• September 3, 2015

The Shadow Scholar

The man who writes your students' papers tells his story


Jonathan Barkat for The Chronicle Review

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Jonathan Barkat for The Chronicle Review

Editor's note: Ed Dante is a pseudonym for a writer who lives on the East Coast. Through a literary agent, he approached The Chronicle wanting to tell the story of how he makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay company and to describe the extent of student cheating he has observed. In the course of editing his article, The Chronicle reviewed correspondence Dante had with clients and some of the papers he had been paid to write. In the article published here, some details of the assignment he describes have been altered to protect the identity of the student.

The request came in by e-mail around 2 in the afternoon. It was from a previous customer, and she had urgent business. I quote her message here verbatim (if I had to put up with it, so should you): "You did me business ethics propsal for me I need propsal got approved pls can you will write me paper?"

I've gotten pretty good at interpreting this kind of correspondence. The client had attached a document from her professor with details about the paper. She needed the first section in a week. Seventy-five pages.

I told her no problem.

It truly was no problem. In the past year, I've written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won't find my name on a single paper.

I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists.

I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

In the midst of this great recession, business is booming. At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company's staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own.

You would be amazed by the incompetence of your students' writing. I have seen the word "desperate" misspelled every way you can imagine. And these students truly are desperate. They couldn't write a convincing grocery list, yet they are in graduate school. They really need help. They need help learning and, separately, they need help passing their courses. But they aren't getting it.

For those of you who have ever mentored a student through the writing of a dissertation, served on a thesis-review committee, or guided a graduate student through a formal research process, I have a question: Do you ever wonder how a student who struggles to formulate complete sentences in conversation manages to produce marginally competent research? How does that student get by you?

I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created. Granted, as a writer, I could earn more; certainly there are ways to earn less. But I never struggle to find work. And as my peers trudge through thankless office jobs that seem more intolerable with every passing month of our sustained recession, I am on pace for my best year yet. I will make roughly $66,000 this year. Not a king's ransom, but higher than what many actual educators are paid.

Of course, I know you are aware that cheating occurs. But you have no idea how deeply this kind of cheating penetrates the academic system, much less how to stop it. Last summer The New York Times reported that 61 percent of undergraduates have admitted to some form of cheating on assignments and exams. Yet there is little discussion about custom papers and how they differ from more-detectable forms of plagiarism, or about why students cheat in the first place.

It is my hope that this essay will initiate such a conversation. As for me, I'm planning to retire. I'm tired of helping you make your students look competent.

It is late in the semester when the business student contacts me, a time when I typically juggle deadlines and push out 20 to 40 pages a day. I had written a short research proposal for her a few weeks before, suggesting a project that connected a surge of unethical business practices to the patterns of trade liberalization. The proposal was approved, and now I had six days to complete the assignment. This was not quite a rush order, which we get top dollar to write. This assignment would be priced at a standard $2,000, half of which goes in my pocket.

A few hours after I had agreed to write the paper, I received the following e-mail: "sending sorces for ur to use thanx."

I did not reply immediately. One hour later, I received another message:

"did u get the sorce I send

please where you are now?

Desprit to pass spring projict"

Not only was this student going to be a constant thorn in my side, but she also communicated in haiku, each less decipherable than the one before it. I let her know that I was giving her work the utmost attention, that I had received her sources, and that I would be in touch if I had any questions. Then I put it aside.

From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and the lazy rich kid.

For the last, colleges are a perfect launching ground—they are built to reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness. Let's be honest: The successful among us are not always the best and the brightest, and certainly not the most ethical. My favorite customers are those with an unlimited supply of money and no shortage of instructions on how they would like to see their work executed. While the deficient student will generally not know how to ask for what he wants until he doesn't get it, the lazy rich student will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for a life of paying others and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring all the skills he needs to stay on top.

As for the first two types of students—the ESL and the hopelessly deficient—colleges are utterly failing them. Students who come to American universities from other countries find that their efforts to learn a new language are confounded not only by cultural difficulties but also by the pressures of grading. The focus on evaluation rather than education means that those who haven't mastered English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences. My service provides a particularly quick way to "master" English. And those who are hopelessly deficient—a euphemism, I admit—struggle with communication in general.

Two days had passed since I last heard from the business student. Overnight I had received 14 e-mails from her. She had additional instructions for the assignment, such as "but more again please make sure they are a good link betwee the leticture review and all the chapter and the benfet of my paper. finally do you think the level of this work? how match i can get it?"

I'll admit, I didn't fully understand that one.

It was followed by some clarification: "where u are can you get my messages? Please I pay a lot and dont have ao to faile I strated to get very worry."

Her messages had arrived between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Again I assured her I had the matter under control.

It was true. At this point, there are few academic challenges that I find intimidating. You name it, I've been paid to write about it.

Customers' orders are endlessly different yet strangely all the same. No matter what the subject, clients want to be assured that their assignment is in capable hands. It would be terrible to think that your Ivy League graduate thesis was riding on the work ethic and perspicacity of a public-university slacker. So part of my job is to be whatever my clients want me to be. I say yes when I am asked if I have a Ph.D. in sociology. I say yes when I am asked if I have professional training in industrial/organizational psychology. I say yes when asked if I have ever designed a perpetual-motion-powered time machine and documented my efforts in a peer-reviewed journal.

The subject matter, the grade level, the college, the course—these things are irrelevant to me. Prices are determined per page and are based on how long I have to complete the assignment. As long as it doesn't require me to do any math or video-documented animal husbandry, I will write anything.

I have completed countless online courses. Students provide me with passwords and user names so I can access key documents and online exams. In some instances, I have even contributed to weekly online discussions with other students in the class.

I have become a master of the admissions essay. I have written these for undergraduate, master's, and doctoral programs, some at elite universities. I can explain exactly why you're Brown material, why the Wharton M.B.A. program would benefit from your presence, how certain life experiences have prepared you for the rigors of your chosen course of study. I do not mean to be insensitive, but I can't tell you how many times I've been paid to write about somebody helping a loved one battle cancer. I've written essays that could be adapted into Meryl Streep movies.

I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America's moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.

With respect to America's nurses, fear not. Our lives are in capable hands­—just hands that can't write a lick. Nursing students account for one of my company's biggest customer bases. I've written case-management plans, reports on nursing ethics, and essays on why nurse practitioners are lighting the way to the future of medicine. I've even written pharmaceutical-treatment courses, for patients who I hope were hypothetical.

I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems, lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it's hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I'd say education is the worst. I've written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I've written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I've synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I've written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I've completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)

As the deadline for the business-ethics paper approaches, I think about what's ahead of me. Whenever I take on an assignment this large, I get a certain physical sensation. My body says: Are you sure you want to do this again? You know how much it hurt the last time. You know this student will be with you for a long time. You know you will become her emergency contact, her guidance counselor and life raft. You know that for the 48 hours that you dedicate to writing this paper, you will cease all human functions but typing, you will Google until the term has lost all meaning, and you will drink enough coffee to fuel a revolution in a small Central American country.

But then there's the money, the sense that I must capitalize on opportunity, and even a bit of a thrill in seeing whether I can do it.

And I can. It's not implausible to write a 75-page paper in two days. It's just miserable. I don't need much sleep, and when I get cranking, I can churn out four or five pages an hour. First I lay out the sections of an assignment—introduction, problem statement, methodology, literature review, findings, conclusion—whatever the instructions call for. Then I start Googling.

I haven't been to a library once since I started doing this job. Amazon is quite generous about free samples. If I can find a single page from a particular text, I can cobble that into a report, deducing what I don't know from customer reviews and publisher blurbs. Google Scholar is a great source for material, providing the abstract of nearly any journal article. And of course, there's Wikipedia, which is often my first stop when dealing with unfamiliar subjects. Naturally one must verify such material elsewhere, but I've taken hundreds of crash courses this way.

After I've gathered my sources, I pull out usable quotes, cite them, and distribute them among the sections of the assignment. Over the years, I've refined ways of stretching papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me one phrase of quotable text, and I'll produce two pages of ponderous explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a paragraph.

I've also got a mental library of stock academic phrases: "A close consideration of the events which occurred in ____ during the ____ demonstrate that ____ had entered into a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define ____ for decades to come." Fill in the blanks using words provided by the professor in the assignment's instructions.

How good is the product created by this process? That depends—on the day, my mood, how many other assignments I am working on. It also depends on the customer, his or her expectations, and the degree to which the completed work exceeds his or her abilities. I don't ever edit my assignments. That way I get fewer customer requests to "dumb it down." So some of my work is great. Some of it is not so great. Most of my clients do not have the wherewithal to tell the difference, which probably means that in most cases the work is better than what the student would have produced on his or her own. I've actually had customers thank me for being clever enough to insert typos. "Nice touch," they'll say.

I've read enough academic material to know that I'm not the only bullshit artist out there. I think about how Dickens got paid per word and how, as a result, Bleak House is ... well, let's be diplomatic and say exhaustive. Dickens is a role model for me.

So how does someone become a custom-paper writer? The story of how I got into this job may be instructive. It is mostly about the tremendous disappointment that awaited me in college.

My distaste for the early hours and regimented nature of high school was tempered by the promise of the educational community ahead, with its free exchange of ideas and access to great minds. How dispiriting to find out that college was just another place where grades were grubbed, competition overshadowed personal growth, and the threat of failure was used to encourage learning.

Although my university experience did not live up to its vaunted reputation, it did lead me to where I am today. I was raised in an upper-middle-class family, but I went to college in a poor neighborhood. I fit in really well: After paying my tuition, I didn't have a cent to my name. I had nothing but a meal plan and my roommate's computer. But I was determined to write for a living, and, moreover, to spend these extremely expensive years learning how to do so. When I completed my first novel, in the summer between sophomore and junior years, I contacted the English department about creating an independent study around editing and publishing it. I was received like a mental patient. I was told, "There's nothing like that here." I was told that I could go back to my classes, sit in my lectures, and fill out Scantron tests until I graduated.

I didn't much care for my classes, though. I slept late and spent the afternoons working on my own material. Then a funny thing happened. Here I was, begging anybody in authority to take my work seriously. But my classmates did. They saw my abilities and my abundance of free time. They saw a value that the university did not.

It turned out that my lazy, Xanax-snorting, Miller-swilling classmates were thrilled to pay me to write their papers. And I was thrilled to take their money. Imagine you are crumbling under the weight of university-issued parking tickets and self-doubt when a frat boy offers you cash to write about Plato. Doing that job was a no-brainer. Word of my services spread quickly, especially through the fraternities. Soon I was receiving calls from strangers who wanted to commission my work. I was a writer!

Nearly a decade later, students, not publishers, still come from everywhere to find me.

I work hard for a living. I'm nice to people. But I understand that in simple terms, I'm the bad guy. I see where I'm vulnerable to ethical scrutiny.

But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many students prefer to cheat rather than do their own work?

Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason your students cheat.

You know what's never happened? I've never had a client complain that he'd been expelled from school, that the originality of his work had been questioned, that some disciplinary action had been taken. As far as I know, not one of my customers has ever been caught.

With just two days to go, I was finally ready to throw myself into the business assignment. I turned off my phone, caged myself in my office, and went through the purgatory of cramming the summation of a student's alleged education into a weekend. Try it sometime. After the 20th hour on a single subject, you have an almost-out-of-body experience.

My client was thrilled with my work. She told me that she would present the chapter to her mentor and get back to me with our next steps. Two weeks passed, by which time the assignment was but a distant memory, obscured by the several hundred pages I had written since. On a Wednesday evening, I received the following e-mail:

"Thanx u so much for the chapter is going very good the porfesser likes it but wants the folloing suggestions please what do you thing?:

"'The hypothesis is interesting but I'd like to see it a bit more focused. Choose a specific connection and try to prove it.'

"What shoudwe say?"

This happens a lot. I get paid per assignment. But with longer papers, the student starts to think of me as a personal educational counselor. She paid me to write a one-page response to her professor, and then she paid me to revise her paper. I completed each of these assignments, sustaining the voice that the student had established and maintaining the front of competence from some invisible location far beneath the ivory tower.

The 75-page paper on business ethics ultimately expanded into a 160-page graduate thesis, every word of which was written by me. I can't remember the name of my client, but it's her name on my work. We collaborated for months. As with so many other topics I tackle, the connection between unethical business practices and trade liberalization became a subtext to my everyday life.

So, of course, you can imagine my excitement when I received the good news:

"thanx so much for uhelp ican going to graduate to now".


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1. plclark - November 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm


2. graykitt - November 13, 2010 at 03:20 am

I understand that the author wants educators to shoulder the blame for the phenomenon of students paying him and others like him to write everything from one-page responses to their professors to complete dissertations. But we're not mind readers, nor, given the large number of students many of us are teaching at once, do we have the time to become detectives who compare students' oral communication skills (or their accuracy when emailing or texting, as in Dante's supposedly funny quotations) to their writing produced outside of class.

I find the anecdote of the author as an aspiring novelist and bored student telling. It seems he expects Chronicle readers to be as outraged as he was that his independent study proposal was turned down, but the request to have a course set up for his novel-editing was clearly laughable. Yet, both the outlandish request to the English department and his efforts to justify his decision to profit from the laziness of frat boys are unsurprising given the author's self-aggrandizing and blame-shifting throughout this essay.

3. skaking - November 13, 2010 at 08:17 am

graykitt, way to skirt the point. You and I and every faculty and every administrator at universities today and going back many years are responsible for Mr Dante and those in his profession existing. Mr Dante fills a niche that we have allowed to come into existence. If you paid attention (you obviously didn't and I imagine your writing and thinking could use some help from Mr Dante) you'd see his argument is structural. The pressure that students get graded rather than the genuine demand of faculty and administration that students learn drives students to him. Your number of students, lack of deductive skills, inability to read people and I'm guessing general disinterest in understanding people is your way to disavow responsibility. And that's ok. Because while we as faculty at the individual level do make our contributions to this system, it's the systemic demand from the top down for evaluation rather than education that leads to it. I wonder if Mr Dante gets a lower relative number of requests from students at schools where there are no grades, or graded pass/fail, or even if there are truly places where education is valued over evaluation.

4. graykitt - November 13, 2010 at 08:49 am

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5. skaking - November 13, 2010 at 09:54 am

<Comment removed by moderator>

6. katypearce - November 13, 2010 at 10:08 am

Last year I had an ESL student that obviously had her paper written for her. When I asked her about her topic or asked why she changed her topic so drastically from what we had discussed in office hours, she couldn't explain herself.
In class essays from her made no sense.

But what can I do? Submit her to the council? How will they prove it?

7. starlight7 - November 13, 2010 at 11:29 am

I teach for an online private high school. I never see any of my students face to face. The tuition is very high, and the customer is always right. Unfortunately.

We know perfectly well that some of our students turn in custom essays that they have purchased. But don't have any proof of wrongdoing to hold against the student. Talking to the student on the phone and listening to them fail miserably at summarizing "their" essay is not seen as proof. At least the lawyers of our students' don't seem to think so. In spite of that, I think that we have a good education model. Because if a student does the work themselves, as they know they are supposed to, they do get a fantastic education.

I think that schools and even paper-writers like the author have very little blame here. If students cheat, they are left with a diploma with little practical knowledge behind it. At which point three things will happen: they will do nothing with their degree and just continue to be a useless rich person, they will get hired and fail to get promoted because they cannot do their job competently in spite of their degree, or they will get promoted based on their degree not their performance - which is the fault of the employer.

8. jsteele26 - November 13, 2010 at 04:55 pm

Why is it the fault of the faculty that their students, who should never have gotten into college in the first place, are cheating? We have no say in who is in our classes and have no recourse even if we are positive they cheated, if we cannot find the source material they plagiarized. The problem is that these students are being accepted into the programs to begin with, which is symptomatic of the administration/top-heavy, money-focused business model that higher ed is being directed toward. We have requirements set forth for us by numerous committees, greedy administrators, and accreditation organizations.

Most faculty love learning and they love teaching. None of us just have a supreme love for testing and grading, but we have to provide grading somehow, and, like it or not, good exams actually do measure learning. As a student, sure I would fret about exams; but I also did very well on them, because I loved what I was doing and cared about learning. We've turned education into an economic pursuit which is all about money and job-getting instead of what it is supposed to be. But, this author is benefitting from such structures - his clients are paying for a piece of paper which might be cheaper for them to get from one of the many spammers filling my spam box with their offers. All this writer has succeeded in doing here is rubbing in our faces the exact system of which we are already quite aware, are stuck in and, in many cases, resent.

9. dougmerrill - November 13, 2010 at 05:22 pm

The author admits to an aversion to math, and I am not surprised. He claims to have written more than 5000 pages in the last year. At roughly 250 working days per year, that's 20 pages a day, every single working day. In an eight-hour working day, that's close to 1000 words every hour, with no time allowed for client contact, follow-up, research or anything else. This seems unlikely in the extreme. Even with more hours put in each day, that is an improbably high speed of writing, considering that it has to be kept up every hour of every working day to make the total claimed in this article.

On the other side of the coin, he claims that will be paid about $66,000 for his 5000 pages. That is the princely sum of $13.20 per page, or slightly more than 2¢ per word (at 550 words per page). Not only is he lying and making a dishonest living (presuming the story told here is truthful), he is getting paid pathetically.

10. bittersweet18 - November 13, 2010 at 07:21 pm

Educators at every level have the opportunity to either ignore or help address this problem. If graduate professors pass the blame to undergrad professors, and undergrad profs to high school teachers, and high school teachers to middle school teachers, the problem with never be fixed. Instead, all educators must help fix this.

Furthermore, I cannot imagine a prestigious university or college that would deny a student the opportunity to pursue an independent study, particularly if the course involved in the publication of original research.

[Comment edited for personal attack. -moderator]

11. rellips - November 13, 2010 at 07:56 pm

My elementary aged children are required to write essays in the 3rd and 5th grade just to pass those grades. You mean to tell me that Universities and Colleges can't test students with a short essay regularly to establish if they are capable of writing the papers required? Maybe this should be an accreditation requirement, that would end most of this behavior.

12. patrick_s - November 13, 2010 at 07:58 pm

Bittersweet18, I have to disagree. It's not anyone's usual practice, in the BA, to allow undergraduates to earn credit for trying to get their novels published. The author should probably have pursued a qualification in Creative Writing.

This would perhaps have been a better idea. As Dougmerrill points out, the guy is earning a pittance and working like a donkey.

13. gahnett - November 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm

dougmerrill: But what if he uses his pre-fab'ed writing skills?

The Chinese just put up a building in a few days. It was a bit eerie...

14. graykitt - November 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Dante/skaking/bittersweet18, a number of commenters have made more substantive comments than mine, so I wish you would have responded to those rather than continuing your ad hominem attacks on me. After rereading what I wrote a couple of times, I'm still a bit baffled at your comment about long words ("phenomenon," "aggrandizing"?).

I thought you should know that certain recurring patterns and preoccupations in your essay and comments make it evident that all three names are being used by the same person. First of all, I can't imagine other readers wanting to defend the author of this gloating essay, nor would a commenter without a strong personal interest write such a venomous response to another commenter. Secondly, I can see why you are such a success as a ghost writer for barely literate students. Your feeble attempts at wit (in the essay) and your misinformed criticism of my comments' grammar do have a sophomoric ring that should serve you well in your "career." Finally, only you in your three guises have insisted that I get back to the real point, the "structural" problems that we all "must help fix."

By the way, you could just identify yourself as the author. Other contributors to the Chronicle have done so in the discussion of their essays.

15. skaking - November 13, 2010 at 11:39 pm

graykitt, there is no ad hominem nor venemous attack upon you, as much as you may like that. you are being criticized for having, well, buffoonish ideas. (sorry charlie, that's not venemous. merely descriptive.) and why do you feel the need to melt three anonymous identities into one? does that make you feel better?

and let me trumpet the point that you so easily dismiss without consideration (a fine scholar you must be!) -- the issue is in the end structural. so there.

16. triplembrmc - November 14, 2010 at 01:26 am

Perhaps, academia will finally consider writing to be a necessary, if not prerequisite, skill.

17. mccleverly - November 14, 2010 at 01:41 am

This was an amazing article to me, for one reason - I have engaged in this method of employment in the past, for one miserable year. The difference between myself and the author, however, was this: at the time I was writing PhD papers and graduate theses for clients, I was myself an undergraduate student. Someone without a bachelors degree was writing work that should have qualified me to get a doctorate at least once a week. I have to tell anyone reading this that, if there were any doubts, everything this author is saying is ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

Balancing my own senior-year homework (of which I wrote every word) with writing and editing the lengthy papers of others was no treat, especially when I got to read such poorly-rendered english as the examples in this article. One client simply could not understand that the word "ominous" was not the same as the word "anonymous..." and failed to comprehend this after multiple edits. But I was also given the ability to percieve myself as superhuman, some kind of academic ubermench... while my peers complained about having to write a 5-page paper in a week, I would laugh cruelly in their faces and ask them what pain really meant.

My heart goes out to contracters like this author. It is a hard and thankless road to walk, and a heartbreaking one at that. Before taking that job, higher education actually meant something to me. Afterwards, I learned that education - and MANY EDUACTORS (like the article says) - is only a farce. I also learned that, at 22, I was probably qualified for a masters in education, chinese literature, nursing, and business. Rock on, contractors, and God bless ;).

18. notforprofit - November 14, 2010 at 01:49 am

First off, as an English instructor (comp and remedial, so no, I can't approve your independent study), this frustrates me on a number of levels. It makes me insane that my subject is seen as a sort of throw-away course by those in unrelated majors--by students and "core course" instructors alike. Writing is a huge necessity in academia and the professional world, but the courses that are supposed to teach it are often viewed as little more than necessary evils.

jsteele26 is exactly correct; proving that a student purchased a paper rather than created it themselves would be nearly impossible to prove, and certainly frowned upon by administration unless there was concrete proof. Moreover, the culture of evaluation is borne out of the biggest problem with American education today: rather than actual education, credentials are presented as a type of academic receipt allowing the bearer a certain career level. Quantity of evaluations is often not of the instructor's choosing.

I attended low-ranking public universities, and I can assure you that the cost of custom papers was well out of the majority of student means. Perhaps those of us with lower incomes are the only ones remaining who actually have work ethic and accountability.

I'm curious if Mr. (Ms?) Dante was ever offered an undergraduate creative writing workshop course. In the low-rent universities that I attended, the normal course of action for a student who had completed a novel manuscript would have been to work their way up the chain of creative writing electives. That is, if they were an English major or minor; otherwise, this may not have been a viable option. Only after this process--and possibly after graduation, as in-depth creative writing courses/independent studies are primarily offered as graduate coursework--would a student have been allowed such an independent study. To a university whose primary focus is keeping tuition funds rolling in, such a self-serving indpendent study would need to be hard-earned.

Incidentally, graykitt's grammar is impeccable.

19. patrick_s - November 14, 2010 at 02:12 am

We shouldn't have to prove that such papers are bought in order to render them useless. I think that a good assessment design mitigates against the problem. If we set a generic task, it can be met with a generic response. Instead, we need to set tasks which carefully measure mastery of what is actually being taught.

The woeful paper mill product (and we have all seen them: a mixture of hokey waffling and references to off-topic google book scans) is inadequate in the face of requirements for specificity, attention to detail .... and in-class tests.

I sometimes give these tiresome things a very low pass, safe in the knowledge that the student responsible will ultimately fail my course anyway.

20. davemartin7777 - November 14, 2010 at 02:31 am

That was well written article and a pleasure to read.

21. dveej - November 14, 2010 at 05:21 am

@ notforprofit: You are an English instructor??? graykitt's grammar is impeccable, but yours is a bit lacking:
"...proving that a student purchased a paper rather than created it themselves would be nearly impossible to prove, and certainly frowned upon by administration unless there was concrete proof."

22. mcmug123 - November 14, 2010 at 05:38 am

you know mr. dante, by "helping" these students, you're just pushing the grades standard bar even higher. professors will expect a lot more from students, and not everyone can meet those standards. this will result in even more desperate students. i know this is good for business; but, do you really enjoy in destroying the integrity of a proper education system?

23. bgreinhart - November 14, 2010 at 07:27 am

dougmerrill - Remember, the day on which students do the most homework is Sunday. I suspect the author does not give himself 100 days off each year. Let's expand the number of working days to 280, the number of working hours to 10 (fewer than I worked per day as an undergraduate at my university!), and let's use the accurate number of words on a double-spaced page, Times New Roman, size 12 font (350 if the page has no footnotes) and then we've got 625 words per hour. That's still an insane total, but it's also much more reasonable than your estimate. I once wrote 800 words in 25 minutes for a magazine article (not under deadline pressure, but under sudden inspiration). Also remember he does not edit, which saves a LOT of time.

Based on this we're now looking at a different compensation rate: he is getting 4 cents per word (3.77). After all, his clients are college students.

graykitt - Since I've just defended the truth of the article, I am slightly afraid you will now decide that I am the author and all those other people. How exactly do you expect them/me to prove otherwise?

24. redunderthebed - November 14, 2010 at 08:23 am

Wait, you can't fail someone for not being able to summarize the work that they've "written"? As a software engineering student I've seen other students fail for not being able to explain how their code works. It seems strange to me that lawyers are able to defend their cheating clients by saying that not knowing what you're talking about isn't proof that you didn't write the paper. It seems that a simple alteration to the terms and conditions of enrollment is all that's required.

25. graykitt - November 14, 2010 at 08:56 am

I agree with Patrick_S that writing assignments should be closely tied to material covered in the course. This saves time that would otherwise be wasted trying to prove that a submission is plagairized.

Re: "graykitt--Since I've just defended the truth of the article, I am slightly afraid you will now decide that I am the author and all of those other people. How exactly do you expect them/me to prove otherwise?"

I actually gave my reasons for assuming that two usernames (so, not really "all those other people") were being used by the author in my last comment. If you read the comments by these supposedly different people (skaking and bittersweet18), I think you'll notice how similar they are in style and content. I only made this comparison because I didn't want Dante's rebuttals to come across as more credible because they appear to be coming from different people. It's not so much that I expect him (them?) to prove otherwise; it's rather that I want the author, a person who proudly admits to lying to his clients about his qualifications and to undermining the whole academic enterprise, to know that I am on to him--at least in this little way.

26. mattcardin - November 14, 2010 at 09:04 am

I'd like to point out that this rather fine essay dovetails nicely with the self-account of another (and now former) writer for a term paper mill:

The lucrative industry behind higher ed's failings
The Smart Set, October 10, 2008

Nick was also interviewed for NPR's On the Media:

On the Media, November 28, 2010

On another note, I observe with amusement and approval that "Ed Dante" is a reduction of "Edmond Dantes," the name of the protagonist in THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO -- the 1934 movie adaptation of which is passionately adored by the anarchist revolutionary known as "V" in V FOR VENDETTA.

27. linderling - November 14, 2010 at 09:08 am

Bittersweet18, if you're going to berate others for their poor grammar" and attempt to belittle them by suggesting they work "for a less-than-stellar institution," then you should ensure that your own post is error free. Casting stones and such.

28. skaking - November 14, 2010 at 09:16 am

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29. jblackmcc - November 14, 2010 at 09:43 am

To starlight7--and Dante--about the consequences of cheating:

These are the arguments I hear most often when cheating is discussed: We shouldn't worry too much because cheaters will get caught in the end, and, besides, the system allows it, eh?

But in the meantime ... until such day as the cheater's incompetence is documented enough times to result in re-training or dismissal--it is others who suffer most. From Dante's list of clients, the potential consequences are easy to see: Patients get the wrong medication (nursing students), clients are unknowingly sent into the land of tax fraud (business students), congregations suffer from the after-effects of "leaders" who cheat on their spouses (seminary students), students who would've done well in college are excluded (faked admissions essays) ... and on and on.

I would hope educators--especially those of us in higher ed--would be honor bound to protect not only the non-cheaters but also those who suffer later when cheaters are in over their heads in the workplace.

But I've been in the biz for 30 years, so I know too many of us are like Dante--it's just a job--nobody gets hurt, after all--it's not my fault--I don't have time--it's not my job.

But I disagree: Everybody gets hurt. It's everybody's fault. It is our job.

30. midwestfaculty - November 14, 2010 at 10:30 am

While many of the commentors have written about the ethics of these sorts of activities by students, few have writted about the academic environment that supports and encourages them. As our department has moved its online classes from live to online, objections about cheating (or even the basic identifiability of students) have been pointedly quashed. The reality is that courses are treated as cash cows and anything that interrupts the income stream is to be eliminated.

I'd suggest that "el Dante" simply contact our department chair, and (like Milo Minderbinder who, in Catch 22, arranged to be paid for both bombing and protecting a particular bridge) join the franchise on a percentage-of-credit-hour basis and collect both from us and the students. Sadly, this is a science curriculum at a big ten university, so he may have to hire associates who can regurgitate calculations and chemical formulas to supplement his very capable writing skills.

31. flashdrive - November 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Because I am, er, "lucky" enough to teach in a field where the class sizes are small, I am able to give students the individual attention that several of those who commented before me have wished they could devote to their enormous classes. I have also taken it as my personal responsibility to help students who couldn't write, by asking them to come to office hours and going through their work line by line, sending them to tutoring centers, or taking advantage of other resources. I am sorry to say that in a number of cases these have been African-American students whose previous professors apparently indulged in what is now commonly referred to as the "racism of lowered expectations." Alas, as soon as it becomes clear that I actually expect anything of them, most of the students who need help will simply drop the course. In the undergrad grapevine nothing spreads like news of professors who will let everything slide, or those like myself who demand "too much" (even if we take extra steps to help) and who always refer plagiarism cases. Even the worst student can usually find a path of least resistance to reach the degree, and for a number of reasons it is in the school's financial interest to permit this to happen. This, I think, is the ultimate point to be drawn from Ed Dante's confessional - the education industrial complex creates an environment where this behavior thrives.

32. lisahoeffner - November 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

My god, what an arrogant and ignorant writer. Any fellow colleague of mine could do exactly what this guy does and make his paltry $66K. So why don't we?

We don't because we know that our actions affect other people. We know that when a nurse graduates without knowing how to write, some day, someone's little daughter will be under that nurse's care. When that nurse writes so poorly that the next shift's nurse re-administers narcotic meds to the child, that little child dies.

We know that not only is this kind of situation possible: it happens all the time, in any number of ways. And we care that this happens. We know that the little girl who dies could be our own child. The engineer who builds the bridge that collapses because Ghostwriter helped him graduate is another version of the nurse. And when your wife is the one traveling over that bridge every day, Ghostwriter, will you then stand with your face in the shadows arrogantly pointing your finger at those of us who are out there in the trenches, working feverishly to educate--yes, really educate--these people? You will have caused the woman's death: not us.

The voters who go to the polls and hold your future, Mr. Ghostwriter, are the same students you helped get bogus degrees. They have the same pseudo-intelligence you do.

Here's the deal: you say "we" are why you have a job: I say "you" are why this problem exists. We have a way to deal with students like your clients: we fail them. YOU, sir, are why they go on and get degrees.

33. mainiac - November 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

Well said lisahoeffner!!! This is not a good corporate citizen!!!

34. cerealbars - November 14, 2010 at 11:21 am

What if educators, after students have turned in a big paper, had them write an abstract/summary/something of said paper, in class? It might not catch the lazy-rich demographic, who'd be smart enough (maybe) to ape the style and content of the custom paper, but I feel like it would help somewhat.

