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It's all about location

Two incidents this morning reinforced the old real estate adage: the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, and location.

First up, a guy was nailed for alleged DUI. That's not really that unusual (unfortunately), but this guy really should have known better. Not only was he a driver's education instructor, but he was arrested while going to the school to teach.

The other story is a bit more convoluted, but I think I can clarify it.

One of my duties here is to go through the unpublished comments and trackbacks. A few of them are actual valid ones that have been flagged by the filters, but the vast majority of them are spam, plain and simple. And as popular a blog as this one is, they can accumulate very, VERY quickly. I've gotten pretty good at sorting through them, publishing some, deleting others that are too old or too stupid, and "junking" the spam.

But every now and then, though, one of the spams will catch my eye, and I'll look a little deeper. One of them did so this morning.

It was for a "custom writing" service. Basically, it's plagiarism for hire; give them your topic and other guidelines, and they will write a paper that you can then put your name on and pass off as your own work. It exists in the gray area of legality, but it certainly is unethical and against any college's rules.

They, like many online businesses, have an "affiliate" program. If you put up an ad for them and someone clicks through that ad to the main page, the affiliate gets a commission.

One of their affiliates with far more guts than brains set up his spam page on a server he probably should not have -- it was hosted by Vassar College.

When I got done laughing, I sent off a quick note to Vassar with the link, the affiliate's ID code, the web site that the link goes to, and the toll-free number of the paper-writing folks.

I am not going to include the link to the ad, because I'd rather not give the scumbags any more publicity or potential clients, but I have bookmarked it, and will be watching to see how long it takes for the page to be taken down.

Comments (8)

Are you sure it was a HE at... (Below threshold)

Are you sure it was a HE at Vassar?

Yeah, I heard about those p... (Below threshold)

Yeah, I heard about those paper-writing services a while back and went to the websites of two. Then I warned my sister, a teacher, about them.

Not sure how one would go about combatting these kids of operations. Right now, some colleges check papers for plagiarism with special software, but obviously these services get around that by being original writing.

We have Turnitin at my univ... (Below threshold)

We have Turnitin at my university. The custom writing is a problem, but it is also more expensive than the research sites that sell canned papers. I get around the problems as much as possible by assigning specific topics that are tied to readings that I choose. I also change them every year so they can't be passed on. I assume there are papers on file in the "frat files" for each professor going back years, but that's all I can do.

I know a professor at a nearby university who does not give written finals. He has each student come in and take an oral exam on the research paper. Sure, he has to be in his office M-F from 9-5 during all finals week, but he has no final exams to correct, and he weeds out the plagiarists who can't explain why they said what they did. In universities with large sections (100+) of students, this couldn't be done, of course.

Telling students that you will randomly choose a certain number to present their papers to the class, including a question session, might help in the larger sections.

You've got to wonder how ma... (Below threshold)

You've got to wonder how many of these "custom writing" places actually do original work that they use only once. Do they plagiarize their own work across regions, or even do original work at all?

Any idea how many man hours it would take to turn out a ten page report on the significance of meta references in Shakespearian plays? I would imagine that if they actually had someone capable do the reading and write a quality paper on the subject, the price would be rather prohibitive. I bet they either have a limited stock of "original work," or they just plagiarize from other sources outright. If you're lucky, they just turn out crap.

What happens if, due to their shoddy work, you get caught? Do they at least refund the purchase price?

Buy hey, they're just papers for the fuzzy studies crowd. Imagine if someone set up a fast turnaround system to provide the solutions to engineering and math problems for college students. It could graduate some very dangerous people. Of course, plagiarism in such a situation could only be detected if questions were answered incorrectly.

Hmmm, business idea.

Of course, most engineering classes don't count homework for more than 15%. Some classes don't even take it up. So unless you could provide answers to students in real time during tests, it wouldn't work.

Oh well.

I doubt people could gradua... (Below threshold)

I doubt people could graduate with math/science degrees by having someone else do their homework. As you note, at most 15% of the grade is homework, and I know of nobody who bombs on a final or midterm being able to get a pass, much less a B.

Also, if you're crap at math/science, you won't be able to tell whether the answers are correct until it's too late. One of my favorite cheating stories comes from my first semester of TAing calculus, along with some friends. In one of my friends' classes, a student was blatantly cheating on tests. Thing is, he was cheating off of the 2nd-worst student in the class. Even without starting the "academic dishonesty" process, the guy earned an F, while the 2nd worst student got a D.

Most of the cheaters I got in math class were similar - they had no idea how to recognize a correct answer, so the little bit they managed to copy off of someone else's paper (because I was roaming throughout the room, so noone could try copying for any length of time) wouldn't be enough to get a pass.

Since I teach in the humani... (Below threshold)

Since I teach in the humanites, I don't know what goes on in the sciences, but I do get emails to all faculty at times on cheating. The main problem with cheating there seems to be with the calculators that students use. Some can also be programmed with information. As soon as the proctor approaches, they flip the screen back to the usual calculator.

There is always the old-fashioned crib sheet in the sweat band of a baseball cap or up the sleeve. Once I found a set of orange filecards, slightly curved, on the floor after an exam. Then I remembered the girl stting there had an orange sweater on. I couldn't do anything, as she could claim that she put them away before the exam, and they fell out of her backpack.

And of course, there's not much one can do about someone asking for leave to go to the restroom. Even if they leave the exam and bluebook on their desk, there's no telling what they look at, (or whom they call) in the stall.

Yes, they probably do eventually get caught on the job. But they got a degree they didnt' deserve, and if they get fired, the employer won't say much to anyone for fear of being sued for libel. When I worked in a corporation before going to teaching, we were only allowed to confirm a person's position and dates of employment. We couldn't even give a good recommendation.

I have a MS in Chemistry an... (Below threshold)
Brian the Adequate:

I have a MS in Chemistry and my Bachelors, while in chem, is from a predominantly engineering school (Rose-Hulman) where I started in the Chem Eng program.

Most of my classes in chemistry and engineering were open book and/or open note on all of the tests, with the tests being the vast majority of the grade. The tests were time limited though and if you needed to look up a lot of stuff, you would not get done.

For advanced degrees in science or engineering the independent research component makes it almost more work to cheat than to do it honestly.

Yeah, I bet those paper wri... (Below threshold)

Yeah, I bet those paper writers helped Bush get through Yale...

I just had aewful feeling like I was taken over by the shade of bryanD...

It was scary.

Hold me.






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