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Cheating is big business in academe today

December 12th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life, Opinion

By Courtney Rhodes

LOGAN—As the pressure of school begins to take its toll on students—especially during finals week—it is no wonder that many students resort to cheating. But cheating now seems to have become a successful industry of its own.

In a recent article in The Chronicle Review of Higher Education, “Ed Dante,” aka The Shadow Scholar, writes about his career as a professional cheat, writing term papers, dissertation chapters and other assignments for a custom-essay company.

Desperate, lazy or procrastinating students simply have to contact Dante’s company, and one of the 50 staff writers will produce an original, custom term paper. The price is based on the paper’s length, complexity and how much time it takes. One of Dante’s clients paid $2,000 for a 75-page paper that was due within a week.

Over the past year, Dante says he has written more than 5,000 pages for students, with most on strict deadlines—master’s papers in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, graduate essays in international diplomacy, and papers for undergraduate students in hospitality, business administration, accounting, history, cinema, pharmacology, theology, sports management, airline services, architecture, ethics, marketing, and literature. Name any course and he has written some paper for it.

But how does he manage to cover so many widely diverse topics? Dante says he Googles. He uses Wikipedia and Amazon, which can provide particular pages from a text and necessary quotes as well.

Dante says he earns about $66,000 a year, and on any given day can be working on upwards of 20 different assignments. The busiest times of the year, he says, are during midterms and finals. Like most people, Dante’s “product” results vary depending on his mood and how many other projects he is working on, but he has never had a client complain about the grade they received from a paper he had written.

Not only does Dante write essays, but he has also been paid to pose as students in online courses, and to write admissions essays for undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs, some even for ivy-league universities.

None of Dante’s clients has been caught, punished or expelled for any of their custom-written papers, Dante says, and professors don’t seem to have noticed. Professors’ unwillingness or inability to verify the authenticity and authorship of student work is one of the things that keeps Dante and his colleagues in business. It is difficult for instructors to follow up on the individual work of students when the combination of class sizes and technology mean teachers are unlikely to get to know their students. In a simple search on Google, thousands of sites produce the same kind of custom-essay products that Dante’s company offers, all at varying prices.

To beat the business of cheating, changes need to be made at many levels of the academic system. Francisco Marmolejo, an international educational administrator and executive director of the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration, says professors have to be realistic about their expectations for students.

“Let’s be honest,” he says, “we know that some faculty members often assign work as if their class is the only one the student is taking and require that they read and digest wildly amounts of material, which everyone knows will ultimately not be read, at least not with the profundity that the teacher would like.”

Professors should not be required to make their courses easier, but should be more realistic about what can be achieved and used by students. Professors should look for quality, not the quantity of material students must memorize and forget a semester later.


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