35. healigan - November 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

I am a high school English teacher. I could spend all my time trying to prove that a student used someone like this to write his/her paper, or I could use my time to focus on the students I am reasonably sure did their own work. My experience has taught me that many students would rather spend the time and money to have someone else do their work than sit down and read the book.

36. greenfirematt - November 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Thanks for disclosure - this explains something that always perplexed me - note: I'm totally formally uneducated individual - which is why I started a statistical modeling company that crunches numbers for industry; and always sort of felt bad about the fact that I never got a "real education"; I fell ever so much better about myself.

37. odetteism - November 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm

This stuff is depraved. The depressing part is that, in the end, it won't be the student alone who pays for not completing his or her own education. It will be those who work with that student as well, down to ::gulp:: nurses.

As someone who caught a cheater just this morning, I know this one is a tough one. I have committee member who only lets students work on their papers during class, papers that they turn in to him between classes. They never get to take their papers home, for this very reason. It's crazed, but it works. And a bunch of kids fail his class because they can't spell better than a third grader, don't understand mechanics at all, and critical thinking??? hahahaha. No. Not happening.

However, my heart doesn't go out to the writer of this piece. Again, feeling indignant that you're "allowed" to earn money this way doesn't make it less of a problem to do it. Sorry. Can't let yourself off the hook there, even for $66,000 a year.

38. lucylrnr - November 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

"Thanks for disclosure" is right! When WILL educational systems everywhere get out of the factory model and in step with the information age? Until they do I'm pleased to see this enterprising writer benefit. WAKE UP, all you parents paying tuitions and citizens subsidizing "higher" learning!

39. lotsoquestions - November 14, 2010 at 03:14 pm

This is a bad game that we're all being forced to play. What is a faculty member to do when they're being pressured to pass a student who doesn't belong in college? Why doesn't the term paper writer in this article put the fault where it belongs -- on the admissions committees that solicit too many applicants and then don't actually have any time to screen out the incompetent students or maybe don't care to do so?

Why doesn't anyone blame the administrators who don't back the professors when the professor says "I'm pretty sure the guy getting the A in my online class is the husband of the woman who's actually signed up for the class. When I called her up to discuss her midterm, she PUT HER HUSBAND ON THE PHONE."

Why doesn't anyone blame the administrators for pressuring the faculty to cave everytime a student threatens to sue the professor because she didn't get the grade she wanted?

Why doesn't anyone blame the undergraduate's parents who apparently pay for these essays to be written, and then call the department chairman to explain why it's not their child's fault because she has a learning disability? (By the way, if you visit the website College Confidential, there's a wonderful little debate going on between the undergraduate's parents -- many of whom don't see anything unethical about having their little darling e-mail all their essays to mommy and daddy for mommy and daddy to rewrite for them. I'm sure mom and dad also write a fair number of the essays as well.) My understanding here is that the parents justify their behavior because they can't afford to lose their investment. In this particular argument, they place the blame on whoever sets tuition prices -- which as you all know, isn't the professor.

40. bloodyannoyed - November 14, 2010 at 03:19 pm

Of course, this makes it difficult for teachers to identify students who have real problems and help them. So, way to go, you mercenary. You are hurting people professionally. I have no respect for you, you botch.

41. geanious - November 14, 2010 at 03:49 pm

For those troubled by the phenomenon, consider what sorts of assignments you ask students to complete. Consider how long you spend grading.

Term paper writers are cranking out BS--the author is very clear about that. That's how he writes so much in so little time without reading or researching--just using google and amazon reviews!

The fact that students are passing courses while turning in shoddy work is the fault of instructors. Again, it's clear that the term paper author is not concerned about quality.

And for everyone whining and crying about the pseudonymous writer, well, I'd rather make 66K a year with no benefits than 28K a year as an adjunct (with no benefits)! Sign me the f*** up!

42. a12e34b56 - November 14, 2010 at 05:52 pm

Hehehe...somehow I knew it would education majors! Education, Communications, Journalism - the P.E. majors of this age.

43. arthurwinslow - November 14, 2010 at 06:41 pm

I spend one hour reviewing each students' early drafts and two hours grading each final draft. With twenty-five students, that comes to about seventy-five hours, every two weeks, spent SIMPLY reviewing student papers OUTSIDE class. As a graduate instructor, I'm paid for only forty of those seventy-five hours (and I haven't even mentioned class times, office hours, individual student appointments, responding to emails, or my own studies).

I'm told to spend ten minutes on each paper (including time spent writing comments), but that simply isn't feasible. My students are horribly unprepared to write college essays. They can't structure sentences, transition between paragraphs, distinguish conceptually between themselves and others, understand an opposing point of view, or properly utilize a source. If I assign even a simple reading, they straightforwardly don't understand it.

Would one of Dante's essays pass my class? Certainly. His "shoddy" work likely soars above my students' best work. And, being duped, I would probably glow with teacherly satisfaction.

44. cinema_interval - November 14, 2010 at 07:55 pm

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45. mcmorgan - November 14, 2010 at 07:57 pm

The article - which sounds temptingly bogus - shows that mercenary writing is hackwork. We need better professorial readers.

46. corvus_caurinus - November 14, 2010 at 08:03 pm

Well, it's clear from the article itself that our dear author is accustomed to being paid by the word.

47. formerfinanceprof - November 14, 2010 at 08:15 pm

The thing is, he may well be telling the truth. If so, the problem exists because most Professors do not "know" their own students well enough. Why? Because EVERY person has a distinct writing style. A student is not necessarily going to write very far from their conversation style. Sure, there will be some "cleaning and refining" of the writing, but overall? I think not. Were a professor to truly know his/her students, cheating of this nature would be much easier detected I suspect.

48. tinfish - November 14, 2010 at 08:42 pm

Having just busted a student for plagiarizing from a review of a book I published just last year, I can say that often the devil is in the stylistic changes within an essay. Maybe handing in a paper that someone else wrote in toto is hard to find, but often plagiarists reveal themselves when their own writing (student-like) butts up against another's (mellifluous, or simply filled with uncited facts). I find it hard to believe that the ghost writer blames instructors for the ethical lapses. Just look to Bush's plagiarized memoirs to see how cheaters rise to the top. It's our culture, not the grading system.

49. farm_boy - November 14, 2010 at 08:42 pm

Why don't we just make all writing assignments in-class? We can stand there and watch them. They get a pencil and paper. That's it.

There are interesting parallels between the housing crisis and higher ed. People with no money and no jobs were given houses with bad loans. "Students" with little intellectual capital and little motivation are being admitted into universities... when will it collapse?

50. mmun6906 - November 14, 2010 at 08:47 pm

The article surely reflects the situation at many colleges and universities in America. But not all of them. I am an adjunct in the Art department at a good campus of a major public university system, for the most part teaching required courses so I am hard to avoid. I do have in-class writing assignments and quizzes, samples of which I keep in case I need them later for comparison. My research papers are about original works of art on display in local museums, new or temporary exhibits whenever possible to minimize the chance of getting old papers. My assignments are very specific, and I see and grade the work in stages. All of this makes it harder for my students to submit the work of others. But I am also aware that it is my great good fortune to be in a department that backs its faculty in confrontations with students about cheating and plagiarism, as well as one that tries to cap classes at 35 students. This allows those of us who care to concentrate on the serious business of a real education, which many of our students - largely from poor urban high schools or ESL students - actually want. The sad part is that too often the school lacks the resources to meet their tremendous needs. For every thrilling success story, and we have those, there are many more who do not manage to complete their studies.

51. 22087840 - November 14, 2010 at 09:03 pm

Backtrack: http://highered.blogspot.com/2010/11/identity-rental.html

or http://bit.ly/98xpW7

Summary: Easy to fix. Or: create a Track B for future managers.

52. parismtn - November 14, 2010 at 09:04 pm

I've been a free lance editor for 21 years and cannot tell you how many requests I've had to do master's thesis and doctoral dissertations. It's one thing to do a line edit. I was also okay, if they wanted an analysis (did they meet the criteria, was the information well organized). However, when it came to writing the actual papers, from scratch (albeit with suggested sources, etc), I drew the line. Always have, always will. If I'm going to write a thesis or dissertation, I'll do it for my own degree, thank you very much.

I read some of the comments, which are all over the map.

I disagree with the writer's premise that he makes a living because educators don't care. With the exception of obvous plagerism, a professor has no way to prove a student didn't write the paper. Yes, it may be the student stumbles over questions about it, but that's not proof. The doctoral committee may deny the degree, based on the oral exam and lack of adequate knowledge of the dissertation subject, as I understand it. What I do agree with is the fact we're sending students to college with less than minimum capabilities of succeeding, else why would we have so many remedial courses in basics, like math, reading comprehension and the like? I also agree we're not doing the students any favors and we're certainly not doing their future clients or patients any favors, as has been pointed out.

I'm appalled to learn there is apparently an active business(s) out there, quite willing to write student papers and charge a whopping amount. I have no sympathy with the writer's whining about short deadlines and demands of students and hours of work leaving him brain dead. That's the choice he made, when he decided to be a ghost writer for students, helping them attain degrees they don't deserve. If he really wanted to help the students, he'd provide line editing and/or analysis of their work, to help them figure out what they need to do and perhaps pointing them to research sites and the like.

You can point fingers any which way, but I do think that if such services weren't available At All, students would be forced to do the work that would prepare them for their future career choices and provide us with better educated and resourceful professionals. There are obviously glitches in the system, from admissions and administration to class sizes and money issues. Sadly, I'm sure there will always be other students or "professionals" willing to write the thesis and dissertations. I don't think this speaks well of the ethics, honesty or integrity currently holding sway. I sincerely hope I'm never subject to being a client of any of the writer's clients.

53. moegoe - November 14, 2010 at 09:11 pm

With so much at stake, mcmug123 is worried about papers for hire setting an unreasonably high standard? I don't think it's unreasonable that we expect college-educated students to write grammatically correct, coherent papaers. If that can't do this task, they don't deserve degrees. If they don't have the ability to learn this task, they don't belong in college. Plenty of comments have already faulted admissions officials. Perhaps somewhere in this conversation there should be room for talking about failing out of school. This used to happen at the college level (I have friends from undergrad days who were not able to finish); it regularly happens in universities outside the US. Getting in to college should not be a guarantee of getting out. I realize this stance needs to be backed up by support mechanisms for students who are struggling and want to learn. But we currently make it too easy for students who are struggling and don't want to work very hard to get through.

54. msysspinks - November 14, 2010 at 09:23 pm

This story is funny as hell. Now how can I contact you?

55. geanious - November 14, 2010 at 09:30 pm

"Why don't we just make all writing assignments in-class? We can stand there and watch them. They get a pencil and paper. That's it."

We do this: it's called an exam.

Thing is, exams and papers measure two different things. There is a need for independent work outside of exam prep--that's where students can really push their thinking, and that's where they can hone writing skills.

There are assignments that would be very hard for a paper mill writer to execute higher than "D" level--it just takes a bit more work from the professor. Likewise, instructors need to grade tougher, which means looking past better than average prose into the content.

56. jenn3701 - November 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

From reading the article, and then the comments, it's clear that the variety of higher education settings where students could submit a paid-for essay, or dissertation, is substantial. No one "fix" or deterrant, or process of monitoring is going to suit all situations. So, generalisations, and blanket criticisms are pointless, and not constructive.

I teach an English / humanities subject to a large group (100+) of non-english speakers, in small tutorials (15). I can gather in-class work, and exam work, from every student to compare with later essay writing - if I am alerted by particularly fluid prose from a student I know to be / have been struggling. It is a matter of paying attention, and it can be done with very large student groups. Teaching large cohorts is not a defence against not trying - and large lecture groups will be divided among tutors who should be schooled in detecting cheating. But there WILL inevitably be one or two I might miss, because I am a bit tired after marking seventy essays.

Educators are human, and so are students. It's not a fail safe environment. The author of this piece has poor ethics, and could aim higher, as both a person and a writer. But we can't guard against his kind any more than we can guard against cheaters. We must, however, aim to be alert, and build in class-work which we can refer back to if suspicions arise.

57. unsound - November 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I wonder if Ed Dante might be interested in expanding his/her business into grading-for-hire.

58. tpul2014 - November 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Mr Dante, is your firm hiring by any chance?

59. tpul2014 - November 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

If so, could you please create and submit a resume for me? Once I land the position, I will be in touch about some papers I will need you to write for me.

60. jbooten - November 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Your story saddens and frustrates me. I'm an undergraduate senior currently working on a thesis for my linguistics B.A. This is the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. I love writing; I'm currently editing my first novel in the midst of all of this, and I'm a good student. This paper, though, is sucking the life out of me. It pains me and frustrates me to no end that there are students who are paying to have what I'm doing be completed for them - that they will never beat their heads into a wall because they can't string thoughts together, complete their research, or find the motivation to keep going when page counts are short. What is my diploma going to be worth from students who seek services such as these?

I'm struggling with this paper so much right now... Why am I even bothering?

61. artofpeace - November 14, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Blame the free market. If the people involved in the education system (teachers, admins, parents, students, universities, school boards, etc.) were doing their jobs, the need for this ghost writer would disappear. Since primary education seems to turn out one idiot after another, and higher education is all to happy to take their money, these mercinary writers will continue to fill a need. It's not like Dante is the only one providing this service, there are literally thousands of Dantes out there. I think it's great that one of them willing to talk about it. Step one is recognizing there is a problem. Step two is finding a solution. Thanks to him, we are o e step closer.

62. corvus_caurinus - November 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm

>> It's not like Dante is the only one providing this service, there are literally thousands of Dantes out there.

Are there? Or does it just seem like it, and in actuality most of them are just sock puppets?

63. foobar2 - November 15, 2010 at 12:01 am

Question: what if this entire account is fictional?

64. tempanon - November 15, 2010 at 12:04 am

As a foreigner who teaches in the US, I am not surprised. Many university students here in the US would not have a snowball change in hell where I come from. Many students come to class with a sense of entitlement. Excuse me, a degree is not an entitlement, but if they do not get the expected A because they are just not good enough, they line up to complain. "I won't make Med School with this B." "Thank God", is often my first thought.

The first question in class is often: "Do you curve". "Of course not", is what I would like to answer, but heck, I know that if to many students fail the course, it is not a question whether the students are stupid, but a question why I am a bad educator. So, I curve, but in the end, it is just another way of grade inflation.

Ultimately, it is a society that demands degrees, schools that demand graduates, and the rest of the chain that drives this business. And believe me, it is big business.

65. artofpeace - November 15, 2010 at 12:12 am

Better question: What if it's not fictional?

66. cathalcom - November 15, 2010 at 12:24 am

It's true, university students get no mandatory training in how to write essays. There are 'essay clinics' which students are encouraged to attend, but which they attend only if they are extraordinarily diligent or completely up the creek. But surely essay writing classes should be taken for granted as part of a university curriculum. Students are supposed to magically just 'figure it out' all by themselves. This needs to change.

67. rachelouise - November 15, 2010 at 12:50 am

One of the most maddening things about this article is Dante's confession, amidst his seeming outcry against unprepared students entering the realms of higher education, that he writes admissions essays. If one of the faults of the system is admitting unqualified students, Dante, you're exacerbating the problem, not treating it.

68. williamhenry - November 15, 2010 at 01:11 am

This article is tremendous. Extend this and make a go at a book on the topic.

I have in the past acted as a mini-Dante. I'm not nearly as intelligent or prolific with my words as he is, so I've never done it very seriously. I started writing papers for students at local colleges when I was in my mid-teens. I've done entire online classes. I've written an admission essay. I've written lengthy reports about books I've only skimmed and barely understand.

I've shared many of the same experiences with my customers. The biggest dolt of the lot, a dumb rich girl who was in an education program, provided me with the most work. She also is the only person to stiff me on a bill and refuse to pay. She used to tell her Dad I was her tutor. Even though I vociferously hate this girl, I don't have the heart to tell her Dad.

69. jrochest - November 15, 2010 at 01:24 am

Cathalcom: It's not just a matter of courses on essay writing, though: for many of these students, it's basic literacy. And that's not something that any university English instructor is equiped to teach, any more than a math professor is equiped to deal with a student who doesn't understand basic algebra. I can teach you to write an essay if you have poor reasoning skills, but I can't if you can't write a simple declarative sentence, or if it takes me more than 20 minutes a page to simply correct your prose.

ESL students are the one group that could be helped pretty easily; make them take a two-year language prep program, taught by university and college English and Comp instructors rather than ESL teachers. They would be angry and insulted, but after 18 months of writing weekly in-class essays, they would get the basics of grammar and style and have a sufficient grasp of the language of instruction to understand the material, whatever their field.

The main problem is that literacy is seen as an unnecessary frill, a luxury skill that doesn't matter in the 'real' programs. I watch as my students focus on their math and science courses, which they've been told are the subjects that actually matter. It's not surprising that students in the sciences or in professional programs avoid writing, and are panicked when they need to produce something.

70. mubbs - November 15, 2010 at 01:57 am

THIS ARTICLE IS just f*** awesome. You are such a great writer, the delivery is just great, and I could have read a whole book of it.

Is it weird that I find your amorality just inspiring? (there is no irony there--I'm serious).

This was just such a good read. If you are interested, I'd love to interview you on my blog selloutyoursoul.com. I don't endorse ghostwriting, but your writing was the best thing I've read all month.

If you are interested, take a look at my blog or follow me on twitter @selloutyoursoul

71. goldstar - November 15, 2010 at 02:05 am

It's funny to me that so many of you (the respondents) ignore the responsibility of the student. Ultimately, the quality of the student's education is in her own hands. "You can lead a horse to water..."

I see how cheating is an issue for a university's 'brand name', but if its really an issue, stop inflating and start failing student's you don't think deserve to pass your class. Simple as that.

Take pride in your work. Throw out the failures!

72. sc7749 - November 15, 2010 at 02:45 am

I find it worrisome that there appear to be more people concerned with the art of catching the cheaters and flunking them out of institutions of higher education than there are people concerned with the fact that students find it easier to wrangle up $2000 than to write a paper on their own.

Assuming that his story is true (and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), Dante identifies three main types of students who pay for his "services" - English language learners, lazy rich kids, and what the author deems the "hopelessly deficient." I hope you do catch the lazy rich kids through whatever means you see fit, because they genuinely have no excuse. Students who travel to the United States from abroad to complete their degrees need the writing tutors, remedial English classes, etc. that many of you have already mentioned in your comments. However, this article leads me to believe that a high percentage of Dante's "clients" are the tragically ill-equipped products of American public schools who, armed with nothing but good intentions, are attempting to bluff their way through to a degree because they simply don't know what else to do.

I had the immense good fortune to be the child of wealthy, educated parents who prioritized education, and as a result I went to terrific schools, had unlimited academic support at home, and ultimately graduated from high school with an understanding of how to read, write, and think critically. When I began my freshman year at a reasonably high-ranked public university, I was stunned and appalled to find that my peers were unable to write coherent sentences, let alone 15-page research papers. Our freshman writing course was no match for the years of academic deficit that many of these students demonstrated. These young men and women, many of whom had been at the tops of their classes in high school, were utterly unprepared for even the most basic requirements of academia.

It is my observation and belief that America has placed a high premium on quantitative results, but has completely undervalued the process necessary to achieve those results. As a nation, we have become acutely aware of certain concrete "goals" (increase test scores, improve high school graduation rates, ensure that students enter college and exit with diploma in hand). However, we have become so absorbed by meeting these goals that we've lost track of our reasons for having them in the first place. As a result, we have students who emerge from high school well versed at filling out Scantrons but hardly capable of articulating their thoughts, out loud or on paper. They see college graduation as the key to future professional success (and in many cases they're correct), but they see their classes as merely a means to an end. The true purpose and value of education has been obliterated by our orientation as a society towards having the correct documentation.

If we are really interested in reducing the types of academic dishonesty presented in this article, then I would recommend that we stop pointing fingers at professors, administrators, admissions personnel, students, or even Dante, and instead focus on the real problems. We need to support social services so that children can come to school physically and emotionally prepared to learn. We need to value teachers: train them, pay them, and respect them. We need to stop seeing test scores as an end unto themselves, and instead get back to the business of guiding and nurturing our children to be the creative, critical, and capable thinkers that the future will require. For the vast majority of students, I am sure that they would write their own papers if they only knew how.

73. praxyst - November 15, 2010 at 05:24 am

We set our students a three hour exam at the end of term: one essay question, in an exam room with an adjudicator. It is typically worth 60 - 70% of their final mark.

74. mainiac - November 15, 2010 at 05:55 am

praxyst that is a great idea!

75. hang91 - November 15, 2010 at 06:17 am

This is disturbing.

76. mugbenoit - November 15, 2010 at 07:00 am

My heavens, I just realized:

The author, and those like him, are today's polymaths! Their contributions are significant and yet can never be recognized :(

77. stc1798 - November 15, 2010 at 07:08 am

Like so many others commenting here, I am disturbed by what the article tells us about the state of affairs in academia. But I am also depressed by the idea that notforprofit is an English instructor, given the shakiness of his/her grammar. To give but one example: "proving that a student purchased a paper rather than created it themselves would be nearly impossible to prove..." First of all, 'student' is singular, and therefore 'themselves' is incorrect. Secondly, "proving....would be nearly impossible to prove" is an obvious error.

Now consider this: "I can assure you that the cost of custom papers was well out of the majority of student means." It should be : "...the cost of custom papers was well beyond the means of the majority of students."

Note that "borne" is used instead of "born" in the following:
"Moreover, the culture of evaluation is borne out of the biggest problem with American education today: rather than actual education, credentials are presented as a type of academic receipt allowing the bearer a certain career level." And in the very next sentence should surely begin with a definite article: "Quantity of evaluations is often not of the instructor's choosing."

notforprofit is correct about one thing, though: graykitt's grammar is impeccable. Anyone who accuses him/her of writing run-on sentences doesn't know what a run-on sentence is.

78. donnaaparis - November 15, 2010 at 07:29 am

Students are paying $2000 for a research paper? These better not be the same students who complain about tuition increases.

79. farm_boy - November 15, 2010 at 07:44 am

Eliminate the need for cheating: the "research" paper. "Undergraduate research" is a contradiction in terms anyway. Freshman composition research papers aren't very good, and they're mostly irrelevant. You don't ewver write them in real life unless you go to grad school.

Have students write in-class essays instead, and teach undergrads _about_ research, such as how to find reputable sources, citation format,etc. through worksheets/workbook exercises and test them on it with pen and paper tests (mutliple choice, etc.). In grad school students can start writing research papers.

80. docdave - November 15, 2010 at 07:49 am

to cinema_interval (message 45) -- a bit snarkey, don't you think?

81. cleverclogs - November 15, 2010 at 08:17 am

to jbooten (#63) - to answer your question, you're "bothering" to write the paper because 1) you'll learn something and 2) you are an ethical person.

I know these rewards seem slight in the face of writer's block and what you describe as "pain and frustration," but believe me, they aren't. For one thing, you'll be able to look yourself in the mirror and know you earned your degree. For another thing, you're actually learning something. For yet another thing, when the losers who use a paper-writing service go out to get a job, it will be glaringly obvious they are losers (I used to do hiring - believe me, it's very obvious, and unlike educators, employers - esp head hunters - feel no compunction at labeling people losers and tossing their resumes on the trash heap).

But also, it sounds like you're making too much of this paper. Just write some stuff, no matter how bad, bring it to a friend, a professor, the writing center at your school - and ask them for guidance. Writing is a solitary activity, but editing isn't. Don't make yourself crazy - get a fresh set of eyes.

82. robhas - November 15, 2010 at 08:57 am

Mr Dante's business going largely undetected, but the intense public and internal scrutiny and detailed knowledge of the people and the transactions involved in higher education's money-earning sports programs, speaks for itself.

83. 11237289 - November 15, 2010 at 09:29 am

Yup, Dante is just writing another novel. He's hoping to punk a lot of self-loathing academics because he can't get published. Yes, skaking/Dante, you have enough talent to get published serially in academic rags under a pseudonym. Too bad you couldn't get your special independent study. Pity.

84. iloveaparade - November 15, 2010 at 09:36 am

While some of Dante's account may be embellished, I can assure you that these sorts of things happen all the time. I was 'that guy' to many of my college friends - I would 'edit' papers. I'm not that great of a writer, but at least at some colleges(think Big State U) much of the student body does not have the skill set to write a solid research paper or a critical analytic essay beyond 4 pages.

85. 11237289 - November 15, 2010 at 09:49 am

Guess what? All institutions are filled with cheats and liars. Dante is one of them (and he's published). He just punked this paper.

86. bonitakale - November 15, 2010 at 09:55 am

I think farm_boy has it right. If you can't accurately grade it, don't assign it. (Not so easy with the administration on your back--and think!--many of them got their degrees this way.) Writing in class shows what's really there.

And jrochest has a good idea--and not only for ESL students.

But I'm amazed that people didn't know this stuff was available. I thought everyone knew. They certainly advertise enough.

As for The Problem--it starts in elementary school. I remember trying to get a straight answer from a teacher about how much help I was supposed to give my kid--how much was honest and fair.

Maybe we need to ban homework for children younger than twelve. Or switch to the don system at the college level.

I don't at all mind having a nurse with a caring heart who can't write a decent sentence (though s/he ought to be able to read, or who knows what meds you'll get?); but teachers, however talented at teaching, who know nothing about the subjects they have to teach, are a fast slide to disaster.

87. barnardine - November 15, 2010 at 09:59 am

Dear Ed Dante,

I challenge you to do any of your business with any of my students. My undergraduates have to write their essays in class, with nothing but paper and pen and a dictionary (no electronic gadgets), and the specific instructions for their writing assignment comes at them just minutes before they start writing. When they or my graduate students write research papers, they have to show me their work in progress - sources and everything - at two different times before the paper is due. If they can't do that for me, they can't turn the paper in: the paper fails before it's turned in. This also ensures that they can't cram for it; they have to work slowly and deliberately, and this gives them a chance to see how real learning happens. It also forces them to look me in the eye several times during the semester.

Try to sneak your way into one of my classes, Mr. Dante. If your "work" succeeds in getting a passing grade for one of my students, I'll send you a hundred dollars in cash. You'd have to supply a mailing address, of course, and you might fear that I would expose you. I can assure you I wouldn't. In any case, here is my name and work address:

Carmine Di Biase
Department of English
700 Pelham Road North
Jacksonville State University
Jacksonvill;e, AL 36265

88. texastextbook - November 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Banks and schools are alike in that both are enriched (for a while, at least) as a result of customers who fail.

Until I read this Chronicle piece, I hadn't wondered what kind of banking system we'd have found ourselves being stuck with, had a middleman of lesser character than Ed Dante (read: a blackmailer) insinuated himself into the space between the bankers and the law. --How do I know one didn't?

89. emma2626 - November 15, 2010 at 10:08 am

There is a sure-fire way to put Ed Dante and others like him out of business. I know, because I've done it. You supervise every piece of student writing from first draft to final submission. Along the way you actually teach people instead of complaining nonstop about their ignorance. You will have to (gasp) give reasons for rejecting this or that piece. Yes, you do have to read reams of not-very-good writing. And you do have to fail the truly incompetent. That will make you Not-The-Students'-Best-Buddy. But perhaps all this sounds too much like real work.

90. graykitt - November 15, 2010 at 10:37 am

I think it's pretty clear that this kind of business is unethical, but is it also illegal? Does Dante pay taxes on the $66,000 he says he makes? Or is this an entirely blackmarket operation? I also wonder if there isn't actual fraud involved, since students are going on to get degrees in fields they aren't qualified for or at least haven't done the work to earn. I'm not sure who would be the person guilty of fraud, though, the students who submit work they haven't written themselves or their supplier.

91. martisco - November 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

I wonder if professors and teachers ever read their students' non-academic writing. If they did, they'd probably be horrified at how many American college students (our "best and brightest") can't write coherent sentences, spell, or correct their own typos. And they'd likely be wondering if the passable papers they're seeing are actually written by these students or by a professional.

I say this because until recently I was involved in accepting (and usually, heavily editing) student submissions for news articles at our college paper. The humorous examples of incoherent e-mails that "Dante" has peppered his article with, are not so funny. They are absolutely the way most students really write. Do professors know this?

92. nuttyprof1 - November 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

BTW, in many institutions the bar is such that you can prove a student is cheating if the writing is completely out of line with the normal performance, even if you don't have other "proof" of the cheating. I have done that. You ask a student to come discuss the paper with you, s/he seems almost unaware of what is in the paper, and often finally will confess to not having authored it.
Now, for emma2626: very possible at an institution with a decent teaching load, but I have a friend at a state institution who teaches something like 300 students per semester. Can he really follow each student as you suggest?
I am lucky: I teach in a somewhat specialized area and I can give very specific assignments that would be hard to farm out. But let's not kid ourselves: this is going on and will always going on, and we'll never catch all the cheaters.

93. craniac - November 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

I love all of the grammar bashing taking place in this thread.

94. peterlista - November 15, 2010 at 11:21 am

Can we please give this guy/girl a running blog on Chronical? I can't even imagine how many Hacks this person has for writing legitimate papers... and his/her work flow... that must be a thing of beauty to be able to produce the number of pages he/she does. I would love, I repeat LOVE, the opportunity to read more about this person.

95. techjunc - November 15, 2010 at 11:27 am

Katy Pierce ... the answer to what you should do. If you can't turn the student around, flunk her. If she complains, you seem to have enough evidence already to support your judgment.

96. maiamaia - November 15, 2010 at 11:30 am

Can i have your job? Neither video-documented animal husbandry (i grew up on a farm) nor maths (postgrad) present any problem! If you still want your job, can i have the leftovers involving maths and animal husbandry? Thanks!

97. signedup - November 15, 2010 at 11:31 am

Quote: graykitt said, "a person who proudly admits to lying to his clients about his qualifications and to undermining the whole academic enterprise..."

Christ, what article did YOU read? I didn't read any pride at all in what was written here. I thought this was a very realistic account, and I'm glad it was written. I had no idea this sort of thing went on; now I do. I think it's easy to judge people, especially people like Dante who are on the wrong side of a moral fence about which many people feel strongly, but I also read in this article the profile of a person, the struggle they have with themself (yeah, I know that's not technically grammatically correct, but I abhor the cumbersome "he/she" crap). In real life -- not in pleasantly simple little abstract ideas -- it is often hard to see when a line is crossed, and quite easy to find oneself suddenly on shaky ground, realizing that what had begun with one intent had slowly become another. And once we settle into a groove, it's hard to get out of it. (Perfect example: the whole academic structural problem pointed out by the author.)

Also, anyone who runs around criticising grammar and spelling errors on frigging comment posts wins the "Petty Little Whiner" award. Gold star for useless antagonism, guys.

98. maiamaia - November 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

Plus, i have lots of experience - i wrote and corrected entire essays and dissertations for foreign language pupils at my uni when i was an undergraduate. (One of them didn't need any help, she was just convinced being Korean meant her English couldn't possibly be perfect, which it was.)

99. maiamaia - November 15, 2010 at 11:39 am

For free. Because i felt sorry for them. Or because i was too embarrassed to refuse.

100. mrsdillie - November 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

Finally! A career path for English majors. While I'm sure that horrified outrage is the appropriate response, I can't quite get into a lather about this. Frankly, who cares what you do as an undergrad? Four years of beer pong is really just an expensive holding pen. Undergrad research papers aren't anything but regurgitation of whatever they found on Wikipedia.

