved in a scandal involving a major personal interest case and an article he co-wrote for the paper. Preysman’s May 30, 2003, article, called "Special Visa’s Use for Tech Workers is Challenged" was deemed an unethical assignment by several readers because Preysman is the son of a tech company CEO — Datasweep exec Vladimir Preysman. Daniel is also the beneficiary of a trust connected with a company that formerly employed his mother Irene, called Oni Systems. Both Datasweep and Oni Systems used the types of visas that Daniel wrote about in the NYT article, making some readers feel that he had a "vested interest" in "keeping the visas rolling," and making him a biased reporter.
  4. St. Joseph’s College: This Australia scandal centered around a female staff member at the prestigious St. Joseph’s College, a private school in a prominent neighborhood in Sydney. The 42-year-old staff member — who was married at the time and who had her own sons enrolled at St. Joseph’s — was investigated for having an affair with a 19-year-old male intern from Sussex England. The student was sent back to England, and the staff member resigned.
  5. Mayor Sam Adams and Beau Breedlove: In January of 2009, Portland Mayor Sam Adams was revealed to have been having an affair with an 18-year-old male intern named Beau Breedlove. The tech-savvy mayor had the affair when he was City Commissioner, and though he denied it at first, eventually admitted by saying that he "lied at the time" for fear of compromising his mayoral campaign. When Adams and Breedlove first met, Breedlove was just 17 years old, but they maintained that they did not start the affair until Breedlove was 18.
  6. Chandra Levy: When Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy disappeared, the story turned into headline news on all cable and network news programs. Police discovered that Levy had been having an affair with California Congressman Gary Condit. Levy was working towards her Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Southern California, while she interned in D.C. and when she disappeared on May 1, 2001. Condit refused to answer direct questions by police or by the media, which many felt implicated him in Levy’s disappearance. Levy’s remains were not found until May 2002, two months after Condit lost his Democratic primary election.
  7. Colorado Springs Gazette and Hailey Mac Arthur: Another scandal involving a journalism intern affected the integrity of the Colorado Springs Gazette and intern Hailey Mac Arthur, a supposedly award-winning journalism student at the University of Florida. Gazette editor Jeff Thomas revealed that Mac Arthur had plagiarized several NYT articles for a 2009 piece she wrote for the Colorado Springs paper, including stories with run dates as old as 1987. Some readers felt that the Gazette should have shared some of the blame since Mac Arthur was just an intern, while others believed that a student with credentials as strong as she claimed to have should have known better. Mac Arthur was "dismissed" from the paper.
  8. Johnson Space Center interns: In 2003, three interns from different schools were arrested for stealing moon rocks from NASA. Tiffany Fowler and Thad Roberts had graduated from college already, but Shae Saur, from Lamar University, was just 19. The interns stole moon rocks worth $1,000-$5,000 a gram from a Space Center safe, which showed up for sale on the Mineralogy Club of Antwerp, Belgium, website nearly a year later.
  9. Jared Ilovar and Ohio Administrative Knowledge System office: Jared Ilovar, a 22-year-old college intern with the Ohio Administrative Knowledge System, was fired from his job after a computer data back-up tape containing over 1 million Social Security numbers was stolen from his car. Evidently, Ilovar was entrusted to keep the tape safe and bring it with him into his apartment after hours, although he had left it in his car more than once. Because his bosses at the office instructed him not to report the incident to police in the beginning and because keeping the tape safe was technically the technical administrator’s responsibility, Ilovar believed he was being used as a scapegoat.
  10. Michelle Szuhay and the Ohio liquor control agents:  Cincinnati, OH-area state liquor control agents were involved in a serious scandal after they stole a local woman’s identity so that they could give their undercover stripper — a college intern named Michelle Szuhay — a fake identity. The fact that state agents engaged in identity theft was controversial among many residents, as well as the payments made to the college student — $100 a night for stripping services. During her gig, Szuhay "eventually became a little too friendly with the [club] staff," reported the website Wizbang, and "prosecutors charged her with perjury and obstruction of justice in the case."

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