On one hand, there's the opinion that it should be a privilege for these kids to come in for two weeks, write some tactical radio ads or shelf-wobblers, and be generally ignored.
On the other, there's an equally ridiculous view that placement teams are a downtrodden species, who deserve our support more than polar bears do. And there's the (probably most widespread) shrug-of-the-shoulders-type response, that while it's an unfair and demeaning system, there probably isn't a better one.
Freakonomics pointed out that people are prepared to work for free (or for very little) to break into the "glamour" industries of music, fashion, film etc. We in advertising are only a second-tier glamour profession. Nevertheless, for as long as there are people prepared to be paid a pittance to get in, that is what the pay will be. Don't blame me. Blame whoever invented economics.
I actually don't think it's such a bad deal. Placement teams get free training (crits) whereas in a lot of industries you have to pay for that. You don't have to "know the right people" - our industry is pretty open and meritocratic.
Placements aren't given a manservant to run a bath for them, but they're generally not treated badly by agencies. They're not ragged-on like a young 'un in a shipyard would be. And apparently the wages aren't as bad as they used to be.