101. eliz2408 - November 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

How demoralizing. I am reading The Five Year Party by Craig Brandon which is anough to make me want to slit my wrists or shut myself in my lovely little office and start those books I've always wanted to write. But keep pressing away at ethics, quality, and EDUCATION? What a losing battle. I'm demoralized. But if I join up with this guy, I could feed my instatiable desire for knowledge about things, and writing about things, and make more money than I do now as a professor.

102. duchess_of_malfi - November 15, 2010 at 11:52 am

The author has found an apparently stressful, isolating occupation providing relatively low wages for the hours and skills he puts into it. Congratulations?

Ghostwritten college papers might be more common by unpaid writers, or whose official work is something other than ghostwriting. I have had problems with student tutors who write papers for student athletes, and I know a few college graduates who wrote all their spouse's papers--and an administrative assistant who wrote a now-university-president's dissertation.

It's always a good idea to include some form of in-class test among the assignments for a course, even a graduate course.

But I'm posting to thank the author for providing good source material for a course I teach. Stigma management, diffusion of responsibility, techniques of neutralization--it's all there in tones of authentic contempt and bitterness. It's a nice example of the ongoing interactions between deviant occupation and self identity.

103. coachtmbsc - November 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Whether the author's account is fictional or not, the condition exists. I know this because I've done it too. Granted, I most often call it "editing" but there have been occasional full papers as well. $10 per page.

I've provided full sets of answers to assignments under the guise of "tutoring" and know full well that my $12 per hour explainations went into an assignment verbatim.

I've sat next to someone and offered words to fill a "discussion" assignment online and called it "showing her how to do her online class assignments." Same price as "tutoring." How about an annotated bibliography for $30? Rewrite of an admissions essay for $25?

Anyone that thinks this stuff doesn't go on has their head in the sand. Anyone that thinks it costs $2000 to get a paper written hasn't shopped around for a writer that needs to pay some bills.

104. aphrab - November 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm

to notforprofit, message number 18:

"Perhaps those of us with lower incomes are the only ones remaining who actually have work ethic and accountability."

'Twas ever thus. :^)

105. nealcg - November 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

This story is consitent with my experience. I work for myself, not for a larger organization. By the time students contact me they are panicked. I sometimes take entire courses in math, science and engineering. I have many repeat customers.

Mandatory math, statistics, physics, and chemistry courses are my bread-and-butter. Online grading and test taking allow me to earn a good living. I have done this for students ranging from secondary school to medical school.

For me, business has exploded with online courses and the poor economy. Overburdened faculty try to find the most efficient way to administer exmas and they have opened up a surprisingly lucrative business area.

106. geraldus - November 15, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I'd love to read his novel about all this.

107. madbob - November 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Tellingly, areas of expertise of Ed Dante are all in the "soft" branches of academia where any bull such as "A close consideration of the events which occurred in ____ during the ____ demonstrate that ____ had entered into a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define ____ for decades to come." goes as high intellectual discouse. Hey Ed, you surely must know his profession well - would very much like to hear about people making a living on writing papers in physics for example....are science students also involved is this type of scam?

108. nitidulid - November 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm

No system can overcome a complete disdain for morals and responsibility. I teach a lot of international students whose education consists of rote memorization of English texts. They can memorize anything I throw at them without comprehending anything at all. They have no ability for critical thinking. Writing can help develop that, but this article demonstrates one of the big barriers to education: the complete lack of ethics of both students and those who help them circumvent the system. Instead of blaming the education system (which he has helped to undermine), the writer should be ashamed.

109. cmletamendi - November 15, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Good morning everyone,

I just took the GRE last week since I am pursuing continuation of my PhD elsewhere, and I think that the on-the-spot pressure and 45 minute time frame allowed me to produce one of the best arguments I have been able to make. Perhaps many universities can begin to implement soemthing that will have the student prove that they are typing the essays themselves. For instance, in a classroom, in lieu of allowing students a few days to write a paper, have them produce it in a writing lab to ensure originality. I consider myself a pretty good writer and am usually an over-achiever when it comes to essays; but I think that a good way to test creativity and prove originality, have the students produce it on the spot! Or, perhaps have them log onto a writing system that they have to "log-in" to, and type the essays in a text box, without the ability to copy+paste anything. That way, patterns in pausing, can demonstrate patterns in thinking, or consistency may prove they are copying from elsewhere. Any thoughts? I'd love to keep this topic alive. I think cheating on essays is truly something that hinders our ability to stand tall as an educational benchmark to other countries..

Questions? Comments? Email me! Let's talk!

C.M. Letamendi, MBA

110. jackoboy - November 15, 2010 at 12:26 pm

And how many professors received their degrees with the same sort of "help"? I would guess more than a few.

111. just_another_human - November 15, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Dear Mr. Dante,

Thank you for writing this. Sadly, what you've written about is only part of what's wrong with education. I used to hold such great respect for individuals with Masters and Doctoral degrees, thinking they must be brilliant--so accomplished. What I've witnessed in my career and in my own research has convinced me that those degrees mean almost nothing. Having research that's been published doesn't necessarily mean much either, as there is much published research that is just plain crap.

Thanks again.

112. jeanhebert - November 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Well if it isn't Mr. Dante. I have indeed read your work. I've also caught you, on several occasions. There's always a tell. At times I've been unable to prove it. 'Till we meet again, desperado.

113. david_r_abraham - November 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm

If education is all you remember after you've forgotten all you learned, as educators we need to rethink whom we are educating and for what purpose? Would it matter what one knows as long as no one finds out how that one got to "know" it? I find Dante's article a plea for rethinking our delivery of education in terms of its nature, scope, and value.

114. bstrauszfamily - November 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

First, this essay was extremely verbose and repetitive. I got the point early and didn't need the endless stream of follow up examples.

Second, the person doing this for students is no different than the students - this person was lying and cheating as well.

Finally, I am now a HUGE fan of in class written assignments! Outside of that, I believe this sort of behavior will catch up with them at some point. ;)

115. hapaxlegomena - November 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Nobody's mentioned the far superior exposé on this subject published by Harper's (or was it the Atlantic?) maybe ten years ago. The author of that article, who worked for a paper mill in Toronto, wrote much livelier prose and seemed to be possessed of at least some humility. She spoke thoughtfully about the ways in which the system has failed the students, rather than insisting on her own superiority. She also talked at some length about her writing process, which was fascinating as well as horrifying. Were I to hire a ghostwriter, I would definitely choose her over Mr. Dante.

Sadly, I can't find the article in the Harper's archives; perhaps someone here can help.

116. graykitt - November 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Re: signedup's comment: "Quote: graykitt said, 'a person who proudly admits to lying to his clients about his qualifications and to undermining the whole academic enterprise...'

Christ, what article did YOU read? I didn't read any pride at all in what was written here."

So, you bought the author's faux contrition, signedup? I detect a lot of pride in Dante's litany of what he got away with. There's pride along with a hint of anger because Dante appears to believe that he's some kind of misunderstood genius (hence the story about his sophomore-year novel writing and being greeted "like a mental patient" when he asked to get college credit for it). I'm not so sure I believe the author either when he claims that he wants academia to get its act together and put a stop to people like him turning a profit. It's more likely that, as jsteele26 puts it, the author is merely "rubbing in our faces the exact system of which we are already quite aware, are stuck in and, in many cases, resent."

117. keis8427 - November 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Leave it to a bunch of educators to get stuck in the black hole of grammar! I think this article is reality on a day-to-day, black and white world that somehow some of you have missed. It's also part of a larger problem with our country as a whole.

We need to get back to the basics - let students try and fail in order to try again. Give "A"s for effort! I never completed college due to an illness but did take some classes after I started working full-time and I can't tell you how dissapointed I was to have some snot-nosed grad student teaching me. Tsk-tsk.

I just want to say thank you to Dante for being brutally honest to a very large group of people who don't like it. Bravo!

118. devans - November 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Anti-"Shadow Scholar" Retardant

In-class, Blue-Book essay exams will put this gentleman and his colleagues out of business. If you give students a set of six questions and tell them that this list will be reduced to three on the day of the exam, they have no choice but to study. All online sources are actually useless in this situation. The exam should be closed book and closed notes, but seen beforehand. All Blue Books should be purchased by your department or you yourself and stamped in some unique fashion and handed out to the students on the day of the exam. From the first day of class, students:(1) have to take notes, (2) have to study, (3) are not compelled to cheat, and (4) have to read the text to prepare. You will probably want to make clear beforehand that no one is allowed to leave the room during the exam unless they want to forfeit their exam. Additionally, you may want to check their IDs to make sure no one is taking the exam for the student.

119. isadg - November 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I came into my graduate program in information science without a formal social science writing education. Let's just say that even with the help of my advisor, I was in a sad state my first semester.

The only way I have managed to survive thus far is with the help of my relatives who are themselves social scientists. They do not write my papers for me but they still provide an intense amount of coaching. I am perfectly capable of chatting about my ideas and answering nearly any questions thrown my way. But when it comes to writing everything down in acceptable academic prose...if it weren't for my relatives, I too would have succumbed to the tempations of a hired writer.

I do feel ashamed and embarrassed for relying on others for so much help but I also feel like I learned a lot from that extra bit of help. I don't know to bottle up the "academic relative" experience for distribution, but if there was a way, I think that it could really benefit students with weaker educations and language barriers.

Here's to wishful thinking.

120. ksledge - November 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I'm surprised at how little this guy makes.

121. asongbird - November 15, 2010 at 01:00 pm

Obviously, this is an article which needed to be written, and read, judging from the reactions posted here. Kudos, Chronicle.

122. inarchetype - November 15, 2010 at 01:15 pm

Solution is simple, if instructors can be bothered.

Many of my graduate courses required a substantial in-class presentation of the course paper.

As the presentations were always given a week or two before the papers were due, drafts or outlines of the paper were due at this time and graded as part of the presentation.

Tough to pull off a cheat under such circumstances, especially if a significant percentage of the grade on the paper is the grade for the presentation.

123. 22067030 - November 15, 2010 at 01:18 pm

My first thought was ... this must be a literary hoax. Perhaps it is, but even if it is, and especially if it is not, the author should seriously consider expanding it into a book. It would be one of the few books that say something important.

My second thought was ... suppose the Shadow Scholar never wrote all those papers. Would they be missed? And considering how they went undetected, how different are the other papers? Perhaps the problem is a culture in which publishes or perishes, regardless of whether one has anything to say.


124. anonscribe - November 15, 2010 at 01:50 pm

I refuse to play detective. If students want to pay Dante 2K to write their papers, they can go ahead. When they fail to learn the material in the course and end up inferior on the job market, it won't be my problem. We all live with our choices.

There is no structural problem that "causes" cheating anymore than there's a structural problem that causes theft. That some people steal iPods isn't a sign that we need to restructure iPod sales. That some students cheat isn't a sign that we need to restructure higher education. It's an inevitable facet of any worthwhile enterprise. Some folks will try to game the system; some folks will do the hard work to pass on merit.

Yes, we are failing some of our students: they're the one's who couldn't afford Dante's services. The international ESL student paying for him to write her MBA thesis and the lazy rich kid are not figures I'm terribly concerned with. I'm concerned with the public U/CC kids who come from crappy, underfunded schools. That Dante seems to want to conflate these problems (cheaters v. the under-served) is simply a sign of his conscience lashing out for equilibrium.

Luckily, he seems like a more or less decent person. Hence, he'll retire soon and - after a year or two - look back with mild shame at his previous profession and with relief at having left it.

125. ifrank - November 15, 2010 at 01:52 pm

hapaxlegomena, I think this is that article you mentioned: It's from Harper's was June 1995. By Abigail Witherspoon. This pen for hire: On grinding out papers for college students. Probably available via your library - with some of it available via Highbeam: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-16916045.html

126. dld310 - November 15, 2010 at 01:54 pm

Yes, an article that needed to be written and read. I can't believe how naive some are - to think that students in THEIR class have never used these types of writing "services" or to challenge the author of this particular article. This shouldn't be new information to anyone. This kind of cheating has been going on forever...and will continue. There are plenty of Dante's out there - sad though it may be.

127. nathanhall9 - November 15, 2010 at 01:54 pm

Understandable to have mixed emotions - pride in not getting caught and being paid to undermine the envied mainstream professoriate (for status or skill, if not salary), yet shame in one's optimal job performance resembling at best a written product that is not suspiciously better of that expected from a lazy undergraduate who's first language is not English.

Would suggest writing a book on the topic where your writing skills could be fully utilized and demonstrated - it must be a breath of fresh air to write for academics and those who care about writing, and not children with reading/writing difficulties. It seems that someone with admirable writing skills could only be happy with the satisfaction of subversion for so long until the need to be truly recognized for one's full skill level is acknowledged. Then again, to in the end still not have one's name recognized... sad really.

128. ellenhunt - November 15, 2010 at 01:59 pm

Thanks, uh, "Ed". I was just thinking this morning about what I thought was an unusual request from a graduate student for one of my lectures to get the lecture powerpoint 2 weeks in advance. She and two others said they wanted/needed this so they could bring up good questions for the class. Cheese in charge of the course congratulated them in email for "proactiveness." I wasn't comfortable with it.

This article made my decision. I'm not going to do it. We shall see if it costs me my job as adjunct.

129. nyhistorian - November 15, 2010 at 02:06 pm

A few thoughts about plagiarism detection:
1) I absolutely agree with the commenter who pointed out the importance to structure assignments to reduce the likelihood of plagiarism. Specific topics submitted in advance, discussions, and early source lists, etc., all help. I have also begun allowing automatic extensions (with a grade penalty) so the panicked student doesn't take the easy way out.
2) It should not be the professor's job to prove someone else wrote the paper. It is the student's job to prove he or she wrote it.
3) I flunk students for the entire course whenever I find plagiarism. Yes, this sometimes requires a little detective work. But I cannot bear the thought that a plagiarist gets the same grade as the diligent hardworking student. I am fortunate to work at a college under three successive department heads and an associate dean who have consistently supported me whenever I have found a plagiarized paper - including the truly depressing semester when I flunked four of 28 students for plagiarism. The administration's contention is that it is protecting the college's "brand" by ensuring that cheaters are punished. I wish they would be a little tougher; it's a three strikes system - first strike to file, second strike on transcript as 'academic dishonesty', third strike is - usually - expulsion.
4) My average is one per class in classes that range from 25-35.

If you have a spineless administration that won't support you, you are in a tough spot. But otherwise it is up to faculty to ensure there are consequences for this sort of thing.

130. ellenhunt - November 15, 2010 at 02:07 pm

I then decided to google, "I'll write your thesis" and I got:

http://www.mcg-site.com/dissertation/index.shtml - PhD Statisticians and Writers for Dissertations. Guaranteed Approval.

http://academicwritinghelp.net/ - Thesis Writing Help by US Writers Call Toll Free 1-877-514-6773

http://essaysareeasy.com/ - We write high-quality original: Term papers, Research papers, Essays, Reviews, Reports, Case studies. You may have already received a poorly written or plagiarized work from the company you have previously trusted. We would like to make your choice easy and your experience an ultimate satisfaction!

Dear god.

131. aelfscine - November 15, 2010 at 02:16 pm

I teach freshman comp and try to mitigate things like this by making my material as current as possible. The first and last papers for the class are written in-class, so unless Ed sneaks in with a hat and fake mustache, he's not writing them. I also tend to ask them to write about recent events or articles - Ed could still write such a paper on the fly, but finding a pre-written five-page paper online about something that happened yesterday is less likely.

But I think Ed's right - my strategies to dodge him getting hired don't do anything to solve the real problems. And honestly, I think those real problems are largely in place before college. The single largest weakness of our education system is that students get almost no personal time. Parents don't help with homework, teachers are so overworked they can't devote one-on-one time to kids, and tutoring is usually too little too late.

These kids can't write because no one checks to see if they can! And even if the teacher knows they're a bad writer, he or she certainly has no time to address it. At every age, kids are just handed off to the next level. If they understood the lessons, they're ready to go. If not, they just get more and more behind every year. No one is held back because 'everyone's a winner,' and because no one has time to fix anything.

So who does well in school? Kids whose parents read to them, kids have access to districts with smaller classrooms and more personalized attention. Or people who can buy the equivalent.

132. sukobiru - November 15, 2010 at 02:19 pm

BRILLIANT! I found this absolutely entertaining, especially the bits about the seminary students and people working towards "education" degrees. These good folks, many of whom we would look towards as bastions of morality andgood conduct, also fell to the sway of the mighty dollar JUST as much as the institutions they attend had done. I think the message is very clear, and Machiavelli was correct in pointing out this difference between idealism and realism:

"In the actions of men, and especially of Princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means." - Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince. 1537.

There is no "moral" high-road, and consequently there is no "immoral" low-road. The truth is that this sort of thing has been part of the educational and professional landscape since before Machiavelli's time, and will continue well past our time no matter the amount of hand-wringing the lot of us will do in the mean-time. If we do, indeed, want to correct this situation, then we need to completely re-think the academic model and the true purpose of what should be delivered.

Another point struck me about this: The educators are passing (and likely, in some cases, praising) the work of those who have never actively studied in their respective fields. Does this mean the age of specialized education is no longer a necessity? Or does it mean that these experts themselves are not qualified for their position?

133. nacrandell - November 15, 2010 at 02:20 pm

Another option that teachers have is to parcel out the assignment due dates and compare the original submission to the final product using readability software and analysis. For example using MS Word readability option, this article rates 60.4 for Flesch Reading Ease, 8.5 for Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and 9% for Passive Sentences. Compare the student's different versions for the scores and if there is a significant difference call them in for a conference.

60k for a technical writer is average and as students have less disposable money than a corporation, he seems to be doing well.

As to a previous comment: "Luckily, he seems like a more or less decent person. Hence, he'll retire soon and - after a year or two - look back with mild shame at his previous profession and with relief at having left it."

It sounds like he'll stay around as long as the market exists and the salary competitive.

134. shariyat5 - November 15, 2010 at 02:25 pm

This is why we have in class essay midterms and finals and we should have a writing component to every matriculation and placement process ,especially for English courses.This way a studnets writing could be documented.If they can't write,they should not pass. Time for new plagerism upgraded software.

135. softshellcrab - November 15, 2010 at 02:27 pm

I just keep wondering, what do we do about this? We all want to stop it, but how? A few of the you tried to offer solutions, but it is hard to get an effective way to stop this in certain classes that involve a lot of writing.

136. ellenhunt - November 15, 2010 at 02:32 pm

Ok. I decided to get price quotes.
EssaysREasy (Featuring a relaxed student smiling on the grass.)
Number of pages: 20
Academic course level: Masters/MBA
Deadline (the latest day to deliver the assignment): 24 hours
Quote: $ 800
You save: $ 110

For 8+ days it's $ 480. Wow! I still save $ 110! Such a deal!

On to "Academic Writing Help .com".
PhD/Doctorate is $68.95 per page delivered in 12 hours. For 30+ days it's $23.95 per page. For a 75 page thesis, let's call it between $5171.25 and $1796.25. I'm guessing that to write a 75 page thesis of any integrity in 12 hours it would be necessary to employ a team, probably in India or Russia, and have it edited together by an American. The company can make good money that way.

137. ardub44 - November 15, 2010 at 02:37 pm

Katypearce: you're right that it's a problem and a delicate situation, depending on one's local admin. Given administrative support, though, it can be seen to. It's time-consuming, but the advantage is that the word gets around very quickly, thus eliminating or at least greatly reducing the problem. A combination of approaches has worked for me (mostly?): first, I'll engage the student in a casual conversation about the paper (in a private meeting, of course) and work in important questions that I've prepared beforehand. Next, I'll ask simple questions about methodology, source work, and the practicality of locating resources. If the student can't respond adequately, I'll ask a very direct question related to a specific source, the meaning of a small section of the draft, or similar. When the student can't respond, I reply that I'm going to schedule a meeting between the student, me, and the Dean to discuss the paper. If the student caves, I pose a simple option: bail or fail. It's vital to prep the Dean, of course, and be ready to follow through. I've had to go the distance once, with one other student attempting unsuccessfully to go around me to the Dean. I should add that I also am prepared, in the case of dreadful student circumstances, to pose a challenging alternative that will keep the student in class, but demand a project of equal substance. Already I can hear the cries for zero tolerance and extreme punishment, but I've seen too many potentially strong students who've been cornered by circumstance and taken a desperate choice. In those cases, it seems likely that the lesson has been learned, and I'm reluctant to drop the axe on someone who'll straighten into a valuable student in the long run.

Graykitt: Please try to get a life. The rest of us are bored with the pretension. It's a waste of ones and zeros.

138. books4jocks - November 15, 2010 at 02:38 pm

In class essay writing is a terrible way to evaluate students. If you are teaching a class about writing, the best way to see if students are writing better is to have them write the way writers -- even Mr. Dante! -- write: draft upon draft, in and out of class. Sitting in a room and watching them hand write an essay only tells you what they are able to regurgitate in an hour, with no time for proofreading or revision. I mean COME ON, the entire writing process is about revision, so why would anyone who cares about writing eliminate that step??

Finally, lisah, I highly, highly, highly doubt that a child will die because Dante wrote some nurse's final paper. Nurses don't do a lot of writing, and almost everything is computerized. Really. He's not killing children. He's simply exploiting a systemic problem, like any good capitalist. My husband works in the for-profit/online education industry, and I can TOTALLY see students like his paying someone to do the work for the class they're paying for so they can get the degree they want to qualify for a promotion in their job or at their hospital. When all you need is cash to get a degree, why not farm out the intellectual work as well? Writing is incidental to most professions because we only teach it in introductory first-year courses ran by graduate students: is it REALLY that shocking that students get the message loud and clear that writing isn't that important?

I get so frustrated by all the blustering about integrity, the importance of writing, bla bla bla, when so few people actually want to teach writing in a way that is relevant to students' lives and careers. People are so offended that students might not care about something our institutions have devalued as much as possible. Dante is our own Frankenstein monster, the horrifying offspring of the bad teaching, required courses, outcomes-based evaluation, and NCLB testing all mixed together in one semi-lucrative contracting position (do you get dental with that job, Dante? or is it an awful lot like grad school life, all work and no benefits?).

139. ellenhunt - November 15, 2010 at 02:44 pm

Here's a chat session - Customer service for "Essays R Easy".

I need a paper!
Call accepted by operator Melissa. Currently in room: Melissa.
hi mellissa
Please submit the order at our web site and we will help you with that.
I need it in 2 days! It's on shakespeeare
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15 pages? How much?

140. lookoutcartridge - November 15, 2010 at 02:47 pm

I taught several semesters of freshman composition as an MFA student at a state University in the West. While the University gave lip service to the importance of the freshman writing sequence -- often the only writing courses many students would take -- and stressed that it was a critical component of students' success in college, it was taught by graduate students with little or no teaching experience. That's a business decision and one, in my opinion, that is not in the students' best interest.

Grades were another problem. There was a lot of pressure to move students down the line. On average, I'd say about 1/4 to 1/3 of the students weren't ready or were barely ready for the next course in the sequence. But holding back 1/4 to 1/3 of the class wouldn't have been acceptable.

141. sanworker - November 15, 2010 at 02:49 pm

Ed Dante is a pretty good writer. Why is he squandering his skills on this kind of work?

142. hostilesphere - November 15, 2010 at 02:53 pm

Professors might not even notice if students are cheating if they are outsourcing the paper grading.


Now student are outsource their papers. It's exactly what the rest of the country is doing. So what if they don't learn. In the "real world" they can outsource their work too.

143. nx_ie - November 15, 2010 at 02:54 pm

http://essaysreasy.com/ --> Melissa doesn't want to talk any more :)

144. ellenhunt - November 15, 2010 at 03:02 pm

This whole thing is extremely depressing. I thought there were a number of students in my doctoral class who were pretty lacking.

It's doubly depressing because I was accused of that and much worse during my graduate education. I was targeted by two professors who were professional intellectual thieves and fakes. I helped another student file an academic misconduct complaint, and now that student is out and sinking deeply into alcoholism. Others were jealous that I got through a PhD in 3 years and accused me of getting my degree by threatening to sue and by using a writing mill. I finished under suspicion supported in a letter to me by the chancellor of my university. But I did it all myself, 100%, and the only thing I can be accused of is being honest and doing the right thing.

All of this is so very, very depressing. I could make much more money writing dissertations for other people than I can make on my own. It's such a mill, such a bunch of rubbish. I don't know if I should go ahead and put up my own web site as an exclusive, high-end thesis service or not.

It's like seeing former friends/acquaintances who became drug dealers living in splendor while I sit here barely able to afford groceries. What else?

145. nx_ie - November 15, 2010 at 03:08 pm

The website essaysreasy.com indicates "no plagiarism". However, compare their sample graded document below (see second last paragraph):


with a report produced by McKinsey & Company (am-recruiting@mckinsey.com):


Not only grading, writing, but also PLAGIARISM is being outsourced!

146. corvus_caurinus - November 15, 2010 at 03:15 pm

@sanworker #141

>>Ed Dante is a pretty good writer. Why is he squandering his skills on this kind of work?

Because he's not talented enough to get a job with a medical ghostwriting firm that pays substantially better for even more dishonest behavior?

147. bumpy732 - November 15, 2010 at 03:15 pm

I like you for to how publish essay, learn sox much and to imply to teach me studs n class n thinz.

148. blueconcrete - November 15, 2010 at 03:32 pm

Dante admits that his essays are of poor quality, and yet apparently none of his customers have complained to him about their poor grade. Most of his customers probably passed their courses. It seems to me then that the problem here is as much one of grade inflation (which several other posters have acknowledged) as plagiarism. Paper mills remain cost effective because too many academics will give passing grades to undeserving essays, because the alternative -- complaints, pressure from administrators, re-writes, etc. -- is too much hassle. Academics cannot track down the original author of plagiarized work, nor can they catch every case of cheating, but they certainly could stop themselves from giving inappropriate marks for convenience sake.

149. methodmanblunts - November 15, 2010 at 03:34 pm

What bothers me most about user comments on sites like this is that grammar always ends up being a dick measuring contest, to use a vulgar analogy. Or maybe I just don't like it because my grammar is so-so.

Anyway, I liked the article, being a second year undergrad at a highly ranked public university, I can tell you I'm not surprised kids have essays written for them. Although I would imagine it's more prevalent at Ivy's or better schools than mine. It's really sad honestly. I think that there must be some root cause early on in a child's education that either instills in them a respect and desire to learn, or apathy and aversion towards academics. I'm just some college kid, but I think perhaps separating children based on ability earlier on, and presenting material they feel challenged by, is a good way for them to associate learning with personal growth and a healthy challenge early on. A child forced to learn material above or below their ability will ultimately frustrate or bore them to the point where the just give up on academics/learning.


150. impossible_exchange - November 15, 2010 at 03:44 pm

127 responses, the first is the best.
The spat throughout the thread is hardly surprising.
The system is failing.
We all know it is true.
This is undeniable deconstruction of the system.
An indictment of the of the dominant ideology and the system in which we are all invested.
K-12 fails about 50% of its students, if not more and the university is following K-12's failure.
Meanwhile the leaders who micro-manage these once strong systems into the ground somehow stay on top and blameless.
At the university the blame deservedly falls upon the collective of tenured fac

151. impossible_exchange - November 15, 2010 at 03:45 pm

(clicked submit by mistake)
...collective of tenured fac too comfortable to risk anything to save the thing that makes the so comfortable. They believe they are forever safe so why do anything.
So, they have done nothing.

152. sukobiru - November 15, 2010 at 03:48 pm

I look at professional sports as analogous to this situation. In sports, we have baseball -- the vaunted institution that has grown up with America (and yes, the passive tense was on purpose). Steroids rocked the sport, but it still drives on. Why? Because of the money. It limps forward, propelled by the TV contracts, the concession stands, the gear, and the endorsements. Even though nearly all of the great accomplishments of the last 10 years in the sport can be attributed to "cheating", it still goes on.

Cleaning up the sport is a problem. On one side is an establishment benefitting from the "cheating". TV ratings go up when sluggers go for a record and pitchers throw faster and more accurate pitches. This means more money for the owners. On the other side is a technology that will always be one step ahead of anything being tested for. You come up with a way to screen for the drugs? The players find a better way to clean their system or a new enhancement that avoids detection.

My point is that there is little to no incentive to avoid cheating except what is morally right or wrong. And relying on someone else to follow your personal set of morals is certain to dissappoint. Yes, we can teach morals. yes, we can encourage good, moral behavior in others. But when a goal can be easily attained with minimal effort, the term "cheating" morphs into "adapting" and the student, or athlete, is rewarded short-term with little thought to long-term implications.


Morally it is wrong to break the law. So when we speed past the posted limit because we are late for something, we justify to ourselves that we are running late and therefore it is ok. We aren't directly harming anyone so it is fine. Yes, there are degrees by which we live our lives, certain shades of gray we must view the world through. However, the old world is passing silently below us as we reach higher towards the sun. The days of dictated education may need to give way to immersive educational experiences as a way to change the game before the wax melts and our feathers lose place in our wings.

153. impossible_exchange - November 15, 2010 at 03:52 pm

Yeah, the grammar stuff is childish and stupid.
Many of the greatest thinkers we've ever had have been poor grammarians.
Grammar has always been the dilettante's tool of superiority.
Those who cannot think well, cannot think insightfully, cannot think critically, think instead in perfect grammar.

Grammar and spelling were tools culture and class consolidation, they are not immutable truths folks.

Essentially what I am saying is, unless you've studied linguistics (in which case you wouldn't be saying anything), then shut the f-up about grammar because you don't realize how much your obsession makes a fool of you.

154. 11299051 - November 15, 2010 at 03:53 pm

Maybe the tanking economy will aid the cause of don't-cheat-do-it-yourself writing.

155. utgrad10 - November 15, 2010 at 03:59 pm

I am a recent graduate of a large public university. I can honestly say that I have never used a service like the one Mr. Dante offers, but I suspect that many of my peers have. Do I think it is right? No. But I do think that while what the students are doing is dishonest, you cannot say that Mr. Dante isn't making an honest living. He is being paid to provide a service. That is honest enough. The students are the dishonest ones. Believe me, I have worked my tail end off taking 18 hours a semester and working full time on top of that. It isn't easy, but it can be done. I am living proof of that.

Personally, it makes me angry that some students seem to get by without having to put forth effort, but what can I do about it? Nothing. Mr. Dante is using what he has. He is a good writer. He can evidently crank out papers quickly and make quite a bit of money doing so. Good for him. College is difficult, especially for the few of us who actually have to pay for it ourselves. I agree with most of what he is saying in this article. Lazy rich kids get by with a lot. No one can do anything about it. Why not make a couple bucks off of them? It sure beats sitting back and whining about being poor. I used to begrudge people for having it too easy because I have always had it so hard, but the reality is life is what you make of it. I don't have rich parents or grandparents. Everything I have now I have worked hard to attain.

As a former student from a very large school, I can say this much. Minorities (including foreign exchange students) and the wealthy seem to be catered to more than any other member of the student population. There was no "Poor kids club" to go to for help with homework or material that was unclear. There were more student organizations than I can count for people from certain ethnic backgrounds. There was an African American student organization, an Indian student organization, Chinese, Japanese, you name it, we had it. There were also countless organizations for students who lived on campus (many of whom didn't have to work). Study sessions were held usually between 5-7pm for most classes. I was working. There was no working students organization. Truthfully, I think that if universities would stop catering to just a couple of groups and focus on education for everyone as a whole, students would be a lot better off. I am a white female. Please don't go off and accuse me of being racist, because that isn't what I am trying to say at all. What I am saying is that EVERYONE regardless of their race, gender, or ethnicity should have an even shot at getting a good education. I think that singling certain groups out is unfair to everyone.

