Term Papers At the Click Of a Mouse
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Mr. Roberts of Cheat.com agrees that his Web site may make it seem easier than ever to fake academic research. But he denies encouraging plagiarism.Skip to next paragraph
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"The site wasn't at all to promote plagiarism, but to sort of put the library online," he says. "I thought if I put term papers online then kids wouldn't have to spend time looking in all the encyclopedias and books and stuff like that. Kind of like Cliff Notes."
Bart Lowe is president of Los Angeles based Research Assistance, one of the firms on the receiving end of BU's lawsuit. His company has been in business for 27 years and provides custom research to businesses and students, but never attempts to encourage student plagiarism, he says. He also cites the company's First Amendment right to free speech.
"I resent being lumped in with all these other companies in that law suit," he said in an interview. "I am not promoting the sale of term papers or trying to undermine the university system."
But BU alleges that that's exactly what his and other companies do. The university has brought wire-fraud and racketeering charges against the firms, using tough RICO statutes typically reserved for fighting organized crime.
Robert Smith, general counsel for BU, says the university acted after workers in his office contacted the companies pretending to be students interested in buying a term paper for an English class. No BU students have actually been caught turning in papers from those services, he says.
"I don't think the First Amendment is implicit in this suit at all," he says. "These people are in the shabby business of selling work to others with the intention of obtaining grades and academic credit."
Mr. Smith's darker view of the services is shared in part by one individual who has written for three term-paper mills for more than 15 years - including one of those currently charged by BU.
A wink and a nod
Requesting anonymity, the individual - who holds a master's degree - says that he has written as many as 100 custom research papers a year during that period and was paid $10 per page. He says he did not usually have direct contact with clients, but could tell from written instructions that many were college students whose native language was not English. He says too that most transactions with students were done with "a wink and a nod."
"So much of it just smells like undergrad papers," he says. "I also did work that hinted at PhD dissertations. I've written six of those. You can tell by the nature of the order when the thing is 100 pages long, and has a chapter breakdown corresponding to that format."'
Still, he feels that it is universities and professors - not students -who are the "unindicted co-conspirators" in student cheating. The problem lies in the fact that they do not make assignments specific to their course or work with students on drafts of their papers.
"Of course, I don't do remotely the work I would do if this were my own paper," he says. "My emphasis was on being clever rather than doing a lot of research - writing it well. You're paid by the page, not by the number of references you use."