Once upon a time, students wrote essays at university. Now they can hire unemployed profs to do that for them — or at least that's what one Montreal-based online service is offering.
Unemployedprofessors.com connects essay-dreading students with teachers willing to write papers for a fee.
The tag line says it all: "So you can play while we make your papers go away."
The site "unabashedly defends its actions on the grounds that education has already become overly commodified and academia is downsizing the tenure system," Karen Seidman wrote for Postmedia News.
Student-run essay mills aren't new, Schubert Laforest, president of the Concordia Student Union, told the National Post, but "it's the first I've heard of professors doing students' work."
"It just seems to hinder the academic process. The focus should be on acquiring skills, not trying to get an easy A. But I'm sure some students will take advantage of it."
Plagiarism software is what drives some students to buy custom-written essays.
Unemployedprofessors.com explains: "The whole reason why you're using this services is so that your lazy ass doesn't itself have to plagiarize. Long answer? We source and cite everything we write on the basis of our long experience of non-plagiarizing. Short answer? No, you're not going to get caught unless you do something stupid like tell everyone that you bought an essay."
The problem of cheating isn't confined to Montreal or one website. Plagiarism seems to be getting worse.
As described on the website of turnitin.com, a leading online plagiarism checker: "We live in a digital culture where norms around copying, reuse and sharing are colliding with core principles of academic integrity."
One professor who works for the service told the National Post that students are told that the purchased essays are not to be used to fulfill an academic requirement.
According to the terms and conditions on the site, "Although you own the copyright to the work, and it is completely original, we do not recommend making use of the product to fulfill an academic course requirement. As such, in using your essay, you agree to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the company for any and all unauthorized use made of any materials available from this website, include any essay that you might purchase from us."
"This removes the ethical dimension on our side as we have no control over what a client does upon paying for and receiving the project," said the anonymous professor.
"In fact, it places the ethical burden squarely on the shoulders of the student."
Del Paulhus, a psychology professor at the University of B.C. told the Vancouver Sun that this evolution of plagiarism is hard for professors to catch.
"Now it just takes a couple clicks and you have the exact paper you want," he said. "In the past if you copied right out of a journal it looked too good, but now you can order a paper that has typos in it."
In Vancouver, city councillor Kerry Jang is calling for a crackdown on companies selling custom essays to university students following an undercover investigation of "essay mills" by CTV News.
University professors are also pushing to make these sorts of services illegal.
"I, like many other faculty members, am outraged by it," Simon Fraser University's Rob Gordon told CTV News. "They're ripping off the system."
While universities can discipline a student caught cheating, they have no power against the off-campus companies selling the essays.
Minister of Advanced Education John Yap responded to CTV News in an emailed statement:
"Post-secondary institutions are responsible for the academic integrity within their institutions."
If universities can't detect the purchased essays, and services like Unemployedprofessors.com aren't shut down, what will become of a post-secondary education's value?
Maybe all essays should be written in-class. By hand. No internet allowed.