My professors didn't seem to care about my economic situation. I once had a professor tell me that I was foolish for thinking that I could go to college and work full time. What choice did I have? I had bills to pay and no one to take care of me but myself. I think that there are good professors out there. There are professors that care. Some can't do much about it, but at least they let you know that they are available to help you in any way they can. All professors aren't bad eggs, so I wouldn't shift all the blame to them. But I will be the first to tell you that I have had some rotten ones! Some professors have their noses stuck so far up in the air that I honestly don't know how they keep from bumping into things. These professors, who focus so heavily on a numerical grade; who don't give any consideration on a student's background or what they are going through; These are the people that make Mr. Dante's business a success. These are the people that push students so far that they feel like they simply cannot accomplish the tasks at hand on their own.

Mr. Dante is not the problem. He is simply enterprising from an existing problem. Heck, sounds like a great idea to me. If you have such a moral issue with what he is doing and you are a professor, then I would encourage you to care more about your students (if you don't already). If you are one of the good ones, then encourage your peers to care a little more as well. I promise you, if you show a little compassion to your students then Mr. Dante's business will simply fade away. There will be the occasional kid who really is just lazy, but I bet there wouldn't be near as many takers if all professors took a vested interest in their students.

156. uhclem - November 15, 2010 at 03:59 pm

I taught at a selective liberal arts college and routinely made students turn in rough drafts which I made notes on (and which I made copies of...clearly this was easier when I required them to submit the drafts electronically). I figure that some of them cheated anyway, but I'd make them cough up a bunch of money for the low grade. If you know your students, it's not all that hard to tell when the paper wasn't written by them. Error-strewn test answers, incoherent comments in class, and then a pitch perfect paper always sent me on a chase. My favorite was a student who turned in a paper with "termpaper.com" periodically embedded in paragraphs. I still laugh about that one.

157. kathryna - November 15, 2010 at 04:08 pm

A student's in-class writing voice is like a fingerprint -- completely distinctive. The same ticks that dog them in in-class writing will evidence themselves in formal writing -- it it's their own. I established this observation on Day 1 of my critical thinking courses at the community college where I taught, and spent a whole day on academic honesty. There is no way any student could pass through my filtering system of multiple rough drafts and in-class writing to cheat. For bigger courses at the university level, where there isn't a 1:20 ratio that comm colleges can offer, I see ample room for this sort of cheating.

158. chocksley - November 15, 2010 at 04:18 pm

I'm in the same business as the author of this article. It pays extremely well and has high job security -- what is there to complain about? It's morally questionable, true, but that doesn't mean anything technically. I also don't claim to be a fantastic writer. Truthfully, as long as what I write is at least B+ material, it's far and away better than what my clients could ever produce. If you can stomach it, you make good bank and you're practically self-employed for what it's worth.

We are the people that allow this faulty system to function, and we profit greatly from it. But it goes beyond education; an alarming amount of what's taken for granted as "professional" writing is actually the product of people like us, churning words daily for important Fancy Hat Wearers who need to impress other Fancy Hatters. Lawyers, doctors, politicians -- I've seen them all request our work. Or actually, I've seen them employ their secretaries/assistants/underlings to request it for them. They usually don't possess the ability (or humility) to ask for it themselves.

If we were to quit what we do, you can certainly bet that there would be consequences. Perhaps good ones, like pulling out a makeshift suture on a festering wound that simply needs the right ointment to heal proper. It could be for the best in that we'd at least be one step closer to arriving at honest conclusions about ourselves, albeit on a marginal level, both in school and in society.

159. cdwickstrom - November 15, 2010 at 04:24 pm

The most incredible thing about this entire string is that not once has anyone mentioned that Mr. Dante's work, and that of the others in similar positions, in effect, can turn just about any post-secondary institution into a diploma mill. By a diploma mill, I mean "any institution where one simply pays a sufficient amount of money to obtain a degree, without actually performing the necessary academic work to have earned it." The only difference between the circuimstances noted above and John Bear's famous list is that here a third party contractor get the money, not the institution.

160. ijreilly - November 15, 2010 at 04:32 pm

<Comment removed by moderator>

161. citizenwhy - November 15, 2010 at 04:33 pm

It's no surprise that some fundamentalist seminary students cheat. Denying evolution is a form of deliberate intellectual corruption. Many others are going into preaching for the money. Many others hold that lying/cheating in favor of the grand truth is just fine.

162. ijreilly - November 15, 2010 at 04:36 pm

I made it about halfway through to the end of this forum discussion before I realized that there was a lot of perplexing banter about the degree of responsibility that professors and institutions of higher learning bear for the academic motivation of hordes of 18 year-olds that never really considered NOT going to college. I'm a couple of years out of undergrad; I went to an expensive private school of middling stature. I was paying more than I could afford and I knew it. I was not going to waste the opportunity. Sometimes my grades were good and when they were bad, it was because I was spending too much time with another class that interested me more. I'm just saying that I wanted a liberal arts education and I'm paying sorely for it. I knew at the time that I was going to pay sorely for it. There were lots of people like myself at my school. There were lots of people that couldn't give a **** about English except as pertained to their technical writing classes. They were there to learn a trade and they've made a much more significant dent by now in their principal loan amounts. And I'm okay with that. Ahem.

And then there were those who were going to pay sorely to poorly re-enact Adam Sandler films for four years.

That took too long; I know. But that third group is absolutely not going to be motivated into genuine concern for the inherent value of education, or snapped out of their perpetual adolescence by any adjustment from evaluation to education. Not to diminish the power of a good professor/mentor, but really, dude, Dante, this article reeks like a poorly planned effort to cast off some guilt. Kids show up to college to learn, or they don't.

[Edited for profanity. -moderator]

163. atevault - November 15, 2010 at 04:53 pm

You're right. Teachers could probably do more in some cases. But how are the teachers supposed to know which students truly need help when they have access to, and are turning in, quality papers? It seems you're trying to assuage some of your guilt by blaming the students and teachers but continuing to do this work. I know if you don't do it, someone else will, but that shouldn't be an excuse. Have you written a paper on ethics? I'm curious to read it.

164. darlingdaisy - November 15, 2010 at 04:58 pm

(Edit per my previous comment) I would like to read a paper by YOU - not the man behind the curtain with no voice, name, style, or true opinions, but one you will put your name on.

165. tsb2010 - November 15, 2010 at 05:12 pm

Very interesting piece -- basically showing how you can buy a degree (if not the education). I honestly think that this is the real, the deep problem that we face: we, as a society, have become incredibly lazy, expecting others to do the work for us: from the students in this example, to the managers looking to fill a job, and just blindly trust the piece of paper in front of them...

166. jwwbrennan - November 15, 2010 at 05:19 pm

Is it possible that requiring everyone to get a degree is resulting in no one getting an education? If students are pretending to write papers and professors are pretending to mark them (a link in an earlier comment)it sounds like the whole process is perfunctory. Why?

167. chron7 - November 15, 2010 at 05:26 pm

As new faculty, reading CoHE articles has been eye opening. Other than careful diligence in class to enforce plagiarism rules, I doubt I'll catch all of these culprits. What I'd like to know is whether the false education the 'desperate' students receive eventually costs them.

168. alanng - November 15, 2010 at 05:26 pm

Thanks to ellenhunt for pointing out mcg-site.com.

As quoted below from http://mcg-site.com/dissertation/index.shtml, they offer a shocking and probably true explanation of the origin of this arm of their business ("dissertation assistance"). It speaks volumes about the legitimacy of many (not all) PhDs from today's "big name" online universities.

"An Introduction To Our Experience Working With PhD Candidates

From late 2001 through early 2005, we worked primarily on statistical consulting for businesses (see our client list), journal articles for university professors, and pro bono work for medical researchers. However, the recent proliferation of legitimate online Universities offering PhD degrees (Walden, Capella, Nova Southeastern, University of Phoenix, Touro, Argosy, Northcentral, etc.) has led to the situation of students often being ill-prepared to complete the dissertation process without seeking outside assistance from a professional statistician who is familiar with the specific processes followed at these schools. Since expanding our client base in the spring of 2005 to include PhD candidates, we have helped these students save thousands of dollars in tuition while graduating months earlier than their peers. Assisting PhD candidates is now one of the top priorities of our firm."

169. mrbridgeii - November 15, 2010 at 05:52 pm

If society has set up an educational system as a social class credential, then it is getting exactly what it pays for from Mr. Dante's clients. They, too, are getting excactly what they pay for.

If education were about personal development and creating enlightened citizens, then these clients would simply be throwing their money away.

Fortunatley, and sometimes in spite of us, many of our students manage to accomplish both objectives in their journeys through our educational system.

170. oswaldvonwolkenstein - November 15, 2010 at 05:53 pm

How much does it pay? Are they hiring? - j/k . . . or . . .

171. p0114604 - November 15, 2010 at 06:14 pm

Professors, I would not worry about punishing the students who cheat their way through college as their pasts will catch up with them sooner rather than later. At work are they going to pay someone $2000 every time they have to write a report because they are illiterate? I wish all of the cheaters great success in the real world. I can write, so I won't be seeing you down at the unemployment office.

172. cjinstructor - November 15, 2010 at 06:24 pm

To Post #158 Chocksley.....you wrote...

"important Fancy Hat Wearers who need to impress other Fancy Hatters. Lawyers, doctors, politicians -- I've seen them all request our work. Or actually, I've seen them employ their secretaries/assistants/underlings to request it for them. They usually don't possess the ability (or humility) to ask for it themselves.

If we were to quit what we do, you can certainly bet that there would be consequences. Perhaps good ones, like pulling out a makeshift suture on a festering wound that simply needs the right ointment to heal proper. It could be for the best in that we'd at least be one step closer to arriving at honest conclusions about ourselves, albeit on a marginal level, both in school and in society."

I concur! Thank you for this post. If we are such good ediucators, then it behooves us to understand the serious results of this continued trend, and realize that we all can do better. In the private sector, if an employee screws up or is slacking, or simply incompetent, they are released. In the public sector, they are promoted and given a raise and a desk job. Even when they border on criminal, they are given the opportunity to resign or be terminated. ...and that teaches consequences, How?

173. urbanwriter - November 15, 2010 at 06:26 pm

Damn! Think this is new, or news? Junior high school was 40-odd years ago - and I wrote essays for my lug-headed cohort at $20 each then - and the only real problem was worrying about the 'prisoner's dilemna.' The teachers knew they couldn't write that well - and the not-quite authors knew I'd kick the wind out of them if they caved - and I wasn't going to cave.

When I did my undergraduate degree, late in life, 2000 - 2004, I was appalled that my fellow students were in tears on receipt of their first assignments. And this was a senior institution (ranked 38th in the world by somebody or other) and the students coming in to a 'premium' program came from the creme de la creme of high school academics. Tears, on their first assignments. The high schools were certainly not preparing these kids for the level of writing that would be expected, on the first assignment, in university.

And while I researched, wrote, edited, re-edited, cursed, and eventually forsake virtually every one of the 350 or 400 thousand words I produced as an undergrad, I fully expect that some of my fellow students didn't. But I did learn to do a few good lines.

For those interested you might read Matthew Crawford's reflections on writing abstracts for online (on-line? online? style guide time) journals... you think your undergrads are cheating, try reading Crawford.

And while I would fully support anyone who has papers come in for review, maybe even twice, before the submission of a final draft, I'm afraid that most exam formats seem to be a test of reaction under stress... how many instructors who claim that exams measure 'knowledge' would sit their undergrad exams, today, no prep, for things they supposedly 'know?'

Well, an enjoyable read.

174. citizenpain - November 15, 2010 at 06:30 pm

I am not at all surprised by what Dante has written here. I believe him/her. Reading through the comments here is also a bit enlightening. Look at yourselves. Look at the typos, misspellings, punctuation, and grammar. And this from self-professed professional educators!

I don't blame the lot of you, though. It's the system as a whole. Educators did not choose the use of grading as a measure of proficiency; that choice was made for them by administrators, school boards, and parents. Educators do not choose their class size nor the myriad other responsibilities that are forced upon them from above. In many cases they are not even free to choose what or how they will teach, the system is what it is because they had no choice, and no means of objecting to or reforming what they see as failures within the system.

Few teachers ever speak openly about the failures of the system they work under, mainly because it would threaten their own job security, but everyone, including administrators and boards of education, would do well to read this book: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto http://bit.ly/cB1yLm . The whole text is available for free online, or you can buy it in dead tree format if you prefer.

175. ytrewq654321 - November 15, 2010 at 06:31 pm

I think this story is bogus, and I say this as someone who makes extra money on the side by doing college students' math homework. Here's the arithmetic:

If he writes 20 page a day, and each page has about 275 words, and he does this 250 days out of the year (low-balling it), then that is 20x275x250 = 1,375,000 words a year.

If he makes $66,000 a year, or 6,600,000 cents a year, then his rate per word is at most 6,600,000/1,375,000 = 4.8 cents a word.

My sister is a freelance writer and charges a minimum of 10 cents a word for copy that requires low/moderate research. For projects that require more legwork and a particular writing style, she charges upwards of 25 cents a word.

This guy is researching entire subjects for less than a nickel a word? I would have to assume that someone who has been in the writing business would know the market better. Come on! I don't buy it. Even novice freelance writers learn pretty quickly when they are getting shafted.

By the way, I charge a minimum of $20 per hour for my services. Sometimes it takes me 5 hours to complete a pre-calculus take home test ;)

176. anonscribe - November 15, 2010 at 06:33 pm

Listening to this conversation, you'd think 2/3 of degrees are given to blatant, persistent cheaters.

It isn't true. Most degrees are earned legitimately. Most students don't cheat.

Calm down.

177. ytrewq654321 - November 15, 2010 at 06:35 pm

by 5 hours, I mean "5" hours, in case some one didn't get the joke.

178. oldcrank - November 15, 2010 at 06:44 pm

Very interesting article. Many of the comments seem to want to put blame on just one party or another. It's the educator's fault. It's the student's fault. It's the administration's fault. It's so and so...

I'd suggest the problem lies with all parties. We have built a system that doesn't demand enough from the student early enough. Everyone's culpable; students who don't want to learn; college teachers who do not or cannot take the time to demand real input; universities essentially designed to discourage real education, parents who have failed to teach morality. There's plenty of blame all round. It's not just the author.

179. fiche - November 15, 2010 at 07:04 pm

I am a librarian, and it's not just the writing assignments that are lazy. Some of the research assignments we see are appalling: "scavenger hunts" for things that don't exist, instructions to find data that is proprietary, directions to use databases that we don't subscribe to, vague exhortations to "not use online sources" (did you know that 90% of our journals are online now?), and our perennial favorite, a reference to an online catalog system that hasn't existed for 15 years. There is no conceivable way that the people who give out these assignments have any idea how to do good library research of the type they are asking for from their students. Just today I gave an orientation to a class of new grad students and showed them the pre-eminent database in their field; "what's that?" asked the tenured professor.

Of course it's not true that all professors are like this; of course, many people expend care and energy on grading writing papers too. But as a non-teaching member of the academic enterprise, I do wonder about both the faculty and the students that I see pass through our halls, and how many people on both sides are just phoning it in.

180. zeppo - November 15, 2010 at 07:04 pm

Dickens wasn't "paid by the word." He was paid by the installment. You could have found this out by using your vaunted research skills and googling "Dickens paid by word."

181. whatabout - November 15, 2010 at 07:14 pm

"Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists."

Why not just have students write a couple in-class essays to have authentic samples of their writing on hand?

Or, have them write some kind of reflection assignment or follow-up to their paper... key is to do it in class or with a very short turnaround time.

Doesn't seem like it would take that much more effort for instructors to know that a student's term paper was written by somebody else.

182. cgoodson - November 15, 2010 at 07:15 pm

I see now why some professors have in-class writing assignments. That is certainly what I would do (I'm a librarian). If a person was unable to write, it would be quite apparent--and that's when the serious investigation would begin.

183. soulesa - November 15, 2010 at 07:31 pm

I've been approached by these services in the past, asking if I would write dissertations in everything from my subject discipline through the social sciences and sciences. I've always refused on the grounds that it's as unethical to do this as it is to ask for/pay for such a service.

One of the problems we face, other than identifying some of the culprits, is making our opinions "stick." There are a couple of reasons for this. If ths student doesn't pass, s/he goes to some version of a "Fairness" committee. The professor must now spend hours justifying his/her opinion and, more frequently than not, is unable to provide enough "evidence" for this to "stick."

For those of us who are not yet tenured, the primary "evaluation" of our work comes from student evaluations. If they're not high enough, tenure is not granted. I have long argued that student evaluations are not a suitable evaluative technique as the professor's future is held hostage, but this practice persists.

Until these two issues are addressed, many professors shy away from confronting a student with accusations of cheating. It takes time, courage, and some luck to call a student a cheater. If, by some chance, the professor prevails, the next challenge may well be threats--telephone threats, cyberthreats, etc.

Not encouraging.

184. vernaye - November 15, 2010 at 07:34 pm

Just wait until this author is revealed as a hoax.

Oh, and evaluation over education - that's a tone set by administrators and accreditors.

185. 11289342 - November 15, 2010 at 07:39 pm

Googling for something else turned up an advertising site for one of these services, with a sample page from a term paper for sale. It was a very credible imitation of a weak student's work: no typos, but the content was almost complete fluff. A little better than the Dada Engine, but not much.

186. mariadroujkova - November 15, 2010 at 07:42 pm

There is no correlation between teacher's education degree and the quality of teaching. This piece of information seems relevant here.

187. pbpark - November 15, 2010 at 07:47 pm

What seems almost as tragic to me as the plagiarism Mr. Dante describes is the fact that he has committed himself to a strenuous job that he clearly doesn't like, working for people he looks down on, for a salary that hardly seems worth it, especially for someone from an "upper middle-class family."

No wonder he sounds so jaded.

188. hoppingmadjunct - November 15, 2010 at 07:50 pm

If a teacher's paying the kind of attention to students that students are paying for, no student should have to reach the points of "dispritation" described here. But when lower-level courses are taught by underpaid and undersupported adjuncts, many of whom must teach at multiple institutions to make a living and have neither the time nor the training to help underprepared students admitted on who knows what grounds, what else can we expect? As indicated by its increasing exploitation of such faculty regardless of effects on students, the academy has become more about self-perpetuation than education. It's both tragic and apt that Mr. Dante has written more fraudulent papers in the field of education than in any other: the institution of higher education itself has become a fraud, and who better to address frauds than other frauds?

189. sukobiru - November 15, 2010 at 08:09 pm

What is tragic is that Dante has the kind of well-rounded education we hope our students have when they leave our institutions. So what was it that drove him learn and write? How can we bring that into our institutions and reward regular students, and encourage them to study and do the work themselves? Dante educated himself in a variety of fields, well enough to adapt to any situation he is placed in -- He acheived the goal of education. What can we change in our approach to education that will acheive this goal while maintaining the inegrity of the principle that everyone does their own work?

190. impossible_exchange - November 15, 2010 at 08:25 pm

@mariadroujkova--yes exactly, right?
I've taught ed folk at multiple major universities (at least one of them a rather BIG school) and they are frequently my worst students. Not that they don't understand the field--although often it is their minor or area of focus--but just bad students. They show up late, don't do the homework, don't don't understand assignments, complain about rigor, take bad notes, don't prepare well, aren't strong participants, etc.
I cannot remember a single instance of a future teacher being one of my best students. Yes, typically my best students are majors in the field, but that isn't always so. Those from "outside" fields sometimes are the best.

As Mr. Dante notes, ed majors are the bulk of his clients. Probably the continuing ed MS folk, who can afford to pay him, and for whom it is financially worth it.

@hoppingmadjunct: I see this as a direct result of the erosion of tenure and top down thinking that rewards the efforts of the over-payed admins (at both the University and K-12 levels) thus sucking the resources away from the teachers. Thus, those in charge, those who control the purse strings are mysteriously rewarded, consistently making gains while the system spirals down the tubes. How is it that anyone in charge of anything in education gets a raise in the US? Incompetence is so rank and widespread it is breathless and only comparable to Wall Street or Washington.

191. impossible_exchange - November 15, 2010 at 08:27 pm

Brilliantly productive thought sukobiru.
How can we produce more Mr. Dantes and how can we keep them in the fold?
If we could answer this well things might start to look up.

192. pabloa - November 15, 2010 at 08:29 pm

Has anyone mentioned that all of Dante's tools, everything that enables him to do his job are very recent developments? Maybe this is less a case of "kids these days" or lackluster educators (it could be those too a little I suppose) rather a classic example of new, disruptive technology affecting an older, now outdated system. Cheating is more prevalent because it's easier! The barriers to entry are gone. That also explains how these students get as far as they do with horrible skill sets - the internet has made information easy and always accessible, and a lot of education evaluates you on your ability to find, digest and recite information. At least mine did.

193. 987ty - November 15, 2010 at 08:31 pm

Dan Ariely (an economics professor at Duke) was worried about essay mills and so conducted some rough testing earlier this year:


He essentially found that the essay mills all gave him garbage. I think this is one of the strongest incentives for students not to use these services - it's totally unregulated and you are more than likely going to get ripped off.

Unless of course you get referred by a satisfied customer or blah blah blah. Even so, I think the problem may be overstated somewhat. These essay writers aren't cranking out A grade stuff; they're doing the bare minimum to get paid. I already knew that a BA degree holder with a 'C' average is likely to be only borderline literate. This article just makes it obvious that they may in fact be illiterate instead.

There are probably very few fake 'A' degrees out there is what I'm saying.

194. skaking - November 15, 2010 at 08:54 pm

pabloa 193 -- do we know that cheating is more or less prevalent today than before? while it may be easier, that in itself doesn't mean that it's happening more. it might also be easier to detect as students get really lazy and cut and paste. it might have been easier then too to cheat -- the stories of frats keeping past exams of profs on file, etc (before copy machines and printers made it easier to change up exams.) also, it's possible that cheating was more sophisticated then. if you had a teacher who gave the same exams he'd notice if papers from term to term were the same. you had to be cunning in cheating so you didn't get caught. people went to great lengths, creative lengths to cheat, often putting in more effort to cheat than they would have had they studied. those days are gone though...

195. 7738373863 - November 15, 2010 at 09:27 pm

It is a truism that canned assignments beget canned papers. Using brainstorming and other heuristic and topic-development tactics in preparing to write a paper can serve as an early diagnostic tool to identify students not up to doing the course's written work. Moreover, an instructor who works with students as they develop their topics and argumentative strategies will have a sure-fire way of identifying as non sequiturial a paper that has not come from the process outlined above. A simple "this is not what you told me you were going to write about--why?" can then generally precipitate the discussion that precedes the charge of plagiarism.

On another matter: the unedited student emails in "Dante's" article, with their egregious problems with idiom and verb management, strongly suggest that a lot of these ghostwriting requests come from ESL/ESOL students, for whom writing fluent, near-native English is a problem, and for whom plagiarism and other forms of cheating are less of an issue in their home countries than here. This possibiliity suggests a need to administer on-grounds language proficiency examinations for all international and domestic students for whom English is not the first language and get those who need it into English remediation courses as a first order of business.

196. demopoly - November 15, 2010 at 09:44 pm

starlight7: Bang on. Awesome analysis.

Others, regarding "technology makes this possible."

Yes, if by technology you mean corporations, printing presses, ink, paper, and wheels.

Companies and businesses selling papers have been around since the University structure was invented, if not longer. In fact, it's entirely plausible that the forging industry merely saw the opportunity with formal education to legitimize a wing of their business.

Easier? It's certainly faster now, since typewriters were invented, but people don't type much faster on computers than they do on good typewriters. Do you type at 150WPM?

The central problem illustrated by our noble Mr. Dante is the severity of the failure of our institutions to TEACH.

It is, and always has been, a system of PRIVILEGE, not education. If you read the terms of your BA or BS degree, you'll see that it's a degree which at its root, is issued in "philosophy."


Now that we are in modern times and we actually want the majority of our graduates to UNDERSTAND THINGS like engineering and medicine rather than merely being in charge of them, it's necessary for institutions to focus on the education, rather than the grading. That's not happening.

I'm working on a double masters in physics and software engineering, and I can certify that most of my effort is by necessity focussed on getting the grade - not learning. I fight that all the time because it irritates the h*ll out of me.

I've examined hundreds of Universities. There is no University that has a non-grading education based system. That would probably be an apprenticeship, something similar to what the US Navy does or what the Seattle steam engineers union does. Given the extents of technology these days, there's no reason why such a facility could not exist!

197. graylibrary - November 15, 2010 at 09:45 pm

What would be interesting would be to have a student, after they submitted a draft of a thesis, dissertation or other complex written work, to be put in a room with a laptop (with no Wi-Fi or other connectivity) and told to write a summary of their work. One page for every twenty five. There are writing style programs that can determine if the writer of two documents has the same style. If the summary was excellent, as one would expect from the original author who had spent weeks working on the submitted piece, then all is fine. if the student was good enough to write in the same style and understood completely what was written, well, that's about as far as you can go. On the other hand, if they could not do it, produced what was clearly a different style, etc., then let the tribunal begin. Don't know if that is legal or not.

198. rweba - November 15, 2010 at 09:46 pm

I was able to find a publicly available PDF of the 1995 Harper's article: http://bit.ly/pen4hire

Somewhat better written article than the present one (although Dante is not a bad writer) and also obviously describes an era before the internet made it easier for Dante and co. to work completely from home.

199. deepforestowl - November 15, 2010 at 09:51 pm

Actually, you know what's worse? My first thought after reading this article was, as an adjunct, I make less than he does and I hate grading because most of what I grade is garbage that no one spent any time on. My second thought was, how can I get his job that will pay me more and be more interesting? That's just sad and unfortunately, says a lot about our educational system and how adjuncts are treated.

200. acamoon - November 15, 2010 at 09:55 pm

I actually bothered registering to share an experience this semester, just for "the other side" =P Let me preface that I am an undergrad at a community college (12 credit load) so I don't have a lot of exposure to the author's client base (that of the spoiled rich kid). I've been poor all my life, not changing soon.

People in my generation (I'm 24) are lazy, yes. But, as Glenn Beck would say, I'm not an educator but I am a thinker and I can see where pressure to pass students so they don't flunk out and keep the tuition rolling in comes into play. That's probably the biggest flaw with the system, in fact.

This semester I am taking an Intro to Ethics course. It's my most writing-intensive class this semester (that's not an insult, I am taking two math classes and a biology lab), but it's hardly demanding at 4 essays of ~1500 words each for the semester. Most of us are there to satisfy a PHI requirement for automotive programs, liberal studies or nursing programs.

The day the first paper was due, my professor had to spend about an hour of the 90min period defending his demands that the paper be written in MLA format with full citations (it was the only research paper). The biggest, loudest, and most persistent complaint was "no other teacher demands that/they don't teach that in Eng101". Around five people of twenty dropped out after that assignment (but they were by far not the only offenders of "why can't class be easy?").

I am mostly outraged at these people who spend each and every essay due date complaining about how hard it is to use a name block and use 12pt font. It bothers me even more when I consider my professor's standards are not that high. I started the second paper (a 1500 word situational analysis) at 8:30 a.m. to turn in at 11 a.m. and still got a B. I still believe this professor grades harder than any I've had in my post-secondary experience.

It's a daycare. I will probably pass all my classes with four outside hours of effort per week this year. I have tossed this idea around, pursuing the author's profession. My heart goes out to non-native speakers (and my school has quite a few from Africa), they work far harder than I ever will. But some of students who are in it for their automotive program, could easily be tempted into giving up 50 dollars for a three page paper.

That having been said, I hope Mr. Dante here never has to leave his 401k in the hands of the ditzes he writes for. Or MY 401k for that matter.

201. foreverwar - November 15, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Tru facts (intentionally mispelled): ~91% of the population has below a 120 IQ. Only ~75% of the population has an IQ above 90. This correlates pretty nicely to the ~68% high school graduation rate. So basically, what this is saying, is that American public high schools weed out people with below average intelligence, but will produce graduates who are just marginally average. In essence, that piece of paper is useless. A person with a 90 IQ probably shouldn't go to college. College is for people who have high aspirations and want to learn more in their chosen field, this should correlate to people in at least the 80th percentile and above. Unfortunately ~70% of high school graduates go on to college or university. Which ideally correlates to the top 70% of people above the 25th percentile or people above the ~52nd percentile of intelligence. Which still puts flat out average joes in institutions of higher learning. In fact, if these hastily put together statistics hold true, the 90th + percentile makes up just one in five college students.

I fortunately went to a school that recruits people who are baseline 130 IQ, based on personal observation of raw processing power and learning potential. However, after seeing some of the people that go to "real" universities and graduate, it's not a real wonder that cheating is so rampant.

Ideally, as a professor (which I am not), I'd want students who were at least in my depth. I'm making my baseline professor IQ 130, so people who were at least 120, or at minimum 110. This makes at most 25% of the general population and hopefully at least 50% of the school's. So that leaves ~50% of student seeking a higher education woefully average.

However, if you cut out 50% of your enrolments to only harvest from the top 25% you'd be monetarily fubared, as my alma mater can attest.

So, I guess, what I'm getting at, is that the system and the culture is too reliant on the appearance of being educated. Who the hell cares? The system relies too much on this meaningless scrap of paper that signifies that you have the minimum level of intelligence and willingness to graduate from high school and ever increasingly from college. I mean it's not like you don't end up with people who graduate from college with no inkling of what calculus does or with not even a basic understanding of chemistry or physics or even a very basic comprehension of the English language (as my poor as hell writing will attest). But they have this oh so fancy degree which makes them instantly more qualified to do stuff.

In direct response to the article. I think Dante is ethically on the definitively bad side of the line. However, I think he's just a dude, trying to make a living doing what he wants to do. A rather large victory in itself. He is just a dude, not a person who is actually part of the Ivory Tower, from the responses from professors and the like here I've gathered a sense of helplessness in regards to the administration and financial burdens of your place of employment. Totally fair, but it's going to be you who has to change the system, or at least be the ones who start the change. Still a huge pain in the ass, who would stand by their morals if it meant unemployment? Particularly from a job they actually want?

Not I, says my 140+ IQ and my morals. No vast amount of intelligence and moral high ground is going to keep you fed and sheltered if you can't get your ass employed and stay employed. Unless you're into that nature jazz, then you can go all man vs. wild on the world's ass.

202. impossible_exchange - November 15, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Yeah, sorry but that IQ thing, sorry to say, but I hear it is kind of meaningless.
It ain't about what you got but what you do with it.

Also, like you know, the meritocracy is a scam man. Truly.

The only thing special about those on top is that 99% of them were very very lucky at birth.

203. onkelbob - November 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I have only one question, is the firm you work for hiring? My contract ends with the coming year and I could use a job.

204. inkling - November 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Please, please "Ed Dante," write a legitimate book on how you research and write papers so quickly and efficiently. A lot of us would like to know how to do our own work better.

205. aempirei - November 15, 2010 at 10:37 pm

So, no math papers?

206. foreverwar - November 15, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Fair enough. However, those with a significantly above average IQ, 130+, will learn things significantly faster than other people.

I'm using IQ not as a "oh you can do math and solve logic puzzles dur dur dur," but as a baseline for raw human processing power, i.e. how fast you learn and how well you solve problems. IQ is just a convenient method of conveying how much of it you have. In that sense, autistically speaking, IQ is not meaningless but a very neat way of finding the right people for the right jobs. I do agree with you, it's all about how you use it. I'm doing construction right now, been working about a month and am probably about as competent as a person who's been doing this sort of thing for several years. Smart people spend less time doing meaningless crap than less inteligent people, truth. For example, squeaking by in high school while in all AP classes with a 3.4 GPA, with basically zero effort. Why, because my IQ, in terms of processing power, allows myself and people like myself to roll with the intellectual punches. Calculus allows you to calculate the area under the curve, easy concept, how? By taking the mathematical formula for the curve and calculating the combined area of the rectangles under it as the width and area of the rectangles approaches zero while their number approaches infinity. Easy enough, a person in the 98th percentile would look at that and say, elegant. A person in the 50th would probably give you a stupid look.

So, IQ, not meaningless. Same thing with talent. The only people who say they're meaningless are either people without them or with an abundance of them.

I agree with you about meritocracy, Imperial China is the only example that springs to mind that managed to have that successfully with the Mandarin class. And as a person on top, I can say very firmly, I am so very very, exceedingly, almost disgustingly, lucky to be born into the circumstances I am in. However, people who are smart enough find their niches and make themselves comfortable. In the end it's not who has the most stuff, it's who has the most real friends and the most love in their life. Happiness > material wealth, perhaps the easiest equation of all and the hardest to live by. I mean really, with all the rest, you don't really have a freakin choice.

207. dedicated_dad - November 15, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I was a precocious child. I scored in the 68th percentile on the SAT at age 12, and completed a 2-year "Liberal Arts" degree before age 14. Then "public school" dumped me into 10th grade with no credit for past work. I discovered drugs, and... the rest is history.

I am 100% self-educated - most who work with me believe I have a MS in some discipline - as I work in Information Technology they usually assume it's Computer Science or Business. While I do nothing to directly encourage such misperception, I also do little to DIScourage it. Natural ability and a lot of hard work have led to experience at a level few can match, and a rather lucrative income.

Not bad for a "high-school dropout" if I must say so myself - but I digress.

I have for the past 15+ years brought home copies of various writings collected on my job. E-mails, memos, proposals - even magazine articles - which I use for one singular purpose: ensuring my children are better prepared to express themselves.

When the 2nd-grade daughter of a high-school dropout laughs aloud at the utter lack of writing ability demonstrated by a man with a MA degree from an "ivy-league" university, something is seriously wrong with the world.

That second-grader is today a Sophomore at a well-known University. She's running a 4.0 average in their "University Honors" program and working as an RA as well. To demonstrate the completion of the Circle of (Educational) Life, she now sends similar examples of idiocy - culled from her contacts with Professors and other Faculty - to me.

The real travesty here is that since I lack the all-important diploma to hang on my wall, I've been turned down for numerous jobs which went to less-qualified peers. I've been passed over for promotions which went to people who could barely spell their own name and lacked even the most basic grasp of grammar, rhetoric or logic - but had the "magic" document placed prominently at the center of their "I Love Me" cubicle wall.

As long as businesses allow lazy recruiters to use "education" as a primary criteria for culling the herd - so long as the value of a diploma continues to trump knowledge, skill, talent and ability - the problems personified by "Dante" and his clientele will continue.

As for me and mine, we are living proof that those who wish to learn will do so - not because, but rather in spite of our "Education system."

On the other hand, we remain surrounded and outnumbered by the proofs of an opposing reality: that an overpriced degree (though no guarantee that the laureate can even tie his or her own shoes) is a necessary prerequisite to any real opportunity in today's Amerika.

That's a damn shame.


208. cranky_critter - November 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Last year I had an ESL student that obviously had her paper written for her. When I asked her about her topic or asked why she changed her topic so drastically from what we had discussed in office hours, she couldn't explain herself.
In class essays from her made no sense.

But what can I do? Submit her to the council? How will they prove it?

They're called exams. Or sometimesa they're called tests. It's a form of assessment that sutdent do in class so that you can be sure it's their own work.

I know. How awful... .

209. bitin - November 15, 2010 at 11:14 pm

I read a number of comments to this paper and it seems that nobody mentioned the following issue:
What kind of course is it, that somebody who knows nothing about this subject, can write a paper that will be accepted by a professor and receive high grade?
Even more so, what kind of education and education requirements are there that somebody can learn enough of this subject to write a PhD thesis that an advisor and a thesis committee will accept?

So, basically, there are accredited universities in US that offer programs where it takes an intelligent person one week of hard work to get a PhD degree.

Predictably enough, the author wrote papers and thesises for marketing research, english, nursing and such. He didn't write for math, chemistry and neuroscience students.

I wonder why.

Written by a biophisicist.

P.S. This article is written so well.

210. maxbini - November 15, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Just an observationa and wondering if other academics have experienced the same - when marking the work of students I have had regular dealings with, I hear the essay in their voice. This has made many instances of plagiarism easy to pick up and usually it is also easy to find the source as students rarely stray far from the course reading list or obvious sources (Wikipedia, Encyclopedias, etc...).

Of course this would not catch-out those students who have purchased papers from the likes of Ed Dante but lets not forget that they are the minority of cases of plagiarism.

211. andrewpegoda - November 15, 2010 at 11:50 pm

This is sick.

212. csabel - November 15, 2010 at 11:57 pm

There is a lack of commentary on the real problem -- the students. Say what you will about the failures of higher ed, and there are plenty; and say what you will about crappy teaching methods in crappy courses, and there are plenty; but the final decision to turn in another's work with one's own name on it comes down to the choice of the student and is a basic question of integrity. Would you claim to have painted those swell flames on your car's hood if you hadn't? Why not? But there is no shame in cheating, no sense that it really matters.

213. 49k95 - November 16, 2010 at 12:29 am

In my department the students are crippled by many faculty members that "help" them with other courses homework and assignments. After getting zero skills because of this irresponsible behavior, these students when they go to graduate school, will have no choice but to buy the services offered by these online firms described in this article. I say that the students are also the victims here. A solution could be to have only in-class exams, and no homework.

214. opentosuggestion - November 16, 2010 at 12:53 am

Is number 210 above really a 'biophisicist'?

215. frankgado - November 16, 2010 at 01:52 am

How is what Signor Dante does different from what a presidential speechwriter does?

Our system is corrupt. As an editor, I often had to recast what some highly respected academic had written because it was arthritic English.

216. carny - November 16, 2010 at 01:57 am

I'll admit, I only read to comment 33. But I figured I'd offer my own perspective.

I, at one point, approached a professor about cheating in the clasroom. I detailed how people cheated on exams, and asked as a student who didn't believe in cheating that they be punished or at least prevented from using the same methods. He didn't do a damn thing, and told me that 'it has always been this way'. So much for my school's commitment against cheating.

I have absolutely no problem with Ed Dante. Imagine how much he must have learned, to pull of this kind of work. I'm not sure how much he retained, but I imagine it would be enough.

217. filigree - November 16, 2010 at 02:39 am

I don't have a problem with Ed Dante, either. The problem is an educational system where we value test-taking over actual learning. Factor in a business and political climate where perception is more important than reality, and you might understand America's implosion.

Last year, I worked with a recent twenty-something publishing assistant with a BFA, and a slightly-older teacher with a Master's degree. Neither of them knew or cared that there were other galaxies beyond the Milky Way, or that wolverines were not 'little tiny wolves'. Both of them grew up in houses with few, if any books. Not impoverished houses, just middle-class. Both viewed education as a narrow goal focused upon getting them as much money as possible. Neither had strong writing ability or creative-thinking skills.

James Frey has recently started a writer sweatshop called 'Full Fathom Five' to harness the talents of clueless literary-arts students for commercial fiction -- to his benefit, not theirs. These students would be better off following Dante's example.

218. idrizmiftari - November 16, 2010 at 04:33 am

Signed up just so i could post. For all the commentators that say in-class writing as well as comparing class input with written papers will catch fraudulent papers: It's not that simple.

I graduated with a 2.1 from a small public universtiy; a rather sad state of affairs that most people chastise me to this day about. Why so horrendous? I told myself I would never drop a class regardless of circumstance. As you figured out by now my writing is pretty wretched. I failed four english 101 classes and told myself that i would never retake courses simply to buttress my grade.

Sorry for the back story but it does serve a purpose here. You see, even though i was very strong in all subjects ( with exception to writing)it took me quite awhile to read and write. When i took the SATs i could only finish a paragraph before time ran out. The same with college, all in-class writing was an obliteration of the english language. All assignments outside of class were far different from what i wrote in class. There is a difference between writing in desperation and writing with time and editing( Yes that means a stylistic difference as well).

My second qualm is to compare the in-class discussions/private talks with professors with a student's writing. I'm a rather jaded person (self diagnosed sociopath) with a prominent speech impediment that makes me sound like i have a foreign accent. Most people i meet ask what country i am from, even though i was born in New York. Most professors thought english was my second language. Imagine having a foreign sounding student who writes much better outside of class then inside of class.

Now to lose credibility to the moralists( my sociopathic tendency) by saying that i like Dante. i agree with graykitt, the article was aggrandizing but nothing more. Dante's anecdote was not laughable, simply naive. Just another jaded guy on the other side of the fence.

It saddens me that everyone sings in unison that the current system of education/business/government is horrid and yet so little changes. i think there is a non spoken consensus with intelligent people not to upset the illiterate horde that compromises the majority of the human population. Bread and circuses indeed.

219. gotrojans - November 16, 2010 at 05:05 am

It's sad but incredibly unsurprising to me that this takes place. Hell, I'll go further than that; as I recent graduate, i'm well aware that this takes place.

In my life, I have never plagiarized someone else's work. The analogy to steroids in baseball is accurate, in that it both makes the game unfair and illustrates how much it has become a game.

In terms of academic fraud, students cheat because they are either out of their depth or lazy. The CS major above makes a good point, it's much easier to catch someone who cheats at math or science, because it can be tested on the spot.

That said, I think there is a relatively simple, if cumbersome, way to deal with this. We know students don't get better overnight. Maybe this is my analytic brain talking, but why not just have students take an extensive language profile at the beginning of each semester. It serves to monitor individual students and to measure the state of the student body's understanding of English.

Take two days to just have them write a series of in class essays. Every enrolled student has to do it, on computers with grammar and spell checkers. Then you run any out of class writing against those profiles and see if the essays are different.

If a student's breath or depth of vocabulary spikes, or their preference in sentence construction changes, then you have something to go on.

We have the technology to do this; we use it for intelligence purposes to determine the legitimacy of documents all the time. Maybe if we called it intellectual terrorism rather than plagiarism, the FBI would let us borrow it.

220. mowogola - November 16, 2010 at 05:10 am


Your colleagues don't do Mr. Dante's job because they (1) are tenured and thus need not do real work, (2) can call $66K per annum "paltry" thanks to the extortionate tuitions they take out of ever more (incompetent, thanks to ed schools) students' hides, (3) cannot capitalize God, and (4) probably cannot write at Mr. Dante's level. I do wonder how many academics will be intimidated by this article, which might force them more closely to monitor and read what their students submit. I recall a rumored professor who allegedly graded papers by dropping them in front of the office AC unit: The farther the paper went, the better its grade.

Your example of the engineering student turning to Mr. Dante's services then creating disaster through incompetence suggests you have little experience with the hard sciences. Empirical subjects, depending on how they are evaluated, are harder to scam through such services. Giving a couple brain-churning equations to solve or a problem to code in class on paper in 50 minutes is a rather effective sieve. This is one reason why the BA often earns less than the BS. Of course, I do not claim incompetent people never graduate or people never make mistakes.

A "paltry" $66K? On the days you come in, do you hold your nose when taking your students' money (after all, they aren't earning but perhaps paying $66K) and debating how to deny in-state tuition to get "the best and brightest" who conveniently happen to pay twice or thrice the in-state rate? Are you protesting the government-backed loan system that ensures everyone money for college, even if the degree is rubbish (but keeps that academic voting block happy)?

Take a stand: Be a good corporate Big Ed citizen and _take a voluntary pay cut_, work through the summer, or teach twice as many classes a year. Do it for the future, for the children! Do it for $66K!

My university students are far easier to catch: Running their native language text through a free or commercial translator then submitting the output as is makes for entertaining proof of cheating.

221. bobfutrelle - November 16, 2010 at 06:49 am

Have the students write essays in class.

Than u find out wethur they cn wryte atall.

Has someone above discussed that? I give an essay-form quiz in class every week. Happens to be in a human-computer-interaction class, but it's an essay, none the same.

222. educationnet2007 - November 16, 2010 at 07:07 am

Talk about missing the point! Did it occur to the author that students can't get the help they need as long as they can hide successfully behind someone who is doing their work for them?

And, talk about missing another point. The author engaged in classic rationalization--hiding a bad motive (endorsing cheating by writing papers for students) behind a good motive (jawing about the awful state of education).

223. jwwbrennan - November 16, 2010 at 07:51 am

It seems the free flow of information has reduced it to a common commodity disconnected from its original meaning and purpose. It is taking on the attributes of clothing rather than resource. Is it still sufficient for evaluating capability? Shouldn't students have to demonstrate their knowledge as well as their ownership? This would undoubtly involve field work as a prerequisite for certification.

224. oscarmild - November 16, 2010 at 08:21 am

I think this is only the beginning. The real trouble/questions will emerge when one of these ghostwriters steps-up/is revealed as one whose "work" is published on peer-reviewed journals. I sense that we are not far from these times, if we haven't reached them slready. Then the whole academic institution will have to face some very serious - perhaps the most serious - questions. The fact that even now this doesn't sound too far-fetched (at least not in my eyes), is already a cause for concern.
My 2 cents.

225. chelen - November 16, 2010 at 08:34 am

Yes, Mr Dante is the "bad guy" as he describes it. I am in agreement with him though that we are responsible for his existence. Our ability to detect cheating students has been made obsolete ever since the internet came around. The students themselves realise that the chances of being caught are decreasing, and are thus more prone to do it. They are, after all, young, and want to do things the easiest, quickest way possible.

What I must question though, and I think I'm probably not the only one, is what the hell has gone wrong with our educational system that some students can't string a proper sentenc together without making a spelling mistake or ten?! (typo intended) Oh. What's that? The internet? Oh yeah...

226. whoschrishughes - November 16, 2010 at 09:07 am

sadly this does not surprise me. I recently got my bachelor's degree in Business Administration and have been noticing this more and more throughout my time at various colleges. I spent my freshman year at the University of Albany, which is where I was exposed to the wealthy NYC kids who would pay to purchase papers (typically from frat house storage), then went to a 2 year community college in Binghamton(where I did not experience this, perhaps because these students were not wealthy enough to pay), and then finally when I spent my last year and a half at Buffalo State College. It truly is sad to see what is happening to our school system and I feel that Gen Y is not helping ourselves out by doing this stuff.

I wonder how long it is going to be until professor's start to notice that the student who can't speak intelligently is writing a phenomenal research paper that's A worthy... oh well, I guess the benefit of a college education is getting closer and closer to being irrelevant.

In my opinion, you saw an opportunity and took it. That's what America is based on, it's the students faults for not preparing themselves for their own futures.

I'm glad to know that more people are being made aware of this,
Chris Hughes

227. lee77 - November 16, 2010 at 09:19 am

Utterly fascinating article and comments. I couldn't read them all - did someone already mention the irony of a ghost-written paper being graded by an outsourced entity? http://chronicle.com/article/Outsourced-Grading-With/64954/

228. oldfeminist - November 16, 2010 at 09:45 am

Ah, the smell of bigotry in the morning. Lookit those African-Americans who get special tutoring, and women having their husbands write their essays, while the poor white man has to make it on his rugged own!

No one has made mention of the tradition of fraternities having "angels" who "tutor" them -- why buy a paper, or pay someone to take your exam, when you can have someone do it for free?

Girlfriends often perform the same task.

The practice continues in business. Administrative assistants do an awful lot of executives' writing, and guess what genders are usually in play there? Wives often do the same for their husbands, if that's not an option.

Recent panic about women outdoing men in school and therefore maybe stealing the ball(s) was premature. Men get more money once they graduate, no matter how much better women are actually educated.

Not that women can't suck at writing. Nurses and teachers really do tend to be among the worst (audiology excepted, they tend to be among the best). Do undereducated nurses cause deaths? Certainly. If you can't read and write, you won't communicate effectively with nurses on other shifts, won't be able to understand the doctor's notes on treatment, and so on. Plus then there's the fact that they WON'T BE LEARNING WHAT THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO LEARN if they can't read.

And, while many bad writers are still good thinkers, learning to write effectively does help one become a better thinker. A person who can write a good term paper is more organized, more logical, more able to unearth information and evaluate it than the one who can't.

229. redaflygal - November 16, 2010 at 10:04 am

#49 asks "When will it collapse?" It has collapsed!
When I was a young girl of about 10 in the 1940s, I asked my father "Why are there no colored folk in my school?" He, with only a third grade education, responded, "There is no such thing as an educated slave." This has affected my entire life. A dumbed down society can be controlled. One of the first thing Hitler did when he came to power is to get ride of the intellectuals. That's you, folks! I'm over 70 and still taking classes and seminars most weeks. Education, education, education!

230. redaflygal - November 16, 2010 at 10:08 am

Sorry, so many typos. Guess I need to take a class in keyboarding!

#49 asks "When will it collapse?" It has collapsed!
When I was a young girl of about 10 in the 1940s, I asked my father, "Why are there no colored folk in my school?" He, with only a third grade education, responded, "There is no such thing as an educated slave." This has affected my entire life. A dumbed down society can be controlled. One of the first things Hitler did when he came to power was to get rid of the intellectuals. That's you, folks! I'm over 70 and still taking classes and seminars most weeks. Education, education, education!

(Did I get it right?!)

231. townsend_harris - November 16, 2010 at 10:10 am

@ stc1798
""proving....would be nearly impossible to prove" is an obvious error."
Obvious error? Be more optimistic, stc1798. Repetitive redundancies recurring are a comic's technique. Notforprofit is channeling Bob and Ray.

232. townsend_harris - November 16, 2010 at 10:18 am

@ oscarmild
"ghostwriters ... whose "work" is published on peer-reviewed journals"
Your warning is too late. Big pharma provisions ghostwriting services for medical school faculty too busy to research or write their papers.

233. didot - November 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

For-profit colleges knowingly admit students who are known to be deficient in written and spoken language skills, then expect them to write 75-page scholarly theses in perfect English. Sometimes there are well-funded learning support services for these students; many times, there are not.

I see this as an admissions issue. Either admit students who have a fighting chance at completing the program or opt to adapt your standards to screen those who can't cut the mustard. In the short term, your profits may suffer. It's a tough pill to swallow.

If you decide to admit those without "mustard-cutting" aptitude, then dramatically increased funding for learning support services is imperative. Your college's brand reputation (and long-term profits) will suffer otherwise, as these students continue to buy degrees.

234. shain - November 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

I dont really think it is fair to compare someones communication
skills outside of papers with the papers they submit to be graded,
because I write ~very~ bad. I use punctuation in ways it was not
designed, like that very. I dangle participles. I use words that do not fit. I dont capitalize very often. I often words in ways that are not very readable, or in ways that werent intended. I hate apostrophes. I abuse commas. I often choose wording to get around words I dont know how to spell, or more often, just live with the misspelling. I only marginally understand the difference between further and farther. I rarely separate my casual writing into paragraphs. Outside of papers, I never reread to make sure I wasnt typing too fast to mess up wording in some way. Due to length, I am willing to bet there are several sentences in
this that are not correct at all. However, I write very good papers. I was also employed while I was in the navy with a job much like this. One of the chiefs in my command, when I was in the navy was half literate, and he thought it was a good idea to give out writing assignments as punishment. I was his first victim. I was told to write a paper on how being punctual was key to mission success in the military. Realistically, it is not. You are always replacing someone who was already there, to complete the mission. I would say that reacting to emergencies quickly and efficiently is more important, but I painted a well written (my goal was to write above the reading level of the chief that assigned it) He figured I got someone to write it
for me, and want to embarrass me by having me read it in front of
everyone. I guess he though I wouldnt know some of the words. I did fine. Anyway he made the mistake of telling everyone how good the paper was in front of every (more than 200 people). I had a part time job from that moment on. The vast majority of everyone who got assigned one of these papers came to me for either editing (ok I suck at that) or for writing the entire paper. I charged 100 dollars a paper, and I know for a fact that everyone who hired me made small amounts of money. I was pretty amazed at how often I was asked to dumb it down. I do think that he has a point. I however, do not blame the education system. I realized that I contributed in their illiteracy. I know that they were put in a situation to be forced to learn, and helped them bypass it.

235. greenbobb - November 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

from Katypearce: "Last year I had an ESL student that obviously had her paper written for her. When I asked her about her topic or asked why she changed her topic so drastically from what we had discussed in office hours, she couldn't explain herself."

I had an english teacher who could easily say something similar about me. I drastically changed the topic of my paper, because what we had previously discussed was inane. I wrote every word of my paper and could have easily explained myself, but chose not to. "This assignment is a load of crap," probably would have caused me more trouble that just accepting a lousy grade for a genuine piece of work.

Katypearce, your case may very reasonably be different. I would caution anyone who has had similar suspicions, however, to be careful about the judgements they make.

236. acim5152 - November 16, 2010 at 10:39 am

Doctoral learner
~ heart breaking

237. georgehayes - November 16, 2010 at 10:43 am

To start off I have no degree at all in any subject. My back ground though is US Navy Nuclear RO, electronic industrial controls, electronic engineering and equipment engineering and computer information systems.

I have worked for a number of companies and entities and made often times more than engineers. I have had way to often the experience of someone coming out of college to work with me and having to train them how things really works.

My X wife is working on her masters in computer information systems. She came to me for help in a number of subjects. Each of which the professor was flat out wrong. It took writing the individual and explaining why for her to get her grade corrected. The professor in each case was going by the text book and didn't know the matterial well enough to catch the error on his own.

To me a college degree isn't worth the paper it is written on. Very few colleges I would accept a degree as proof of knowledge in all cases I would still test them.

I started reformeducationnow dot com recently to start drawing attention to the problems the education system in this country has.

238. shiplesp - November 16, 2010 at 10:45 am

I can imagine that there are, however, some TAs out there who are secretly grateful for ghost writers. If you've ever sat before a stack of 50 student essays that need comments by Tuesday, it's hard not to be thankful for even a handful that present their argument in an engaging, logical manner.

239. mdmd19 - November 16, 2010 at 10:56 am

Did the Chronicle actually pay the writer for this self-serving drek?

240. fleabiscuit - November 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

And they say there are no jobs for English majors.

241. graykitt - November 16, 2010 at 11:23 am

It's a little alarming that a person (georgehayes, above) who admits to having no experience with higher education is spearheading an education reform movement. That's yet another reason that Dante's essay is problematic: his "self-serving drek" (thanks, mdmd19) is emboldening a lot of critics who don't know much about the US's very complex university system. I get the impression from a few of these comments that some people are almost giddy to learn that there are plagiarists, professors who can't or won't catch them, etc.

242. not_a_typical_phd - November 16, 2010 at 11:24 am

I TA for a senior-level nutrition course, and I'm the official "grader" for the class. On several occasions with writing assignments, I explicitly wrote to one student that she should go to the writing center (or even see me for out-of-class tutoring) to receive help with subject/verb agreement, misspellings, grammar, etc. After about one month of reading fragments, excessive run-on sentences and just poor usage, I decided I was going to start taking points off for every egregious error I found.

Obviously my student didn't go to the writing center (or seek me out for help!), and I felt that penalizing her was the best way to get to her to notice her poor writing. (I remember my college journalism teacher explicitly saying that if she found one comma splice in our writing, we would automatically fail the assignment!!!!)

My student would easily pay for this essay service, and I'm finding out this senior just doesn't want to take the time to learn how to write well because she feels she can't learn how to write well. :(

My friend who is a colleague of mine in our PhD program asked me to tutor her in writing. I was surprised--seeing she had completed a Masters--that she wanted help in paper organization, use of transitions, formal language and usage, grammar, etc.

I tutored her for hours and hours until she got the confidence to believe she was a good writer.

Students need to believe they can learn how to write well. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone can write well, and we have to let our students make mistakes; however, we just can't correct the mistake thinking that's "teaching." We have to teach them how to be cognizant about their "bad" writing, so they can see in what areas they need improvement.

It needs to happen in grade school, in high school and in college...right now, students hate to write because they think they can't do it. We have to tell them, "Yeah, you can. You just need a little guidance."

243. trotts - November 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

As an engineering graduate from Ireland I have to say that I am surprised that the fact that Dante can pad papers to increase their length and have them accepted is not being considered as part of the issue. I have always wondered where the ridiculous arbitrary lengths come from with regards to writing essays, papers, etc.. 75 pages of what exactly? Why not simply give people the structure of the paper and to write a concise initial draft. Review the draft and highlight areas that require additional information or clarity again though in a concise manner.

People are currently rewarded for their ability to, for the lack of a better term, BS. Its part of the reason I choose engineering as there was little to no papers to be written. I always hated the fact that there was an expectation to repeat the same thing over again for no good reason and this is true even in Secondary Level education. Once people move outside the level they are comfortable writing at the quality will inevitable decline. I am unable to write pages and pages of drivel and therefore I choose not to. My final year project was 2/3 the length that was "required" yet it covered the work in its entirety and any attempt on my part to expand the content would have resulted in work that was less than stellar and I received a good grade for it.

Its similar to the concept of Data vs Information. You can have pages and pages of Data but only the subset of Information in that data is of use. My ability to determine and present the Information is what is important and from a reviewer's point of view I find it hard to believe they have the time or inclination to trawl through the constant rehashing of previous statements that seems to be par for the course.

244. warp0 - November 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

i are teahser fakulty in a univercity

i like a lott wen peple rite fansee floury ritins cuz I feal dem 2b reel good

i r hapie dis guy makes mor muny dan sum of my coleeges who techin luts of sytudents - shoz d amerikan sistem at wurk

bra voo my yung frind

245. sugarandeis - November 16, 2010 at 11:38 am

I have to chime in with agreement with greenbobb. I've always been a painfully shy student, and usually had difficulty articulating myself in classes because I had it in my head that every other student knew more about the topic being discussed than I did. This usually meant a lot of stuttering and small words, but in writing, I excelled.

When I was a sophomore, I turned in a carefully-crafted, three-paragraph proposal to one of my professors on the link between nationalism and religious fundamentalism. She came back with the accusation that it was plaigiarized, and insisted that I rewrite it (read: dumb it down). I was terribly hurt and upset, but of course I refused. I ended up having to drop the class and petition for a refund.

Educators need to be discriminating in such accusations. If too many people buy into the plaigiarism paranoia, you're going to drive the students who can actually write away from the very places where they are supposed to find intellectual stimulation.

246. tom65897 - November 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

This is an interesting account of how students cheat ... but it's easy to become overwhelmed by the details of his story and lose sight of the fact that it's merely another case of students who cheat and the people who help them. And that's been going on forever.

Cheating begins with poor parenting and poor role models. It's made worse by the emphasis on credentials within our society, which is an entirely rational way of dealing with large numbers of anonymous people.

Ultimately, these uneducated students will find jobs using their ill-gotten credentials; they will perform those jobs in a lackluster fashion; and their careers will be short-lived or disappointing.

A small proportion of these students will succeed in life ... but most would likely have succeeded in any event, due to hard work, native intelligence, connections, or dumb luck. So the paper mills aren't really making such a large impact as one might think.

Economists say "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." This isn't changed by the fact that our cheating students aren't aware of the principle or taken it to heart. There are very few shortcuts to an education ... other than cutting across the lawn on the way to class.

247. mblmbl - November 16, 2010 at 11:59 am

I'll be something like the 250th comment, which was the real point behind the author writing it and, unfortunately, the Chronicle printing it. Why don't the numbers add up? Why do we get the tantalizing "failed novelist" backstory? Why alternate taunting with assurances that the author doesn't care what we think? Why start by asserting that none of us know what pretty much all of us know, as though begging to be shouted down before he's even begun?

Because it's a troll. He's doing it for the lulz, as we say in the troll business. Well, he's also getting paid--but as ten seconds on any internet forum, including this page, will tell you, provoking a response is its own powerful reward, and the people who get addicted to the rush can be terrifyingly good at it.

Unfortunately, the Chronicle printed it because trolls are good for business. How many of the people reading this are here because of an e-mail or a facebook post? What if the Chronicle had done some investigative journalism (instead of reading a few e-mails and deciding Mr. Dante could be taken at face value)--what if they'd bought some papers, forged a few correspondences of their own, or interviewed a few Dantes face to face? It'd be a hell of an article, I bet, something that really would teach us things we didn't already know about the business of cheating. But it'd take time and effort and it wouldn't generate nearly as much traffic.

248. fleabiscuit - November 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

This interests me on a number of levels, not least of which is the author's chosen pseudonym. It's worth remembering that in Dante's hell, the damned are always unrepentant--they always blame someone else for their sins.

249. fleabiscuit - November 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

@#227: "Utterly fascinating article and comments. I couldn't read them all - did someone already mention the irony of a ghost-written paper being graded by an outsourced entity? http://chronicle.com/article/Outsourced-Grading-With/64954/"

Now we're talking. You pretend to write them, we pretend to grade them--a fair deal all around. As a reward, we give you a pretend degree, and the university pretends to pay us.

250. trotts - November 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm


I think you really hit the nail on the head there. Its one of my complaints with the college degree I received after working in industry for 6 years now. My course is a well respected Computer and Electronic Engineering course but I felt that it did little to prepare graduates for the realities of working in industry.

Academics are too far removed in most cases from the practical side of what they are teaching. The vast majority of the projects and classes that I took part in were too focused on abstract theory without tying it down to concrete practical applications. You definitely need to learn the theory but students will learn it far better and with greater understanding if you apply it to a number of varying real work scenario. Some of the good lecturers do this but not all and some lectures provide such low level examples that it makes it difficult to spot the applications in the real world where problems are not so clear cut or require a combination of theories to work.

Also I have felt that there was a need there to have cross discipline projects. Have TA's act as clients for project groups. Practice resource gathering, change requests, development and testing from the engineering/CS side, have the business students do up business plans, project management etc, marketing students to work on proposals for marketing it, or to "sell" it to a group of TA investors, Arts students maybe to handle the branding etc. This is not possible for all courses but it might be effective in those where it can be applied.

A useful skill for engineers is to have TA's present some unreasonable requirements ( either time or implementation) and have the engineers work on changing their mind, justifying their position, cutting features to improve the time etc., presenting alternative approaches. The amount of times I have had to do this and with a variety of customer types it can be essential to have the ability to say No in a manner that wont antagonise a customer.

Its these types of skills in communication and teamwork and handling change that will stand to them when they enter into industry as its the type of thing that they are going to get caught with eventually.

On top of all this when setting up courses for the year academia should really be looking for serious input from industry and I dont mean the management level alone. Senior, well respected developers who have worked on complex issues both successful and not who can highlight the pitfalls or processes that worked well.

And I went off on a tangent.

251. thunderingwind - November 16, 2010 at 12:33 pm

"A close consideration of the events which occurred in _Gym Class_ during the _Fire Drill_ demonstrate that _Sponge Bob_ had entered into a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define _meatloaf_ for decades to come."

I love MadLibs!!!!!!!

252. rmcmackin - November 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

@ tom65897

As a former educator, I must take offense at your premise that cheating begins with poor parenting. Often, the cheaters are the ones whose parents are involved with their education and have, intentionally or otherwise, placed pressure on their students to succeed (not necessarily a sign of poor or good parenting). Often times the students who truly have poor parents, i.e. drug addicts and abusive parents, do not care enough to cheat. That is the real shame.

253. thodekke - November 16, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Speaking as an undergraduate student who has to write in many of his classes, I'm confident in saying that I'm much more knowledgable than my writing sometimes suggests.

There are those who simply can't articulate thoughts on paper. When given an oral question, they can answer it and it sounds like a doctorate level thesis. Ask them to write a paper on it and they start sounding like a complete idiot.

I usually write pretty well. That being said, I've never had a class on writing style. In my entire student life, I've never once had a class teaching me *how* to write. I've gotten lessons on how my grammar should be, how I should spell, how I should research.

The seemingly hardest part of papers now, at least for most people that I know, is the transitions and big picture. We're taught for so long to put details in that we focus on said details and fail when it comes to the larger picture.

Whether that's the fault of the teacher, society, or the student, I wouldn't want to venture to guess. I can only speak for myself in saying that I would have loved an over-arching style class. Just once.

254. svirgula - November 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm

this article is so obviously contrived. you guys should be ashamed of yourselves.

255. rmcmackin - November 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm


I hate the Internet too (yes, you are supposed to capitalize it). Let's go back to covered wagons and telegraphs while we're at it.

256. enotheisen - November 16, 2010 at 01:03 pm

Mr Dante's work would be far more surprising had I not experienced this. I had a student in the 1980s who plagerized a government document. When I failed her for plagerism, she protested and I had to explain myself before my dean. In my hearing I presented earlier examples of the student's writing. I also presented the document the student used to write the offending paper. In the process of plagerizing she failed to note the author of the document. I was the author and, as a result, I got a steak dinner from my dean.

257. ampeditor - November 16, 2010 at 01:03 pm

For one thing, tying the assignment closely to classroom material doesn't pose the slightest problem for a competent academic ghostwriter. I've been writing these kinds of essays for years, and no matter how unique the professor thinks he or she thinks her assignment is, there is such a staggering lack of original thought anywhere in the ivory bunkers that any outsider with a facility for pattern recognition can pick it up and fake it.

In my own classes, I've had professors gloat, before collecting papers, about the kind of ghost-writing and plagiarism detection abilities some people above have mentioned, then cheerfully pass back the grades next class, completely unaware that I've written a third of them. Academia, especially the liberal arts, has become a repository for quasi-intellectual types with no marketable skills or actual talent, constructed solely for the purpose of giving themselves jobs.

As for the comments above disparagingly dismissing Dante's attempts at getting college credit for publishing a novel, it would be helpful to consider who the faculty of these institutions usually are, particularly in the liberal arts: frustrated people who failed at something else first. My own experiences have led me to the conclusion that higher education institutions don't know how to deal with people of ability because they don't actually have any on the payroll.

Case in point: the discussion between dougmerrill and others in these comments discussing the author's output and pay. Dante clearly said he can pump out 4 or 5 pages in an hour. That's not unreasonable, roughly corresponds to my production capacity. No math necessary. All it takes is the ability to read.

258. tejaspenguin - November 16, 2010 at 01:20 pm

I'm not sure what I found more interesting, the article itself of the comment section. As both an educator and consultant, I have recently run across one of these online, essay-mill companies. I was "recruited", for want of a better term, but when I discovered the nature of the business I declined to become involved. For me it simply was a matter of ethics. I could not in good conscience -- in any conscience -- participate in such a dishonest endeavor. End of story.

259. loupaun - November 16, 2010 at 01:35 pm

Who is responsible? Ultimately, the student himself -- if only because the final decision to cheat or not cheat rests with the student. Having said that, we must all acknowledge that the entire system, both educational and social, makes cheating easy and attractive.

As a former college teacher, I know a number of methods to sharply reduce cheating on papers, if not eliminate it entirely. Unfortunately, those methods are all extremely time- and labor-intensive. Perhaps tenure-track professors could devote that kind of time to teaching, but most college instructors are not in the tenure track. Teaching faculty are 40% to over 90% adjunct labor, depending on the institution. To stay above the poverty level, a self-supporting adjunct must teach five or six classes a semester, usually at several institutions. Nobody with this kind of workload can commit the kind of time necessary for preventing plagiarism.

As an adjunct with other means of support, I could commit the time, and I did. Here's what happened. In one case, I failed a student who had not turned in any work for the entire semester, including in-class work. The student appealed to the dean, who ordered me to accept all the student's papers the following semester. I refused, since I could not be sure the student had written the papers, and I was promptly fired. At another institution, students in writing classes were graded with a portfolio system. One of my students submitted a portfolio lacking several required elements, and was promptly failed by two outside readers as well as by me. The student appealed to the dean, who ordered me to sign off on a passing grade. When I refused, I lost that job, too. Unlike me, most instructors cannot afford to lose their jobs. When administrations value student tuition dollars far more than student learning, blatant cheating is a predictable result.

As a professional writer who often publishes online, I have naturally been approached with academic ghostwriting offers. I refuse -- partly on moral grounds, and partly because the pay is poor for the amount of work involved. There are far more lucrative and legitimate markets for ghostwritten work. Unfortunately, not every ghostwriter can find them, and academic ghostwriting jobs are always available.

As a parent, I frequently attend middle and high school competitions. I routinely see parents in the audience, textbooks open before them, paper and pencil in hand. They are doing their children's homework.

Who is to blame for cheating? We all are.

260. keis8427 - November 16, 2010 at 01:56 pm

Rock on #207! You said it much more eloquently than I did!

261. berkeleydude - November 16, 2010 at 02:20 pm

A little substitution of words helps us better understand the moral perspective here:

"But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many students prefer to cheat rather than do their own work?

Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason your students cheat."


"But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many husbands prefer to cheat rather than go home to their wives.

Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason your husbands cheat."

262. aphrab - November 16, 2010 at 02:21 pm

#256 enotheisen: Your story is the best! Sounds like it resulted in the best steak dinner ever!

263. justinconnell - November 16, 2010 at 02:22 pm

i think your fake and i dont like you

264. freeadjuncts - November 16, 2010 at 02:24 pm

Two reactions: I want a refund for my PhD that I slaved eight years over. How many papers would I have to write to pay off the 80K in student loans that are otherwise following me to my grave?

265. brianalbertsmith - November 16, 2010 at 02:29 pm

I can't help but feel as though we're all part of an experiment.

266. caityparker - November 16, 2010 at 02:34 pm

You are completely right! I am behind you 100%.

-Helping students cheat is not only effecting their future careers, this is effecting their academic skills. How will the student you help cheat for, ever succeed if you're behind the scenes producing everything that they do? I honestly don't know how you take these students' money, and spend it without feeling sorry. It's completely unethical and pathetic. I'd like to know who you really are, so I can give you my full opinion.

267. wall005 - November 16, 2010 at 02:34 pm

Helo. i ame sytudent thate hais aind taiken englis honores clases.i tink thate thias main is vary smert. He isn't the problem. Students that dont try are the problem. The students that don't try are the as students that rite likee thias. Now stop hitting this guy/women/peron/thing with all you have, and let him do the job that he went through college for.
noaw thanx 4 readaing thais comenat.

268. amazed - November 16, 2010 at 02:41 pm

The comments here are much more interesting than the article. I think I see how Paul felt at Mars Hill.

269. faywest - November 16, 2010 at 02:43 pm

I want to thank the Shadow Scholar for sharing his/her story. Like him/her, I went to college with big expectations. I was in the 98th percentile on standardized tests, earned a full scholarship plus stipend to my university of choice, and maintained a 3.98 GPA throughout.

At least until my name accidentally fell through the cracks. They changed the requirements for an Honors degree and failed to notify me and my advisor. The Honors Council never followed up when they didn't receive a new proposal from me. When I turned in my final project, they rejected it. Regardless of whether it was the university's mistake, they denied my honors degree and gave me an F in the Honors capstone requirement, which dropped my hard-won GPA to 3.79--1/10th of a point too low to graduate Summa Cum Laude.

One of my fellow students bragged about how she had paid for her Honors thesis. They accepted it without question because it fit the arbitrary guidelines.

I've always excelled at learning fast and writing stellar papers. I need additional income because I didn't get my dream job (they hired--you guessed it--an Honors student). Now I know where to get the additional income. Thanks again, Shadow Scholar.

270. its_bsmith - November 16, 2010 at 03:01 pm

What's really going on here?

271. lichtens - November 16, 2010 at 03:08 pm

No. 73: "We set our students a three hour exam at the end of term: one essay question, in an exam room with an adjudicator. It is typically worth 60 - 70% of their final mark."

How old-fashioned. Maybe there was a reason that approach lasted so long. It conforms with real life intellectual and practical tasks: here is an assignment; you have x hours to produce it as best you can.

272. 1meow - November 16, 2010 at 03:08 pm

One way to collect evidence of academic dishonesty: Make a copy of one page of the suspect paper. Go through it and ink out every 8th word or so. Have the student sit down and fill in the missing words. If they wrote it themselves, they will remember how most of the sentences should go, and it should take about 2 minutes.

I often ask a student why they chose a particular word or phrase, especially one that seems well beyond the reach of a student. The explanations are pretty creative. One caveat: ELLs often say they chose the word from a thesaurus, and they are probably telling the truth.

273. whitemidget - November 16, 2010 at 03:09 pm

First off, I resent the comment made regarding how Communications and Journalism are the P.E. majors of this age. It's trolling at its' finest, but I can't ignore it.

Secondly, I'm here to bring hope to some of you - once, during my undergrad, I wrote the entire year of English assignments for a friend, all based off of novels that I had read, and he had too. He had such a hard time explaining his ideas to me that I wrote "teacher-friendly" papers for him, based off of what I knew (I graduated with a 3.5 in English). The papers did well, he got mostly high grades on them, but he had such a hard time explaining his papers and writing in-class that he was caught and expelled for cheating. What's even sadder was that it was REMEDIAL ENGLISH.

Some people are just not meant for college, my friend realized that and he's doing much better now, as a cop. And some professors are starting to recognize that in their students.

274. alathea - November 16, 2010 at 03:20 pm

"...if we cannot find the material they plagarized..." JSteele-this isn't plagiarizing. Not that it makes it any more right, but there is no copying going on here-the student paid for the work, therefore it is the students work. They aren't recycling a paper. Subtle but important difference.

275. just_another_human - November 16, 2010 at 03:20 pm

@lisahoeffner and @caityparker

I'm a professional student--part of my job. I have taken plenty of Masters level courses, and in every single one of them I've found the majority can not write clearly, nor do they have critical thinking skills. Yet somehow they got a Bachelors Degree. How did that happen? How did they graduate from high school? How did they even make it out of middle school? Why don't you look honestly at education in America. Dante is NOT the problem, it's educators who continue to pass people who should fail. It's our emphasis on the all important "degree" that somehow gives you all some kind of badge that certifies, like the scarecrow in the wizard of Oz, that you've got a brain. Well, I hate to tell you but I've taken courses with plenty of professors who can't write either.

Look at professors who grade on a curve! What are they actually grading? It certainly isn't how well students met the objectives of the course, if the instructor even knows what they are.

Be honest with yourselves, and stop blaming Dante. The educational system is broken. That's just a fact. I see it everyday, every single day, and frankly it depresses me. The absolute level of incompetency in education is frightening, and frightening because it makes me wonder what the graduates of nursing programs are like, or physical therapy programs.

I really don't think it will change either, especially when you blame people like Dante. You've got it backwards: the system doesn't stink because of Dante, he is able to make a living because our system stinks!

Everybody knows we are graduating illiterate students. If you've ever passed someone who should've failed (whether you are a teacher, a principle, a Dean, or a professor, or a Provost) then you are the problem, not Dante. If your students didn't meet the course objectives, and most of them would've failed, so you curved the grades, then you are the problem, not Dante.

He's telling us something we need to hear, and we should be glad he's telling us. Even if the story above is a piece of Creative Nonfiction, it's truth is what's important and it is that truth we need to hear. If we don't do anything but complain about Dante, then we are the problem, not Dante.

276. chubby12 - November 16, 2010 at 03:21 pm

Those who author papers for students are missing a golden opportunity. They should keep documentation for each paper that they write and who it was written for. When one of their clients becomes very successful, they could threaten to expose them if they do not send more money.

Students who take advantage of paying others to write their papers are taking a risk of being blackmailed later in life.

277. p_s_nym - November 16, 2010 at 03:30 pm

To all the doubters out here, I do not think Ed Dante's account is even slightly exaggerated.

Want to know why? I do the same thing.

I work for an internet company (while doing my day job as a librarian! Unfettered access to library materials is a great boon, and I can kill two birds with one stone) which I know for a fact has several hundred active writers--at least.

Don't believe me? Check out www.academia-research.com Yep, that's the one. My writer number is five digits long, which means there are a lot of people who have, at least, signed up for the site as writers.

In regards to people suggesting tracking student information, that's usually not possible. The industry built up around this is--ironically--fairly secure. Not out of ethics, obviously. But they know that if they give student information out, there's a risk the student will get found out and not use their services again.

So, Ed, here's to business, eh?

278. lifeislife - November 16, 2010 at 03:42 pm

Skaking, regarding this statement you made: "I wonder if Mr Dante gets a lower relative number of requests from students at schools where there are no grades, or graded pass/fail". Is there any evidence that students at these institutions LEARN more? They may have less need to be unethical, but that won't make them less lazy.

279. anonscribe - November 16, 2010 at 04:01 pm

209. bitin - "I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology..."

Apparently, cognitive science, pharmacology, and accounting don't count as dings against STEM. I could point out the ignorance of your position, but you misspelled "biophisicist," so I won't bother.

Can't we get past this unproductive STEM, social science, humanities rivalry already?

280. iloveaparade - November 16, 2010 at 04:08 pm

Sounds like a lot of people don't like the idea of being taken for a ride...

u mad?

281. hassoun - November 16, 2010 at 04:29 pm

This man is a criminal. Are we to believe he is really going out of business? He has deluded himself into thinking he is helping these students and he justifies his criminality by blaming the academy. Academics does need to address the ways in which it is failing foreign students and those without adequate writing skills.But this man could just as easily opened a legitimate business teaching students how to write their own papers (a much harder task that pays less) but he did not. His services are part of the problem.
Note to students: "What goes around, comes around". If you cheat today, even if you are not caught now, it will catch up with you in the end.

282. lioninfall - November 16, 2010 at 04:30 pm

What I find sad is my belief the individuals who have earned degrees in this manner will never pay for their misdeeds. In corporate America too many of the managers have gotten their leg up by doing this exact same thing. The writer is correct when he says that some of the cheaters have come out of this with real world experience. Success is often achieved by stepping on the back of your betters, and these students learned the lesson at an earlier age than others will.

283. neutral - November 16, 2010 at 04:37 pm

There are three problems with the writer's example of one of his "stock academic phrases": "That" should be used instead of "which" (because the clause is restrictive); "consideration" should agree with "demonstrate"; and the redundant "into" should be deleted.

"A close consideration of the events which [read THAT] occurred in ____ during the ____ demonstrate [read DEMONSTRATES] that ____ had entered into [delete INTO] a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define ____ for decades to come."

But these errors might have been part of his attempt to mimic the writing style of the average student.

284. just_another_human - November 16, 2010 at 04:40 pm

@hassoun He isn't deluding himself. He doesn't claim to do this to help students. You read that into what he'd written; it is not there. You say he should open a business that teaches students how to write--ha! isn't that what schools are???

285. alathea - November 16, 2010 at 05:17 pm

Bernardine-what is the point of your post and challenge? You obviously are not the type of instructor that the writer is criticizing. Your challenge is the equivalent of telling him, the inventor of a plane, that it would never fly. Your proof of the superiority of your idea is that you would chop the wings off the fuselage and then burn all of it.

286. csmith23 - November 16, 2010 at 05:18 pm

I am not impressed. Anyone could write a sociology, business or psychology graduate thesis. Students are just lazy.

287. cassamandra - November 16, 2010 at 05:21 pm

What's with the handwringing? There are exactly two guilty parties here: the students who cheat and the guy who cheats for them. Blaming the faculty for cheaters is like blaming home-owners for burglars. A thief is a thief, a cheat is a cheat, and "Dante" may be directly responsible for future nurses killing future patients.

288. lethalfang - November 16, 2010 at 05:40 pm

We all know it's happening and we all know that it is quite common. This is just the first time we've actually heard it from the person who has done the actual writing.

289. martinredford - November 16, 2010 at 05:56 pm

I do not know if whether we should consider the writer of this article as equally guilty for providing a service. What I do now is that he came forward and brought the spotlight on it. I hope it really does change something the way people are being educated now-a-days.

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290. ronmexicosherp - November 16, 2010 at 06:08 pm

And this is why the only degrees worth anything are in the hard sciences or engineering (not because Dante writes them, but that he can by reading a few wikipedia pages and amazon book reviews).

291. jrdixey - November 16, 2010 at 06:14 pm

The surprising thing about this article, to me, was the level of denial evident in some of the comments. Yes, this happens. A few months ago, I discovered that an online "question answering" service, which employs hundreds if not thousands of online experts, many of them in India, to answer questions on specialist topics, also has a category specifically for "writing help" just like that provided by the author of this piece. I don't condone the author, and agree with some commenters that the societal price of this kind of cheating is much steeper than the couple of grand furnished to him by the author's clients. But to deny that it happens at all, much less allege that this piece must be fiction, is to deny the reality of the impact of the Internet on our educational system. (And I'm in the educational technology business, so this is not a Luddite speaking: just a realist.) Sadly, those instructors in face-to-face classes who insist that students sit down in class to do their writing are probably the only ones immune to this kind of cheating.

292. tolerantly - November 16, 2010 at 06:23 pm

This is happening because you guys are effin greedy. Yes, you.

You thought someone owed you a living as an intellectual. Salary, benefits, tenure, prestige. You ran right into graduate school, thinking that when you got out, you'd be right up there educating away and doing your lovely research and strolling across the sun-dappled campus. But in order for this to happen, you needed bodies. Students. Tuition-payers. And it had to be necessary for them to show up and pay.

So when your wonderful administrators managed to sell employers on nonsense degrees, and impress upon them how crucial the BA and MA were, you uttered not a peep.

Now it's necessary -- or people believe it's necessary -- to have the degree. Are they interested in scholarship, no, of course not. They're interested in making a living. And they understand that to get from A to B they need to pay the tuition and collect the grades.

You are now caught in this machine, and you're shocked -- shocked! -- that it works exactly the way it was set up to work.

Good for Ed for making a buck. He's no worse than you are, and the whole story supports my contention that my kid's better off lying on her resume than going deep in debt for a BA.

In the meantime, if someone actually wants to learn, this is just as possible as it always was, thanks (and this is serious gratitude) to libraries, librarians, and the tech monkeys who make the internet work.

293. punctum - November 16, 2010 at 06:39 pm

The element that nobody here seems to address is that a large number of jobs these days require advanced degrees to be hired but then promptly don't expect you to use any of the skills acquired in school to perform the job. Take the Tweets and emails of many senators, including with law degrees. Or CEOs. Some just refuse to use email because they sound like idiots in it. These leaders are very similar to the student emailer. Most senior managers I've met can't write to save themselves, but it doesn't mean that somehow they're incompetent. Writing is just not that useful of a skill these days (Powerpoint, anyone?), and our expectations around education haven't adjusted. If you get to the corporate world and are a prig about grammer or writing, you get nowhere. Get over it.

294. tolerantly - November 16, 2010 at 06:50 pm

"If you get to the corporate world and are a prig about grammer or writing, you get nowhere."

You're dead wrong. But you still don't need college at $25K+ p.a. in order to learn to write. Not if you're actually interested in doing it.

295. philosophy - November 16, 2010 at 06:51 pm

Too many comments to read through them, but a large part of the problem is the somewhat recent (30 yrs?) emphasis on quantity, and the economic pressures that support that emphasis: bigger classes, more harassed adjuncts, grade inflation, emphasis on research productivity instead of teaching, etc. Small classes taught by full-timers who see teaching as their primary job would go a long way toward solving the problems. I'm lucky - small undergraduate-only classes (never over 35, usually 20 or a bit less), no pressure for publication (I did enough awhile back), and a love of interacting with students. So for all papers (my courses usually are designated "writing-intensive" and meet gened comp requirements), student have to come by for a conference on their first drafts, bring along the sources they use (books, pdf files, URLs), and I can ask them, eg.: how did you find this source? What have you learned from it? How does it relate to your paper's thesis? Why do you think it is a worthwhile source? Do you find it trustworthy? Why? Why did you organize your draft this way instead of that way? Etc. Then in the light of conference revelations, they have to revise the paper - and later turn in both the revision and the first draft with my scribbled comments and recommendations. If there are serious problems with grammer, sentence structure, etc., I send the students to the writing center and require that they turn in, with their final draft, the writing center consultant's report on their conference.

Maybe I'm naive, but I seriously doubt that a Dante paper could survive this process undiscovered. Or if it did, the student would still have learned a good bit about writing a paper.

Where do I find time for such conferences on every paper? Easy - I cancel classes for a day or two and have students sign up for conferences on the cancelled-class days. The conferences are more pedagogocally effective than anything I might have done by having class meetings.

296. svirgula - November 16, 2010 at 07:20 pm

297. svirgula - November 16, 2010 at 07:20 pm


298. citrate - November 16, 2010 at 07:25 pm

As a recently graduated student, I agree with the larger meme of Mr. Dante's agrument; Universities are no-longer mecca's of knowledge but profiteering clearing-houses for certification. Any motivated individual could learn an equivalent university education from the internet.

Even then, why should they bother paying to put themselves through an inbred ineffective and outdated system? Dr. Dante's essay merely shines a light on an outgrowth of this tumor.

299. psychohistorian - November 16, 2010 at 07:45 pm

This is not a hard problem to fix, if you really want to fix it, for in-person schools. Have in-class exams that are sufficiently important that you can fail someone for being illiterate. No, you can't stop every single person from cheating, but you can make it very, very difficult to cheat. Or give them an at-home exam: Release the assignment via email or course website, give them 4-6 hours to finish it, and have them email it in and submit it to a plagiarism checking site. It seems like it'd be very hard (not to mention expensive) to contract with someone to write such an exam for you. This problem is hard to solve, but you can prevent incompetent students from graduating pretty cheaply, if you want to. Of course, not many people want to, except the competent students, and they have no say in the matter.

As for the "No harm, no foul." Every person with a college degree who is incompetent devalues college degrees. One of the primary purposes of a college degree is to signal ability. If you give them out to people who can't write a complete paragraph, they no longer accomplish that.

As for whether the system is failing them, it might be, but that's no excuse. $2000 would probably buy you 100 hours - that's about a full college course, maybe more - with a private tutor. Maybe more, if you go through the University's resources. If these people had to learn how to write a decent paper or actually fail out of school, I bet a lot of them could manage to do the former. And if they can't, they shouldn't be there anyway.

300. erinys - November 16, 2010 at 07:55 pm

I appreciate the article and its publication, just as I appreciate it when any criminal chooses to write a confessional about his or her criminal activities. As a student who has always done her own work, a teacher who has always tried to engage the students and grade them fairly, and as a woman who has never attempted to cheat in ANY system that requires honor to function properly...I have absolutely no sympathy for the author, his clients, or his agency.

This article has the exact same moral weight and worth as an opinion piece written by a assassin who works for a Murder, Inc. institution and is typically hired by men to kill their wives for insurance. If such a person then steps forward to give his views as a marriage counselor and claims that these women have it coming because they can't keep a man happy? Hey, guess what--someone's missing the point, and it isn't his victims.

We're dealing with a corrupt, amoral sociopath who profits by serving the needs of other corrupt, amoral sociopaths who believe that rules do not apply to them. Period. No one is to blame for his behavior but him, and no one is to blame his clients' behavior but them. The fact that he believes it is someone else's job to stop him, catch him or somehow magically teach his repulsive clients to be decent human beings is just sickening. Yay, you're yet another cretin who does evil for money. Wow, how amazingly different and special you are because you do your evil with a keyboard rather than an oil-drilling rig or a gun. Not.

301. boing3887 - November 16, 2010 at 08:15 pm

I believe with comments by "erinys."

Calling Ed Dante a "sociopath" does a disservice to people who're actual sociopaths and who've worked hard for that label by killing and stealing.

Look, we learn in the social sciences, whether it be political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, history, etc., that simply calling people "evil" or "lazy" doesn't explain much.

Economics talks about incentives. Sociology about "strains." I don't know the terms for poli sci. But the point is, the educational system is obviously not doing its job. There are structural defects, obviously. But pointing to defective individuals as the source of all our problems is like saying "poverty is because of all those lazy people" or "crime is because of all those BAD people."

302. mnemko - November 16, 2010 at 08:16 pm

If professors made term papers, theses, etc. of greater learning value to the students, many more students would write them rather than pay someone else to write them in their name. After all, few students hire others to do their fieldwork or internship. For example, rather than asking students to write about the significance of the doppelganger in 18th century literature, why not ask them to interview ten people about how they managed to use their liberal arts education to improve their lives?"

Speaking of academic fraud, I know a total of two people who went to the nation's most selective institution: Yale Law School. Both got in dishonestly. One wrote an admission essay claiming her father was a terrible sexist pig and she had to fight to conquer that. In fact, her father was a full-fledged feminist. The other student claimed to be Native American, when in fact, she was not.

303. mnemko - November 16, 2010 at 08:18 pm

If professors made term papers, theses, etc. of greater learning value to the students, many more students would write them rather than pay someone else to write them in their name. After all, few students hire others to do their fieldwork or internship. For example, rather than asking students to write about the significance of the doppelganger in 18th century literature, why not ask them to interview ten people about how they managed to use their liberal arts education to improve their lives?"

Speaking of academic fraud, I know two people who went to Yale Law School. Both got in dishonestly. One wrote an admission essay claiming her father was a terrible sexist pig and she had to fight to conquer that. In fact, her father was a full-fledged feminist. The other student claimed to be Native American, when in fact, she was not.

304. persefone - November 16, 2010 at 08:57 pm

In addition to the prexisting examples of illiterate students there are other problems in our education model. Our university standards or (SOP) and the associated staff and teachers often fall short, needlessly loose students like this writer. How? By insisting on the host of absurd, uninspiring assignments that amount to little more than busy work when all is said and done. If you want to produce literate, articulate, honest , graduates who write well and never resort to academic dishonesty then you too must make some effort and consider the following:
1. Hire real faculty instead of using and exploiting adjuncts.
2. Eliminate meaningless 'papers' that students dread writing and teachers hate reading and grading.
3. Include in class presentations with major written assignments so students can develop a well rounded, experienced communication skillset so he may easily share his/her own ideas and work with others.
4. Teachers hate grading so each week why not have a group of students write their own ideas on the board and ask for peer review and comments? This is meaningful, saves you from hours of grading papers, gives a realistic instant sample of students writing skill so you can assess and evaluate and record grades in your classroom.

305. persefone - November 16, 2010 at 09:14 pm

Maybe teachers might consider a cooperative collaborative model instead of the inflexible, self absorbed dictatorships that discount everyone.
Consider how you appear from your student's perspective.

Especially you teachers who demand devotion while refusing to consider or even address the questions and comments from your unfortunate devotees. You demonstate the haughty disconnect from reality that discredits your profession in the eyes of the public. How can you teach anyone anything valuable from your dreamlike womb of academic elitism and profesorial power trips?

306. jgustar - November 16, 2010 at 09:33 pm

I am an English Prof at a midsize university and I have seen Mr. Dante's work from time to time. He is good at what he does. I assign my students two take home essays and two inclass writing assignments per semester. I have about 100 undergraduate students per semester. About 20% of these are really in need of serious work; I help all of these students by meeting with them regularly to improve their writing. I know exactly what this 20% is capable of by the time they submit their major essay. Usually, with my help and that of the writing centre, their work improves 10-15 grade points. That turns a 40% into a 55%, a 60% into a 70. Pretty good results. Unfortunately, a student passes the class with 50%, which doesn't mean he/she is extremely articulate; it means, he/she has met the minimum requirements of the course.

Then there are the 60% who are getting B-range grades. Mr. Dante could be writing some of these. But I don't know where these students are getting the money, so I doubt it. Maybe a couple. Let me be generous and say 5.

Then there are the A-range students. Interestingly, I see more of them than the strugglers. They are deeply invested in their success. I know what they think, how they think, where they found their sources, what sentence structures they prefer. They (uninvited)run drafts by me just to make sure of their success. Some of them sit outside my office for a chance to pass an idea by me. If they are investing in Mr. Dante's services, it will haunt them their entire lives.

As to graduate students: not bloody likely. We work too closely together. I see their comprehensive exams, their field exams, every draft of a chapter. It's a pain, but someone has to do it.

So I say: big deal Mr. Dante. A mere 5% of my students at most are using your services. What problems that will cause for them in life are the problems (and successes) endured by cheaters everywhere. If they did buy an essay from you, it was a waste of their money. I feel sad for them, just as I do for all people who have no self-respect and so little confidence in their own abilities.

But still, something plagues me. Those 5 students, are they buying essays for all their classes. That's, let me see, 20 essays per year. Could they really afford you for 2 essays a term, for 5 courses a term? Heavens! Not my students. They haven't the money, nor do their parents.

So you keep on helping those privileged rich kids stay rich without learning a damn thing, by reinforcing the one thing they already know: money begets money and you can buy your success. I'm happy helping those not so "privileged" to learn something at university.

You think you are getting away with something. However busy you are, your cheatin' heart represents only a fraction of the many who do the work they're assigned and, at the end of the day, they feel very very proud of their accomplishments. You may have written a few masters' theses in your time, Mr. Dante, but you haven't the heart or integrity of a real student, and you haven't learned a damn thing doing them.

Do we fail our students? Yes, for all kinds of reasons, some of which are entirely beyond our control. Do you conspire to fail those students you purport to help? You do, Mr. Dante, by enabling them to learn but one lesson during their time at the university. I leave it up to you to decide just what it is you contribute to their education.

307. frankl23 - November 16, 2010 at 10:29 pm

all of this is good motivation for my children to do math or engineering undergraduate degrees before doing whatever they wish thereafter (either career or educationally) - wow, what a morass!!!

308. billyjaxin - November 16, 2010 at 10:41 pm

I am not an educator but the solution seems evident to me. MOst us us don't smuggle goods through the border even though most of us are not searched. Random checks are sufficient if the penalties are severe enough.
A random sampling of students could be required to sit down in front of the instructor and add several paragraphs to the paper. On the instructors judgement, the edited paper could be submitted for forensic style analysis, without identifying the added section.
Cheating students should be removed for the remainder of the term. They should probably be removed from the institution, but we all know that won`t happen. Falsified education is a serious disservice to society, and the universities have a responsibility to end it.

309. soandsew - November 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Points of interest that aren't as much commented on:

#1 Filler. Why are stock paragraphs, and paragraphs spun into pages not only tolerated but encouraged? This killed my interest in liberal arts. Furthermore, encouraging this sort of writing is not preparing professionals for future employment, it's hurting them.

This nicely segues into point #2: Many of these cheating students are not hurting themselves in their future employment. These classes often have no value outside academia. The vast majority of effective corporate communication boils down to emails, the shorter and sweeter the better.

#3 If this google-flipping fraud is truly indistinguishable from PHD level research and discussion, what a job skill! Universities could educate all their students so that they could write papers on any subject. These paper writers remind me of the old google answers service, which was staffed by such people, able to capably produce answers on any discipline, industry, etc.

If you want to stop the system from rewarding cheating, a simple mechanical solution is to require that students record themselves writing and researching it via a webcam. Laptops and cameras are cheaper than even a single textbook. The better solution is to step back and re-think why such a large volume of generic writing is required of students... if you can't distinguish good student writing from piles of never-edited dreck, what are you really teaching?

310. afprj - November 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Sorry, I am suspicious of this story.

Why would this person, a pure mercenary (not that there is anything wrong with that), take the time and trouble to write such a nicely crafted account for the Chronicle's readership? For free? For our enlightenment and instruction? I think this is a fictional account in the particulars though I totally believe the general situation as described.

311. boing3887 - November 16, 2010 at 11:28 pm

whoops, i meant "I disagree with 'erinys' "

312. qwertyfool - November 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm

You guys are busy assessing blame in all the wrong areas. You don't seem to understand that the students that are arriving in your classrooms are conditioned in the world they live in. The projects of papers, and writing long and reasoned arguements are not of their world. Their world consists of text messaging as a main form of communication. Basically the writing that you are requiring of them was needed prior to the 21st century for people to communicate in relavent ways. To give an analogy. In an English speaking world, you want them to learn Latin.

A few of the comments have suggested that the education direction follows the money. Two days ago, the tech world was buzzing about the impending anouncement by Facebook and its supposed Gmail killer. Well, that anouncement has come and gone and it turns out Facebook isn't interested in killing Gmail by creating its own email system. Facebook, in all its wisdom, has decided that email is going the way of the Dodo bird and that text messaging is the future. If education is going to follow the money, then it better get a grip on text messaging, because half a billion people and their money are going the way of text messaging.

But I am not only saying that text messaging is the future, I'm saying, our technology is starting to free us from our writing only forms of communication. I don't know where it is going, but we definitely need to teach it and guide it. In other words, your students are trying to teach you something, maybe it is time you started to learn.

I case you think that my above statements disprove my point of not having to write in long and reasoned arguements to communicate with you. I submit that this comment has gone through a Moderator to make sure I did not say something bad about graykitt personnelly. The Moderator doesn't exist between you and your students in your classroom; unless the student employs him.

313. miina - November 16, 2010 at 11:50 pm

As a high school student, I see how tempting it would be to use such a service. The grades at my school are skewed to the higher end of the scale, and many of the students, myself included, would be crushed at anything lower than a B. We're all so fixated on getting into good colleges that it's the letter grade, not the material learned, that we care about. Really, today in AP English , I heard more cries of "I got a C on the essay" than "I don't understand Pride and Prejudice." (Granted, this was an in-class essay, so a paper mill wouldn't have helped.)I know I was more shaken by my uncharacteristically low grade than the fact that I totally misread the passage.

I know cheating isn't a good thing, and I know that plagiarism is grounds for expulsion for my school. I know that it's better to not care so much about grades and learn for the sake of learning. But still, Mr. Dante's paper mill sounds quite tempting.

314. liyhann - November 17, 2010 at 12:14 am

Still when she got the job, Little Miss Masters Degree in English, displayed her true abilities. When we would correct her English, "haha," she'd just laugh. They had to let her go after a few months. She couldn't write intelligibly and we weren't willing to teach her. We had our own jobs to do.

315. boing3887 - November 17, 2010 at 12:15 am

I think that one thing that is left out of the discussion is that the roots of this problem go beyond college and even beyond high school. The U.S. government spends very little on children - whether it be healthcare or education. So we're not going to give 4-6-year-olds decent attention and care and then we expect them to be competent students in high school? It's too late by then!

Blaming administrators, professors, students or ghost writers alone (though they all deserve a share of blame) is to look only at proximate causes. The ultimate cause is that the American social system does not do enough to support families and children except for moralizing exhortations to "respect marriage and families" and adhere to "traditional family values."

Well, if daddy doesn't have a job and mommy has to work then divorce becomes much more likely and the child is still neglected.

Perhaps we should learn a bit from the past. Like, gee, the period when American education - both lower and higher education - was the envy of the world also coincided with high levels of government investment in education.

316. danieljbmitchell - November 17, 2010 at 12:17 am

This kind of thing is not new and not dependent on the Internet. Here is a radio broadcast from Feb. 1972 on the same activity:

317. abgrund - November 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

This Dante guy has my dream job! I wish I'd gotten into that profession before wasting four years and forty thousand on what is (presumably facetiously) referred to as "education".

318. ucsdprof - November 17, 2010 at 12:21 am

This article has a false ring to it, but even if I were to believe every word of it, I find it to be utterly nonthreatening. First, why does it seem false? I found that Mr. Dante seemed a bit too eager to horrify us gullible academics with examples of his clients' terrible grammar and spelling. "Mai porfessir was foolled it's grate now i am a medikul dokter and with ur halp soon i'm will be performaning brane surgiree." Yuh, I believe that.

But even if we accept everything Mr. Dante has written as the gospel truth, it still strikes me as a big yawn. Why? Because Mr. Dante does specialty work to order. By his own admission he has written "over 5,000 pages of scholarly literature" during the past year. If we assume the average length of a paper is 5 pages, then Mr. Dante abets about 1,000 cases of academic dishonesty per year. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there were over 18 million college and university students in the U.S. in 2007. Even if we assume there are a thousand Mr. Dantes out there, this would amount to about a million cases of cheating annually, or about 6% of all such students nationwide. If, as the NYT has found, about 60% of students have admitted to some form of cheating, Mr. Dante and his ilk account for an relatively insignificant fraction of it.

Again, the Dantes of the world can't have too much of an impact, because they are performing work made to order. What is of vastly greater concern is the existence of online essay repositories, which solicit contributions from the larger pool of students themselves, and which can sell the same essay to dozens of students nationwide year after year. But this is precisely where various plagiarism checkers like turnitin.com can be useful.

I'm a physicist and my students take in-class exams where they have to do detailed calculations which don't have numerical answers (they have algebraic ones). I'm sure my colleagues in the History and Literature departments have more to worry about in this regard (and also my colleagues who teach lower division physics - I generally teach at the upper division and graduate level). It's surely galling that it is the wealthier students who have the resources to take advantage of services provided by the likes of Mr. Dante, but when one considers the absolute numbers, using data provided by Mr. Dante himself, he and his kind don't seem to constitute a serious threat to academic integrity.

319. alice2010 - November 17, 2010 at 12:24 am

"Ed Dante" and others like him are part of the probelm and should be ashamed of themselves. Miina, I took AP English and AP Lit in high school, so I know what you mean. Why can't good grades and learning be equally important? It seems like one reflects the other.

I think postsecondary educators are afraid to catch their students cheating because of the all-mighty budget. In terms of colleges of education, they are too forgiving and need to lay down the law.

I hope one day an exit exam is implemented for every subject for every degree level that a student must pass to graduate.

320. websta - November 17, 2010 at 01:06 am

So much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Mr. Dante is a fine writer. I hope his next job helps him sleep better at nights. I appreciate his candor.

In the meantime, he has given us numerous hints about how to combat cheating:

1. Give a damn.

2. Have in-class essay writing sessions. Grade accordingly.

3. Have [tech support/some startup/Google] create a long-term database into which all papers are scanned-in/input, with OCR software creating large databases of student essays.

As Dante points out, writers can't help but use similar phrasing from time to time. How difficult would it be to flag phrases such as "A close consideration of the events which occurred in...?" Challenging? Perhaps. Impossible? No. Coincidental similarities would be borne out among their peers and false positives eliminated.

If -- at any point in the future -- a student's papers appear to match prior and future papers from other students, then their degree is rescinded or flagged.

The prospect of having one's degree taken away at some point in the future would put an end to these services, and serve as a warning to future cheaters.

The central problem is in the final sentence; there currently is no possibility of future problems once a degree is awarded. That needs to stop, and with it, cheating will (largely) end.

321. cheatedbyeducation - November 17, 2010 at 01:25 am

The content of what "educators" are posting on this comment section is much more shocking than the article or the claims it made. To defend any nation wide institution (education or otherwise)wholeheartedly as being flawless in structural design is asinine and not even worth explaining why. If you can't recognize that there are flaws, then the best for all involved would be to stay ignorant and not worry yourself with a problem you feel to be nonexistent or perpetuated purely by something beyond any one's control.

That said, if people believe that there is something wrong but the situation could be improved, why not use such a forum as this as a way to trade knowledge and ideas to help solve the problem?
It is the fact that this needs to be brought up at all that makes this comment section a perfect example of what is wrong with the education system, from kindergarten to graduate studies. Not by any means all posts, but a vast majority, have said one of three things.

Option 1:"it's the system's fault"
Option 2:"it's the paper mill's fault."
Option 3:"it's the fault of no one, so it can't be fixed"

The point of education should be to equip students with what they need to overcome whatever task may arise from within whatever field is being taught. How can we provide that for others if we can not do it for ourselves? The fact remains that not only we aren't doing it for ourselves, but it doesn't even enter our minds as an option.

Also, before I am discredited purely because of my name, I am an education major due entirely to how poorly the system works. In the past teachers took their jobs because they wanted to simply teach children. Sadly, as those of you involved in running an education program already now, my generation wants to become educators to give children the tools and hope for the future that was never given to us, most likely due to a lack of taking responsibility and just plain educating.

Plain and simple, stop being an ordinary person and worrying that your getting blamed, instead, be an educator.

322. fillyjonk - November 17, 2010 at 02:28 am

Dante seems to think we don't know when a student has bought an essay from him. The hell we don't. The problem is, the university doesn't really want us to do anything about it.

Yes, I know, every place has a code of conduct, and a set of byzantine procedures for when a student is cheating, but as anyone who has ever prosecuted a case of academic dishonesty knows, the ratio of lip service to actual action in these cases is minimal. Straightforward cheating, plagiarism as detected by Turnitin little red flags - those the institution has pretty much no choice but to penalise, but in the UK at least, the paperwork, the appeals, the hearings, the successive lists of penalties, all start to seem designed to persuade the academic to simply ignore the evidence in front of him and let the student through - and that's before the abusive emails, rude notices stuck to the door and the threats of lawsuits from the students start. Oh, and you have to go through this at least THREE times with one student before the university will even consider expelling them.

And that's just when the evidence is incontrovertibly down in black and white. When one of Mr Dante's essays or dissertations crosses my desk, and I KNOW the student didn't write it, I have to organise a committtee of fellow academics to interrogate the student on their sources, their process, and their conclusions. This takes hours, and as I was informed last spring (although inadvertently), is essentially pointless, because even if the panel of academics all agrees that the student hasn't the slightest clue what we are asking him, if he continues to insist that he wrote every word himself, the university panel will accept his word (and most importantly, his tuition fees) over that of the academics who supposedly know what we're doing.

And then, to top it all off, I get asked in my annual review what I am doing wrong because so many of my students are being caught cheating. I get told that this reflects badly on the department, and that I need to make sure it stops. Since once again, admission requirements for my programmes are being lowered in order to increase student numbers (just call us the university of bums-on-seats), you pay someone to do the maths for you.

So this year, Mr Dante, I suggest you simply email your work directly to me, and I'll give you my feedback directly(you seem like an intelligent man who might actually read and get some use from the feedback I write so carefully - god alone knows the students never do), and we can just mail the diplomas to the kiddoes who won't even have to get out of bed for them. Deal?

323. incompetenceftl - November 17, 2010 at 03:11 am

"[w]riting is a huge necessity in academia and the professional world... proving that a student purchased a paper rather than created it themselves would be nearly impossible to prove..."

As a comp-sci student who snoozed through my (completely worthless) required English classes, I find that hilarious.

My English profs weren't so good at English, either. If you want us to care about your classes, here are a couple of basic hints: teach us something a little less insulting than basic elementary-school grammar, and actually know the material. Forcing everyone to grind through classes designed for morons isn't the way to make us care. I should NOT have spent my technical writing classes reading the textbook to my English prof so that she could understand basic grammar rules that we were all supposed to have down pat by grade five.

324. urimv - November 17, 2010 at 03:29 am

The open question is how widespread the problem actually is. The number of pages per year written by one author does not clue us in as far as what percentage of the academic community actually uses this service.

Still, I would expect a large number. I don't think one can cast the blame on anybody. As education becomes more accessible, there is a growing number of people taking the white collar road through life. The internet also helps proliferate and advertise the services described. Nowadays, When one speaks of a "college educated person," chances are the person of reference is just your average shmo with good career sense. with the widespread availability of "ghost writing," an unethical and intellectually apathetic person (i.e. a large portion of the populace) will have no problem slithering through the cracks undetected. there is no way to catch most of them. It's sad but inevitable.

Someone mentioned the grading system as the prime motivator for cheating. It's true that if we remove the element of competition, we remove the impetus to cheat. This is because it is no longer possible to separate the good student from the bad. We remove (some of the) urge to excel, but more importantly we eliminate our ability to recognize the talented. We no longer know whom the scholarships ought to belong to, or who is really doing any work. It renders a college education useless as an evaluation tool and recognition (a prime motivator for many people) will be impossible. In short the motivation to cheat, as heinous as the act may be, is coincident with other more positive urges.

By the way, as a senior mathematics major, I can assure you that the problem is not limited to the "soft" majors. Many math majors (ironically mostly math education majors) are also prone to cheating as soon as a method becomes available (obviously via means other than a ghost writer). It is easier to catch in the sciences departments, but the same general ignorance, incompetence, stupidity, and apathy still run rampant.

As this is a self-perpetuating cycle, I shudder to think of high school and college grads twenty years from now.

325. urimv - November 17, 2010 at 03:38 am

by the way, I googled "A close consideration of the events which occurred in," the canned phrase the author mentions. I didn't have a single hit outside of this article. Dunno...

326. fortunado - November 17, 2010 at 05:12 am

"But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many students prefer to cheat rather than do their own work?

Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason your students cheat.

You know what's never happened? I've never had a client complain that he'd been expelled from school, that the originality of his work had been questioned, that some disciplinary action had been taken. As far as I know, not one of my customers has ever been caught."

What I find absolutely hilarious about this is that this statement was written by someone who is supposedly so well versed in topics from hard sciences to the liberal arts of philosophy and sociology that they're incapable of seeing how this is nothing more than a you-too ad hominem. It's a pathetic attempt to assuage guilt from themselves by pointing out other elements of the problem which are the fault of others as if it is relevant to your own crimes.

You, sir, are nothing more than an opportunist. You're a scavenger who was denied a ridiculous request that your material gather it's own exploratory in order to determine whether it was worthy of being published or not. What's more is that you're guilty of a crime of comission. The exact same crime you ignorantly berate against. Imagine a person is in charge of leading units to stop weapons dealers. Imagine that same person came up with an idea on how to curb weapon dealings. Imagine that that person's idea was denied. Under your logic, that same person should become a weapon supplier, make money from it while simultaneously criticizing the practice of selling weapons.

That's what you are. An immoral opportunist and a hypocrite.

327. babettebabich - November 17, 2010 at 06:12 am

Most professors pass marginal work because they leave the task of routing out and of failing a student to others. The mechanism is already at work in grade school. For the most part, professors who "mentor" students "through the writing of a dissertation," or "serve on a thesis-review committee," do not in fact guide" graduate student through" anything like "a formal research process" because the assumption is that the student can write, has ideas, can think, and is self-directed. Indeed that assumption is the point of higher education. And if some students are, most are not.
"Mr. Dante" is like his students in assuming that the point of writing is profit. The students see the point of writing as an obscure requirement, necessary to pass a course, produce a thesis, graduate. For them the goal is the degree it is not a matter of learning. For this particular Dante, the goal is to write, as he says, and to get paid for it. So he wanted an independent study course which would involve a professor collaborating with him on editing and eventually bringing his first novel to publication. "Nothing like that here" he was told and he is still dismayed to recall this frustration. Like his clients Dante sees the point of writing to be about getting it published, not the old fashioned, Hemingway way, as it were, typewriter and all, by writing and crumpling bad pages, by scratching and rescratching. No. His professors are not there to explain the finer points of say, The Divine Comedy, but to help little Dante edit his first novel. And many folks within the academy would agree, save for the fact that "there is nothing like that here."

Nor should there be. Editing is a practical business, it should be done with the advice of tutors, with the suggestions of professors and indeed of friends and colleagues but ultimately it should be done by the author of a paper, college paper, thesis or indeed, Mr. Dante, one's "first novel" by oneself or you have the problem of noting that the work is not yours.

I recently received an email from one of Mr. Dante's colleagues in the services he offers to students. I was told that my graduate students could get through classes and their degrees with the aid of such "assistance" and "support." I replied that I did not think that a student who needed such assistance and support should pursuing university level studies. I was quite crisp in my reply. I was surprised but not disarmed by the reply I received in turn: the author agreed with me.

So would Dante. He is telling tales out of school. If the professors will not out his students, and thereby give him credit for his work, then he will do the job himself.

The problem is various and manifold. For me it is less that we see an increasing lack of writing skills (and that too has a range of meanings -- mostly it means simplicity these days, such that an innocuous paper or thesis, ghost written, can fly under the radar without remark). The problem is the corrollary. For there is little learning at most levels and thus one eschews complexity not because the simplicity Mr. Dante thrives on is better. One lacks the deep draught Alexander Pope once counseled for those who had any inclination to approach the Pierian spring of knowledge/inspiration. As for complexity? One's own peers, one's collegial reviewers cannot stand a text with more than a single idea, and readers cannot follow it. Tweet, tweet. And then, there's the matter of knowing one's Dante, let alone one's Petrarch or Plutarch, or, just to keep it to the levels and spheres of heaven and hell, one's Lucian, one's Plato and one's Empedocles, etc.
Moreover when professors do edit, do make textual corrections, they morph into Mr. Dante. Thus I have heard corridor complaints that would make Dante and his clients blush. For then the professors claim to have written every word, all without getting the credit for it.

328. ragnar - November 17, 2010 at 07:36 am

Like the author, I have written for one of these agencies. However, I would like to take issue with the claim that there are higher paying jobs for writers. For while one can make more, I suppose, if one were a published writer of novels, this is very rare. Typically, academic writers, as they are called, tower over those who write the tedious SEO articles and blogs. Newspapers around the country are practically bankrupt and any other mediums through which writers could make a living have vanished as a result of free internet alternatives.

329. lizevans27 - November 17, 2010 at 08:54 am

In a previous existence I ran a word processing/editing service and steadfastly refused to write any papers for my clients - all international students from the same country. However, I typed and edited work that was blatantly plagiarized or written by their ghost writers. I came to know the three ghost writers well by their hand writing. One actually gave me a paper to type and within hours his client was knocking on my door for me to type "his" paper - go figure - I brought up the file and printed it out again. They passed the work amongst themselves so that two years after typing one major group project, it came back with a request that I retype the title page so it looked as if just this one student had done the work. I would seethe as it offended my sense of right and wrong but I needed the money. If I didn't type/edit their papers, someone else would. These students were all from the same department in a master's programme and when I asked one of the faculty members why they allowed this behaviour when it was blatantly obvious that these students could not write a coherent sentence, the answer was "they are our cash cow and they will not be working in the U.S. but going home."
In the course I teach for a professional graduate degree programme, I flinch when I see international students enrolled. I hope that I will not have to deal with "interesting" sentence construction and it has been a rough ride with each student so far. Having to send them to the Writing Centre is not what I expect to do with graduate students. Some of the home grown students are no better and I failed one who is practically illiterate and yet had managed to get an undergraduate degree somewhere.

330. rca1969 - November 17, 2010 at 09:02 am

Unlike the author, I am on the other side of the fence attempting to educate these individuals that insist on using collaborating cheaters to write their papers. We, as the educated, are doing these students no favors but even more so we are causing problems in the business world. Business owners hire people based on their supposed grasp of knowledge earned in post-secondary schools and then they don't produce.

As for me, my students write in-class essays the first day of class so that I can compare it to their work as the class progresses. Some improvement is expected, but if I see a completely different tone in the writing, we have another in-class writing excersise. My students are forewarned that there is are progressive consequences for cheating in my class up to and including failure for the course.

331. martisco - November 17, 2010 at 09:36 am

"I found that Mr. Dante seemed a bit too eager to horrify us gullible academics with examples of his clients' terrible grammar and spelling. "Mai porfessir was foolled it's grate now i am a medikul dokter and with ur halp soon i'm will be performaning brane surgiree." Yuh, I believe that."

Believe it. As I said earlier, I routinely see examples of students' non-academic writing ("the real thing") and one wonder how they even graduated high school. We're talking homegrown students admitted into a well-known journalism school, not just foreign students. That was actually the most believable part of Mr Dante's tale.

332. 22214224 - November 17, 2010 at 09:44 am

one name comes to mind - james frey. i don't know that this guy works for a paper mill or not. it's a very compelling story and i'm sure it happens but i'm just not convinced that it's happening in the life of the writer. jaded, i guess.

333. breckin - November 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

So there is a market for cheating and dishonesty and Mr. Dante (among others) is willing and able to make a decent living from responding to and encouraging that market. That there is such a market is hardly surprising to any experienced academic, and that there are people willing and able to earn a living through unethical means is not exactly surprising. It's his smugness and self-congratulations that is almost remarkable.

He mentions he might retire soon. That would be a great contribution to the education of future students. Maybe he would like to do something constructive and offer his services to tutor high school students who need help learning to write? Their teachers are stretching as far as they can, so some assistance might actually help.

334. dvoyles - November 17, 2010 at 10:21 am

Want to know who to blame? Or what the solution is? Well here it is, two fold:

1) The school curriculum. Don't force students to take menial classes which they: A) Have no interest in, B) Have no use for, and C) Wastes their money.

Do you think computer science students are really being helped by being forced to pay, and take, courses which cover the history of America 1850-1900, by the 1900-1950 course? Of course not.
It's hard to justify the cost of an education these days, as the price goes up, and the information becomes more and more useless.

2) Educators, make your classes FUN, and ENTERTAINING. There's a thought. Do you think I wanted to learn about Charlemagne's dominance of the 7th and 8th century while taking my German language class? Hellll noooo. But you know what? We had a professor who made it so interesting and intriguing, while relating the topic to current issues which effect us, that each of his students chose to come back for each of the next three years. Not only that, but we retained the information and can spit it forward and back (all while speaking sharply in German).

335. cdwickstrom - November 17, 2010 at 10:45 am

This article has prompted more comment than any I have ever seen in CHE since it went on line. There are over 330 comments and growing. Some are brief blips, but many are well thought out essays in themselves. It is obvious that the issue of student academic integrity is hot, and will likely remain so with the on-line revolution overtaking post-secondary education, especially at the graduate level.

While several commentors have offered examples of their efforts to control the work of the "Ed Dante" clan, my impression is that most are individual bandaid-like approaches in the long run. We have long since moved away from the frat house basement filing systems that were the source of many an undergrad paper recycling scheme in the past. A quick run through a few of the paper writing websites noted above will show that what we have before us is a full faced assault on student integrity, which has been both commercialized and professionalized by on-line entrepreneurs. It has reached the point that these businesses (and they are businesses as noted repeatedly above)are actively recruiting on line, and even "examining and qualifying" potential writers/test takers before adding them to their crews. That these activities are perpetrating fraud on the institutions that receive the papers or tests presented by their clients is without doubt. That they cast a shadow over the authenticity of degrees granted by fully accredited institutions is also clear. That the student/clients feel compelled to rely on such groups is both tragic and repelling.

It appears to me that the issue raised here is clearly significant enough to warrant major inquiry by the entire academic community, and especially the regional accreditors and US Dept of Ed. It ought to be the subject of aggressive research into the scope of the problem, and if found to be significant (as it appears), then possible referral to the Dept of Justice for possible criminal action.

The system that appears to have been unveiled before us has the potential to destroy the credibility of degrees granted throughout the country, and also the professional credentials granted by states and professional associations based upon those degrees. The possible harm is significant and potentially long lasting. The time for aggressive collective action is now.

336. tcarrigan - November 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

The web worsens this problem, but hasn't it been around forever? In the spring of 1970 a friend of mine agreed to write a literature paper for a struggling senior who was in danger of not graduating. The friend was in the same class- Romantic Poetry, and the topic for the paper was wide open. The friend asked around for suggestions and settled on Platonic Influences in Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality Ode. There were lots of sources available and the paper came together nicely, in plenty of time, as dawn broke on the morning of the assignment deadline and the final exam. With the help of a few cups of coffee, the friend used much of the material he had found in putting the paper together to write the exam- and got an A for the course. The senior overslept, missed the exam, failed the course, etc., etc.

337. lizilizi1 - November 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

I'm from a super-low SES originally. Food stamps, government cheese, Salvation Army--you know it. I went to college with the idea of getting a PhD. I worked my way up through Community College to 4-year to grad school, and got my PhD. I got it the hard way, via (in some cases literally) blood, sweat, and tears, and also while starting a family.

When I was especially stuck in my dissertation process, I looked into getting a dissertation coach, which I thought was a person who would basically be a substitute diss advisor. After consulting with two of them, I felt that they couldn't really help me with being stuck. I wonder now if they were really "academic writers" such as this guy. (Instead, I ended up finding a really good research and writing manual that helped a lot.)

Anyway, after the typical scares and bumps in the road, I defended my diss, finished my internship, and graduated.
15 months (and decades of thousands of dollars in student loans) later I still don't have a job. So I recently applied for some online teaching positions in my field, though that's not my first choice (I'd like to do applied work first).

Now I wonder if I even want to bother teaching in a classroom, let alone try online teaching, if it's such a swine mill as people describe. This is such a bummer to someone who worked as hard as I have for so many years.

The more things change...

338. hershbjw - November 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

318. ucsdprof - You argue that the ghost writing problem is insignificant compared to the overall cheating problem, but you also reassure yourself that your upper level physics courses are resistant to cheating practices. Although cheating may be an insignificant issue in your particlar course environment, you can bet it is an issue in your Department's introductory physics courses. Graded homework is, of course, always a problem. Yes, you say, but most of the assessment comes in the form of in-class exams. Old-fashioned cheating methods are still a problem: sitting near a compatriot who will allow you to copy, the use of crib notes, etc, etc, etc.

In any class environment it is absolutely essential that students feel they are being offered a fair chance and an honest deal. If they think a significant portion of the class is taking advantage of shortcuts, the course becomes severely compromized. That is why we montior in-class exams so carefully, and why we prosecute academic dishonesty when we have proof. Word gets out. The buzz can work for us, or against us.

The current discussion focuses on a venerable, yet persistent security problem with graded long form essays and term papers. It is a very serious problem indeed. Faculty who dismiss the problem by denigrating the character of Mr. "Dantes" invite a scrutiny of their own motives and practices.

339. grward - November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

For anyone who is still reading the comments, I'd like to add my two-cents worth as a university instructor who has dealth with his fair share of cheating students. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that the individual course instructor is left with almost total responsibility for catching cheating even though they 1) can't control the factors that contribute most to cheating and getting away with it (large class sizes, reduced resources for grading, etc., and 2) are rarely the ones victimized by it (let's face it, if our students successfully cheat, it actually makes our jobs easier since we're likely to get more satisfied students and can grade papers and exams that are less likely to be indecipherable). Perhaps it's time to come clean about the likelihood that our students have the skills we claim they have. I've often wondered what would happen if instructors like me could publish a disclaimer after the course, to be attached the student's transcript, stating something like "Warning, because of the large number of students in the class, and the short amount of time spent with each student, the instructor cannot state with any certainty that this student really did reach the learning milestones set in this course. Potential employers and supervisors are strongly advised to interview the student in depth to determine the actual level of intellectual and professional development attained by the student." If we all did such a thing, where would it lead? Perhaps to university administrators providing the resources necessary to actually ensure that students learn and acquire skills? Perhaps to HR supervisors being less impressed with the applicant's credentials and relying more on probing the applicant's knowledge about the relevant field and their ability to think critically and in an organized way? Perhaps to parents actually insisting that we challenge their offspring and not just pass them through the system with high grades? Parhaps to students themselves not taking our courses except to learn?

Sigh...one can dream...

340. ehmurray - November 17, 2010 at 11:03 am

This entire thread supports Charles Murray's [no relation to me] contention that not everyone should pursue a traditional, four-year, baccalaureate degree. He estimates that, perhaps, only ten percent of eighteen-year-old individuals actually have the intellectual capacity to do so. But, indeed, he does not abandon the other ninety percent. In fact, he thinks that post-secondary education is extremely important. The real question is: what form should this alternative education take? I believe that the free market could provide many, varied solutions to this problem. Now, we do a great disservice to so many by attempting to force all into the same mold. Dr. Murray's ideas are so compelling that I have posted a link to them on my video blog site, here (third item down from the top of the page):


Also, many of the posts indicate that there are substantive questions regarding appropriate faculty authority at your institutions that should be addressed.

Eugene Murray
Lead Moderator, Faculty of The Mace

341. corum - November 17, 2010 at 11:07 am

Please excuse my simplistic and full of errors writing - my English is almost entirely self-learned and I don't have many opportunities to use it (in writing, I read a lot though, I read all of the comments above for example, even those which could be translated as "tl;dr" and there was quite a few of them, which I find to be very characteristic). Feel free to point out any errors in this post, so I can avoid them in future. On the side note: what is the difference between "further" and "farther"?

On to the point - in my country educational system is being constantly reformed since '91 and the goal of this reformation process was (and still is, after this time) to make colleges function like those in the USA do. I have no experience with the original, but I know our derivative (or imitation) here quite well and I'm still pretty young (24) so I think I can offer all of you some insight from slightly different, yet still familiar angle.

First of all, I'd like to testify - I'm very serious about it, I'll explain later why - that I saw how young people communicate in written language. It really looks like fragments cited in the article above. People don't care about spelling, they tend not to use spelling correctors included in communication software, they simply switch them off, because red lines under misspelled words are, I don't know, somehow uncomfortable? They ignore many grammar rules. Their vocabulary is drastically simplified and deprived of synonyms - for them it is enough to know one word for any single thing. It's true, I experience this all the time, and I'm not talking about some high school drop-outs, but about my (former) fellow undergraduate students, which I had to interact with.

It saddens me very much, because I care deeply about the language, I see it not only as a mean to communicate, but as a base for art as well as something that distinguishes one nation from another, gives us our identity. All that is plainly ignored, it doesn't matter to almost anyone that I know (of my age). It could be just a coincidence that it started around '00... Could it be?

My care for language is based mainly on aesthetics - but this is my private taste, and such taste is rare in the society. Equally rare as deep care for music or paintings, I guess. No one is required to admire art, right? And no one is required to care about spoken and written language. Not anymore.

Colleges and universities are not to blame at all, some commentators above noted it already - it begins when children are seven and is reinforced all the way through one's education path. There are probably many causes, but first and foremost is the fact, that children are not required to speak and write well, and that using more sophisticated language has no effect on grades. Even fifteen years ago in schools there were no blanks to fill in, no 'choose one of' questions. Knowledge was tested exclusively by open questions, that was to be answered with several handwritten sentences (or sometimes few paragraphs or more), which meant that even knowledgeable pupil, who failed to write clearly (both in terms of language and in terms of handwriting! - some teacher told me once (I have terrible handwriting) that she isn't going to decipher my writing, it was my problem to make my answers readable, which I did, learning basic calligraphy on my own) what he or she knows automatically failed the test. Pupils, whether they liked it or not, whether they thought it important or (more often) not - were required to learn to write (and speak) clearly and correctly, and so most of them did. They learned.

I saw the change with my own eyes - most intensive reform effort hit me when I was 14 or 15. There were no open questions anymore. There were no essays to be written - earlier we were asked to write (I'm not sure what word to use here, so I'll stick with the description) few pages (notebook sized) of text, discussing recent lessons, several times a week, even in biology classes - then it all ended. Official requirements rose high, but that only caused rush during classes and lack of time to test anything other than knowledge of required facts. No teacher cared, or to be just could care, about correct language anymore. My colleagues were relieved (it meant less work, right?), I was disappointed. Some years have passed and I enrolled as a student and realized, that just this few years was enough - no one could really write correctly, no one cared. While professors were horrified, they could do nothing - they should reject almost all of new students, but that would mean... I think we all know, what would that mean; and wouldn't really fix anything.

Language was not the only victim - math is the most evident example. I aimed to be a computer scientist so I tried my best to learn math, even though I don't like it very much. But during my first year in college I learned math devotedly out of sympathy for the professor. I just couldn't stand to see this nice and competent man trying to teach some 'morons' about basic trigonometry instead of calculus and still not being understand. He really did his best, but students didn't. It was such a miserable scene I think I won't be able to forget it for a very long time.

As a result of professors expectations which students had no chance to meet - cheating bloomed. I was told that it always has been that way, but it is not true. Yes, I think that 60% of cheating students estimate is correct, but there is one detail that seems to be forgotten - those 60% cheat notoriously, non-stop, during every exam, with every homework, all the time. They have to, because it is impossible to compensate for years of miseducation in a few months.

BA and BS aren't worth almost anything now and employers know this. Nationwide discussion about MS graduates working as (traveling, heh) salesmen still goes on; nobody seems to know what to do about it, even if he cares. We live in times when knowledge and skill matters more than anything, and yet we have less really educated people than ever. Yes, statistics look promising, so many people have degree, more than ever! But they know much less than they should.

I am no longer a student, and haven't achieved my degree. Partly because of my illness, partly because I think it would be waste of time in current situation. Recruiters I encountered weren't lazy enough to judge people based solely on their degree; they actually cared about skills. It was harder for me, so I won't recommend my path to anyone, but I got decent job as a programmer and I was promoted rather quickly. I really would prefer to get the degree, I'd like to become a scholar, real scientist, as I always wanted, but it seems that it wouldn't be worth it yet. I try to be optimistic about it and tell myself that all this mess will be fixed eventually and I will get another chance (as will education).

Now, I wrote quite a lot words, partly off topic. I was trying not to force my opinions, but just present what I saw and experienced during my education, which should be (that's what I'm told) similar to the one in the USA. Reading the whole post again I see I failed - it seems I just wanted to share my sadness and feeling of loss. Please, don't mind me.

I also apologize for my English (again) - I was learning it by myself, I have never been to English speaking country longer than few days. I hope that it is enough of an excuse for those of you that care about correctness of the language. I know it's unpleasant to read something that is badly written (it's just ugly!) and I'm sorry for it.

342. triflesegment21 - November 17, 2010 at 11:22 am

well, mr. Shadow Scholar, i think i am supposed to be surprised after reading this and infact for a while i definitely was. but now i am not at all! i have known this all happen and done this my self since i was in my primary school, except that u r very lucky to be paid for what you do. coz i have never been. and you are really lucky that u r in the right place to be able to make this your profession.
i am undergraduate in engineering, and i finished my first novel in the summer vaccation before my sophomore started, and that was when i turned 20. the novel was a science fiction (about parapsychology to be precise)and i am also a ESL student as u pointed out about your clients. no body actually recognized my work then but i have been writing advertisements, project papers, job applications to internet articles about medicine and religion! and thats all without being paid a single penny for! i really cant remember how many assignments and project papers i have written for others(let alone those i have to do for myself). i even prepare exam solutions sheets that students can carry into their exam and copy! and though i know nothing much about US, i am sure there are students whom u can sincerely call "the unpaid idiots".
i know i m not making any point right now but i didnt really get yours. i understand that you job is one of the coolest and u really deserve 'WOW!' (this one was from me), but i couldnt understand the ethical point u are trying to make. i am sure that your message has reached all the professors whose students you indirectly became, but as far i know now most of those professors reached that level by similar acts!- and even their professors, their professors' professors and u can trace a kind of an "ink line" down to the unknown past. i mean i am about to graduate now but i have not met many professor who i sincerely believe can do the things they have apparently done are the papers they have published- for me the answer is that they simply plagarized them, (but they are professors anyway) and i often wonder how this human race ever makes any progress.
i have always been an extremely pessimistic critic and thats the reason i am able to write such an aggressive comment here but frankly, other than telling you that you have a really cool profession and that you are extremely lucky to have it, i can only tell you that the ethical question you are trying to raise makes no sense. and the question is not new; i am sorry i am being so ignorant saying this but i am a live spectator right now and i can see things around me the way u cannot. u just sit there in your cave and imagine all the impact you have on the outside world, and i am sure it feels really good, but u are missing a lot. above all, u only pointed out the situation in USA, but i can tell you its the same everywhere and i can gurantee that the asian rivals arent making any progress either. haha...
Best of Luck after your retirement though and let me sincerely tell you that i really envy your job...

343. srikiraju - November 17, 2010 at 11:24 am

I'd like to shift the blame one level higher to society as a whole. As a recent student, I find that the "tag" one earns from higher level education compensates greatly for the actual knowledge or talent that an individual might possess. It's not rare to find abysmally incompetent people get high paying jobs just because they're from a "Stanford" or an "MIT".

As someone discussed above, the priority on evaluation from educators drives students to cheat in order to produce results. But also to an extent, I feel that the lack of focus on knowledge and actual learning in society in general and the over-parading of college credentials ruins what should be the actual motivation of students to go into university - learning. This lends yet another reason for students to not really care if they learn anything as long as they get their degrees.

Ofcourse, it's not to say students who actually learn don't go unrewarded. However, it is ironic that this reward usually tends be in the form of more work. And those that find ways to shrug off work and redistribute it, are making it up the "chain". Even Mr. Dante says "Indeed, he[the rich kid] is acquiring all the skills he needs to stay on top".

Perhaps I'm bitter, but that doesn't make it untrue.

344. bonitakale - November 17, 2010 at 11:29 am

The free market could provide many solutions, but it doesn't want to. It's cheaper and easier just to require a college degree for your jobs; this lets you reject many without having to think.

If the business is illegal, you still pay taxes on it.

And we do, indeed, do things to prevent the stealing of iPods--and other things. Why do cars have keys instead of a starter button? Why do houses have locks, and libraries have magnetic strips in books? The whole world would be better if everyone were reasonably honest and decent, but they're not, and we have to deal with it.

345. acollegemom - November 17, 2010 at 11:38 am

We want to believe that dishonesty and short cuts will come back to haunt these students in the end, but the sad truth may be another story. The lazy rich kids can ramp it up when they have to, while the English as second language students can save time while learning the language along the way. For the most part, nothing comes back to bite these kids.

The article also confirms for me what I have always suspected about college admissions essays. All the talk that students need to write in their own voice or risk being discovered by suspicious admissions reps is pretty much just an impotent attempt at deterrence.

346. peprio - November 17, 2010 at 11:40 am

As a twenty-year-old college student, this article told me nothing new.
I don't want to engage in the lengthy discussion here, but I do have my "two cents."

In all honesty, the amount of effort I put into a course largely depends on how much I like the professor. The more I like and respect a professor and feel like he/she cares, the harder I try. If a professor seems disinterested, intimidating, cold, and treats me like I'm nothing but another name on a long list of students, I have little motivation to try.
No matter what the subject, if I don't like a professor, it's hard for me to invest myself fully into my assignments and studying. Since I don't respect them, I don't care about proving myself to them. If I need a recommendation from them or know they will be a vital factor in my graduation, naturally I'll do what I have to in order to make sure I won't have problems in the future.
I've never been crazy about biology nor have I ever been particularly good with it, though I've had to take it the past two semesters as a prerequisite for my degree. I enjoyed my professor so much that I've excelled in the subject and now work as a BIO 102 tutor.

I've yet to cheat, but I were ever to do so, I'm sure it'd be with a professor who didn't make me feel like they cared.

By the way, I'm not Dante (looks like a few people believe that the commenters here that aren't bashing the author of this article... are indeed the author!). I'm not here to engage in a lengthy debate with any of you. And since a lot of you seem to be having a field day attacking other commenter's grammer and spelling, go ahead and attack mine. I don't really care and will just laugh-- if I ever read your attacks! Go edit a book or something to vent your critical urges, sheesh.

347. vrpratt - November 17, 2010 at 11:49 am

A masterpiece of exposition, as others have noted. One disturbing element of the many replies is the proportion of respondents who felt the opposite. Their best students must find it terribly frustrating to have their high quality exposition dismissed in this way.

One detail that caught my eye is the syntactic slip in the one example he provided of what he gives to students, namely failure of agreement in number in "A close consideration of the events which occurred in ____ during the ____ demonstrate that ____ had entered into a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define ____ for decades to come." All sorts of possibilities occurred to me.

1. Innocent error.
2. He plays games with his customers.
3. He plays games with his audience, us in this case.

Students of game theory learn that ethics is a county in England. The author could do worse than to take up an honest career in that subject. 48 hours should suffice for him to get up to speed on the basic material and his first paper submitted to a reputable journal.

And hopefully be rejected at least the first time around. But he should be a quick learner, as he appears to have been for his present craft.

It is hard to imagine someone better qualified to advance the field of game theory by extending its framework to accommodate ethics.

348. funnyaboutmoney - November 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Lisahoeffner (#32) says, "Any fellow colleague of mine could do exactly what this guy does and make his paltry $66K. So why don't we?"

Excuse me? Where do you work? Sixty-six grand was the most I earned at Arizona State University after 15 years in the traces -- and that came only after I left teaching to take 12-month administrative job. Because had to agree to take an exempt position to make that much (they wanted to hire someone at about $40,000 -- less, if they could get away with it), I was left vulnerable to layoff, which is exactly what happened when the university decided to shut down my office and can me and all five of my employees...in the same breath giving me the most glowing performance report of all the excellent annual reviews I had received during my entire tenure at that place.

My secretary, who had an MFA in creative writing, took home $200 per semiweekly paycheck. My associate editor, who had a master's degree in history and a graduate certificate in scholarly publishing, earned more in five hours of waiting tables at Applebee's than we paid her for a week of sophisticated editing and project management. One of my RAs had a Ph.D. in english and, upon completion of a graduate certificate in scholarly publishing, struggled for months to land an academic or scholarly publishing job; he ended up managing an apartment complex.

I daresay any of us would have been sorely tempted by the prospect of earning $66,000 churning out unedited copy for the bumps on a log our university was merrily passing along its assembly line.

Devan suggests we all give students blue book exams, while others speculate on the unlikely amount of overwork Dante's description of his word count represents. Again: where do you teach? When I was teaching at ASU, I had 120 writing students a semester. Courses were capped at 30, but in fact the administration would quietly give overrides behind faculty's back. And putting an course online is regarded as a good reason to remove caps altogether. One semester I ended up with 45 students in an online technical writing course, in addition to 90 other writing students. Colleagues who teach so-called "content" courses are often saddled with many more than that. A friend in political sciences ended up with a sophomore-level course with three hundred students!

Do you seriously believe faculty should be trying to decipher hundreds of handwritten essay exams, on impossibly tight deadlines (we were required to post grades electronically within a day or two after finals)? For $43,000 a year?

Before I returned to academe, I spent 15 years working as a journalist and magazine editor. I assure you, the number of words Dante claims he's turning out -- especially if he doesn't bother to edit the trash -- is easy. I could do more than he claims to be doing without much trouble. And he doesn't have to deal with academic politics, attend meetings, or be expected to publish papers of questionable value in journals that no one reads.

349. kfperry - November 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Here's the thing about terms like "useless," "uninteresting," or "irrelevant": college isn't just for getting jobs or giving students opportunities to think more about themselves than they do already. It's for learning about things outside of oneself, which is an important factor in the process of what we like to call "growing," or becoming progressively less myopic, narcissistic, and ignorant as one proceeds through life.

Learning occurs when a person encounters novel and challenging material. It also occurs when a person uses "boring" and "menial" classes as an opportunity to practice problem-solving-, social-, or one of the other subject-neutral skills that, when combined and used effectively, make people into grown-ups.

As for the writing itself: papers aren't just wordier versions of PowerPoint presentations; they're tools for more sophisticated expression than that allowed by bullet points and oral presentations. They're also tools for helping students develop skill in information synthesis, critical thinking, and communication. A person who buys a paper has bought the opportunity to learn even less than their idiotic, outcome-oriented professor/curriculum would require. Great job! Way to buck the system, dude!

350. jason1971 - November 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I found this article quite interesting, particularly because I had seriously considered performing a similar service while I was engaged in getting my first degrees. The temptation was great, particularly when you are a poor, hungry student, which I was. People are willing to pay rates even higher than the author suggests to avoid the embarrassment of flunking a course.

Since then, I have spent time as an English instructor at a couple of community colleges, and the solution that I found that best combats this real challenge is the focus on writing as a process and not as a product. Students are much more hard-pressed to utilize essay mills when they have to show how they progressed from A to Z.

Granted, focusing on process can take more time and can require more work for professors, and it does not "guarantee" that students will not continue to provide dishonest representation of their work. Still, I see the value of my extra effort and focus on process as a commitment to what I see as one of the basic tenets of education: helping students learn.

351. dvoyles - November 17, 2010 at 12:13 pm


Agreed. Exactly what I was saying just before!

"Here's the thing about terms like "useless," "uninteresting," or "irrelevant": college isn't just for getting jobs or giving students opportunities to think more about themselves than they do already. It's for learning about things outside of oneself, which is an important factor in the process of what we like to call "growing," or becoming progressively less myopic, narcissistic, and ignorant as one proceeds through life."

I could not disagree more. College isn't about taking courses that you WANT to take, it's about fulfilling the ones the school says you HAVE to take. Th best way to gain interest in other topics is through the sharing by/of others.

Take Twitter for example. The individuals who(m?) I follow all share similar interests: gaming and technology. However, they frequently share links to items which have nothing to do with that interest. These interesting links assist in expanding my thoughts and teach me things which I would have otherwise never shown interest in.

352. funnyaboutmoney - November 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Ooops: speaking of not editing the trash, make that "English," c/lc!

353. qtronman - November 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm

You have a moral responsibility to divulge the student names and contact information of the liars who you helped cheat their way to a higher salary and a better social image. In fact, you are complicit in this whole thing.

354. dvoyles - November 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm


What exactlly is a "moral responsibility?"

355. dvoyles - November 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Oh you mean this:


And the fact that he gets to stay in the position and keep his job, despite being charged?

356. mrsessayguru - November 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Mr. Dante,

Hello compatriot! You really need to expand your employers - because you can get much more for the quality work you produce. I am employed to four main ones and all of them are in the UK. I used to work for US based employers but I find the salary to be lower, exchange rate and all.

I still get clients from North America - quite a lot in fact. About 20 minutes ago I was scouring through the Simon Fraser Online Library using a client's password to retrieve journal articles. Tonight, I will be writing the research proposal for a "mature student" doing a criminology Masters at top top Maryland University. Next week I have an observation report (serious!)for a mature social work student because she just does not have the time. It would indeed be hard to prove that this individual is not writing their essays because I have been doing all her work since she started. I wrote her first essay and she has not left me alone since. I had to send her a long letter once saying that she really should think about sending me her case notes from the field to write up her observations, because social work requires much more ethical conduct (I know what you all will say - blah)! She responded that she knows the ropes but she needs to keep her marriage alive, as well as improve her earning potential. We came to an agreement - I do something extra for her - I give her one to one support beyond the essay writing for things she may not quite understand. Our system works and I will be writing her graduate thesis at 50 GBP per 1000 words. I will sit on the phone with her and go through theories she can use to describe and analyse a particular behaviour and we will use real life situations to debrief. Its more like a chat and I feel confident she is not a "dunce" - just stressed by the pressures of school and her family life. She pays me handsomely for this "phone time" too. I understand her predicament - I too am a young mother and I make enough money now to wonder if I should really shake the boat leaving home for work!

Academics who think Ed's story is fake - need to smell the coffee. My niche is in the Social Sciences. I have over 340 essays filed on my computer. I could give lecturers suggestiosn for tehir reading lists and work sources for tehir journal articles. In fact, I have been doing this so long that I now file my essays avvording to universities and topics - because universities are so lazy that every year I know the variation on the course syllabus will not divert much from my endless list of references on virtually any social science topic.

I have written all sorts - except Math :). Before you science and math geeks think you are exempt from Ed Dante's and myself, let me tell you there are known places where your subjects in our industry thrives and your students know where to find them!

357. josephofoley - November 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Isn't there at least one obvious solution to this problem that has generated so much comment? Separate learning and credentialing. Imagine a world in which teacher's comments and grades were meant only for their students' eyes and in which colleges and universities did not award degrees.

Competence in any field at any level could be certified by independent credentialling services. It's possible to evaluate any person's ability to write fluid Latin prose or to solve differential equations or to lead a team. Why should institutions charged with teaching a skill or presenting a body of knowledge be expected to certify that they have done a good job? It is an open invitation to mispreresent the value of the services provided.

For the cost of establishing an expensive credentialling industry we could eliminate fraud, disuade the uninterested and unable from wasting time in college and give the autodidacts among us the opportunities they deserve. Of course, there would be fewer students and probably fewer teachers. But just imagine the classes filled with students anxious to learn.

358. 11122741 - November 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm

one of the saddest things I ever read but an exemplar of the arpatheid morlaity of our country currently by liberalism gone wild and disfunctional professors drive to disfunctionality my administrators, parents and technology. it is is extraordinarily sad; we are more than in decline.

As someone who has always done his own work and someone who has spent 30 years teaching docotral students how to research and write, I feel like a fool and an idiot and so for ignoring and not opposing the rot that has been creeping into everything sicne the 60's and especially the last 20 years.

The moral and ethical schitzophrenia and different standards for different politically sanctioned groups is just out of control in the country and is going to impode like the housing market.

At least I am better udnerstanding the hatred I experience for giving in class blue book exams and not just from students but from my collegaues and administrators in particularly.

FYI, I grew up dirt poor in a housing project in a Mill town and earned scholarships at every school I attended which were ivy league schools but that is because the amount of cheating in the system was minimal in my day; today, I would stand a chance and i most certainly would not get the education I got and the qualitative improvements in my daily life as a result of it.

Fat,dumb, cheating and happy eventually becomes someone's meal and that is exactly where we are more than heading. We no longer have an elite, there are de-bomb; but i now have a better understanding of many of my most junior collegaues and their skills or lack thereof.

359. dvoyles - November 17, 2010 at 01:08 pm


"one of the saddest things I ever read but an exemplar of the arpatheid morlaity of our country currently by liberalism gone wild and disfunctional professors drive to disfunctionality my administrators, parents and technology. it is is extraordinarily sad; we are more than in decline."

Well wherever you went, they certainly taught you how to use a thesaurus, but not grammer. Every "O"ne of the saddest.....

360. bubbles - November 17, 2010 at 01:16 pm

Shame on you, Mr. Dante! Don't you know that it's dishonest to cite a scientific article when you've only read the abstract?

361. martisco - November 17, 2010 at 01:26 pm

One wonders why we are questioning students' integrity when the 2nd-most read article on this site (after this one) is "How to Build the Perception of Greatness" (handy tips for second-best colleges trying to look "great") and the 3rd-most read article is "Compensation of 30 Private-College Presidents Topped $1-Million in 2008."

Why should we be shocked that students are willing to pay thousands for fake essays, when college presidents and CEOs are also puffing themselves up by throwing vast sums of money around? The rot is all-pervasive... and irony is not dead.

362. nylib_student - November 17, 2010 at 01:31 pm

Wow. Can I just say I am amazed at the number of comments on this site with misspellings and grammatical infelicities? Higher education, people! I'm not trying to be insulting; it's just kind of astounding to read this stuff coming from the university community.

As someone who's spent a lot of time as a freelance writer and editor, I can attest that $66,000 per year is pretty decent compensation. I don't think I could stomach writing the things Ed writes, but when I read the article there was certainly a part of me that thought, "I could do that...." I suspect that's a big part of why he does what he does--there's something perversely seductive in being the secret brains. That, and it's awfully hard to make a decent living as a writer, so if you find a gig that pays, you tend to hang onto it. My solution is to go back to school and find another profession, but that's just me.

363. samcat - November 17, 2010 at 01:47 pm

Several students submitted what were custom made essays in my literature class. When I asked them to tell me the thesis and other details of their essays, they could not, so I told them that I could not give them credit. They got zeros for the assignment. My administration backed me up.

I also do what another poster mentioned--If I can't prove the cheating, I give the lowest passing grade. Also, I have it set up so that most of the course grade comes from class participation, quizzes and tests, so even if a student cheats on the essay and can't be caught, they won't be able to pass the class if they haven't done the readings.

I think that the only way to deal with it is in this passive-aggressive way, until cultural attitudes change and until administrators back up faculty and are serious about addressing cheating.

364. seattleman1 - November 17, 2010 at 01:49 pm

Awwww. . . poor baby! His university wouldn't help him publish his wittle bookie and so now he helps people cheat for a living. That makes COMPLETE sense. "But pointing the finger at me is too easy. Why does my business thrive? Why do so many students prefer to cheat rather than do their own work?". Hmm. . . . Why do so many cars get stolen? Why do so many women get sexually assaulted? Who told Joan Rivers that the 18th face lift would do the trick? We can think of countless underlying reasons which might contribute to immoral acts being committed, but we certainly don't go out of our way to ASSIST people in committing these crimes. I chuckle at the thought of a "fraudulent" nurse wrongfully administering your meds, while a "fraudulent" priest gives you your last rites. Nothing like leaving this world feeling that you really made a difference.

365. rochcom - November 17, 2010 at 02:20 pm

I have graded SAT essays written in "non-standard English" (that we were instructed to ignore in considering a grade) or in text messaging jargon. I have received papers from college students that were not related to the subject matter of the course, sometimes even after the topic proposal was rejected. I had a student who could not write a coherent e-mail call me every foul name, whether found in the dictionary or not, when I gave her a zero for turning in a paper that was off-topic and written in an archaic academic style of a prior century. But I have received little support when I reported such circumstances. Instead, I was warned that if I decided to give a low grade or fail a student, I should keep extensive documentation in case the student mounted an academic appeal or went to court.

More recently, I had an adult student whose paper seemed to be written in several different styles. I ran it through TurnitIn.com and found that more than 78% was verbatim from several sources. I gave the student an F on the paper. The student felt that my running that paper through TurnitIn was unfair when I did not do that for others. The student also felt that a B grade was deserved in the course. I later found, when the sutudent repeatedly mentioned how disappointed his employer would be, that the student needed a B to reimbursed for the tuition.

The student appealed to the department chair. I had to come in to have a three way conference. I decided to stand firm and was supported by the chair.

The student appealed to a college committe. I was told a few days before the hearing to bring in all copies of e-mail correspondence with the student and all evidence. I had to copy these at my expense. They were not used in the hearing. At the hearing, I was questioned by the committee in such a way that I felt that I was the one who had done something wrong. It was a surprise that the committee found in my favor although they did find some fault with my handling of the situation.

This hint of fault encouraged the student to appeal (many months later) to a university wide committee. I was not even informed of this appeal until after it was rejected. An adminsitrator even suggested to my department chair (who also was not informed beforehand) that I did not even need to be told of the appeal or its results.

I spent about 22 hours of unpaid time and some of my own money to defend myself against the appeals of the student. As an adjunct faculty member, this cost me money in lost opportunities elsewhere. Although I did prevail, I have decided that it was not worth the effort. I am very much in favor of due process, but now, if a student cheats, I am tempted to either ignore it or give a low passing grade and move on.

366. empyrios - November 17, 2010 at 02:24 pm

To jbooten (I know it's been three days, but maybe you'll see this):

I think you answered your own question: you bother because you love to write and because you want your education to have value. I'm writing my thesis right now while also applying to grad schools, keeping up with other coursework, dealing with family crises, etc.. It's enormously frustrating to know that other people don't do the work that I'm doing. It's infuriating to see students even at my own university who never seem to work. But at the same time, I know that I am not writing my thesis simply to have 80 pages of words; I'm writing because I love to write, I love what I'm writing about, I want to learn everything I can about my primary texts, and I want other people to read MY (well articulated) thoughts.

I am doing everything I can to avoid the formulaic word vomit that this essay talks about using. Someone who pays this guy or one of his peers for a paper will get nothing more than paper. You and I (and everyone else who does their own work, even when they're suffering through it) will get more than that. Isn't that what higher education should be about? You really do get what you give, and if you just want a paper--whether it's an academic paper or a diploma--then pay for it, don't work for it.

Sure, it sucks to consider my diploma as potentially valuable only to me, but I would prefer that it be worth something to me and nothing to anyone else than the reverse. On the days (like today) when I want to light my research on fire and dance naked around it, I consider the immense scope of what I can say in my thesis. And even though it still sucks and I haven't eaten anything but Skittles for the past 3 meals, I want to write because it is my personal ambition to write a kickass paper that I can be proud of.

367. martisco - November 17, 2010 at 02:26 pm

One thing that nobody asked this guy, though, is about the company he works for. This article makes it sound like he is a glamorous, high-paid call girl doing what he really loves. The truth is that he is probably working for a "pimp" (an essay mill company) and that they probably take their cut just like any pimp does. Like any common hooker calling himself a "call boy," he wants to get out of this life by writing a profitable tell-all book.

I wish him the best of luck, because it's not like he's feeding us falsehoods about the way our higher educational system really is. But like the tell-all hooker who sagely advises wives to be sexier for their husbands and not be such nags to them, he's advising professors to be more fun for their students and not such sticklers about standards.

That isn't terribly realistic, as any overworked wife would tell you. The sager advice is to find the courage to dump the cheating husband and have some self-respect. One wonders if academics will have the courage to dump a cheating student body and also have some self-respect. Maybe this marriage should not be saved.

368. qtronman - November 17, 2010 at 02:35 pm

dvoyles asks what I mean by "moral responsibility".

So what you're asking me is: Why is it wrong to cheat on writing assignments? Why is cheating wrong in general? Why is stealing wrong? Why is deception wrong? Why is lying wrong? Do I have to explain this to you, presumably an adult? Fine. Because you cannot live life on the basis of deception without reality coming back and mugging you. All human knowledge and progress and value is gained by honest work. However, to someone who lives and works in academia, this might seem like a revelation. What do you mean by "reality" is the next question I imagine. If so, I suggest you jump out a 30-story window and try to answer that one yourself.


Ryan Jamieson

369. qtronman - November 17, 2010 at 02:47 pm

Why go to school at all if you want to cheat? Of what meaning is the degree, which is supposed to represent work the student has done, assignments completed, examinations written, etc--of what meaning is all this in a particular case if the student does none of it and pays someone else to get the grades, obtain the paper certificate? There are certain phenonmenon called "hard work" and "thinking" which might have escaped you, or anyone in college outside of medicine, engineering and the physical sciences. Would you trust a brain surgeon who cheated his way through college in the manner described above? Certainly the student who "passes" such an academic program by cheating this way could not go into academia or any job that actually relies on the knowledged gained through the application of his mental efforts. I suppose it works for foreign students who go back to their native countries to get government jobs. Or well-connected rich kids who do not have to do any real, skill-demanding work in their lives.

370. ucsdprof - November 17, 2010 at 02:47 pm

hershbjw, thanks for your comments. First of all, I harbor no illusions that my students don't cheat. But they take their exams in a large room where they are widely separated, I don't allow calculators or cell phones, and on their homework I encourage them to work together anyway. So I really do think cheating there is not a major problem. For the lower division students I think it certainly is a problem. The last time I taught at the lower division level was probably 10 years ago or more. I had my own ways of dealing with the problem. For example I would correlate the initial conditions for each problem with digits in each student's ID number. (Example: "If the third digit of your student ID is between 0 and 2, then L = 10 meters. If between 3 and 5, then L = 25 meters." Etc.) This meant that I had to prepare several different solution sets for the graders, but it wasn't so difficult in the end. Still I imagine there was cheating taking place. I don't enjoy teaching at that level for a variety of reasons, this being among them. When they hit the upper division curriculum, it's pretty hard for them to cheat their way through.

One thought I had for monitoring was to have a few proctors with video cameras in the exam room. The possibility that the tapes could be reviewed at some later time would probably intimidate a large fraction of potential cheaters.

371. ucsdprof - November 17, 2010 at 03:16 pm

martisco, my experiences are different than yours, apparently. I'm pretty sure Mr. Dante is exaggerating so as to be provocative. I know many students through facebook and I see how they write - even casually - and they are hardly illiterate. There is a certain amount of selection involved too. We only graduate about 40 bachelor's degree students per year in Physics, which is utterly insignificant compared with, say, Biology, Psychology or Economics. The upper division Physics curriculum is relatively intense and difficult, so it is not a major for people looking for an easy ride through college - at least not at my university. Our worst students are disappointingly bad, but relatively few of them are totally unmotivated or abjectly stupid. I can't speak to the writing abilities of the thousands of engineering and life sciences students who enroll in our lower division courses. I am not surprised that some from this much larger and relatively undifferentiated group can't put together a coherent sentence -- that's just statistics.

I agree with many of the commenters who have said that it is important to treat cheating seriously because otherwise it has a corrosive effect on the system as a whole. Anyone would be cynical if they came to believe that a large fraction of their classmates were getting good grades by cheating.

I still think that professional writer-for-hire types like Mr. Dante have a relatively small effect. Perhaps because of his own past, out of bitterness and cynicism he relishes the thought of himself making unwitting fools out of college professors. After all, while Mr. Dante is earning $66k in his best year, the average salary of a full professor is $110k (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/education/12faculty.html), and many of my colleagues in engineering and professional schools augment their income considerably through consulting. Of course I did not go into the profession for the money (although the job security and benefits at major research universities are quite attractive). I'd venture to say, though, that many people who are even half as clever and eloquent as Mr. Dante fancies himself are earning an order of magnitude more than him in the corporate world. So who is the fool here?

372. graykitt - November 17, 2010 at 03:16 pm

I hope readers of this article and thread will take cdwickstrom's call for collective action seriously.

373. mrsessayguru - November 17, 2010 at 03:19 pm

The fact is the university system is not testing knowledge, and the system of giving essays to 100 students supplemented by an end of year exam to decide who is summa cum laude is laughable!!! I had a big bonus from a Summa Cum Laude of a respectable university who was my most faithful client. Granted, she is no fool - which is how she found my services - but my distinct skill at finding journal articles even her lecturers had no knowledge of - was invaluable to her. Lecturers were constantly copying her (or rather my) essay reference list. In fact - I really could offer this lazy academics who find it hard to publish - give me a buzz - I have a wealth of research articles already filed better than a university library according to the most topical issues and course outlines. It was usually worth my while to be subscribed to journals - I no longer have to do that because my clients come to me with access to their online libraries. I have passwords for Maryland, Oxford, Simon Fraser, CUNY, McGill, Manchester, and few more - but those are the ones I frequent when I feel like I may need a new angle :). This is rare because I have amassed almost everything I need for any conceivable topic already! These days I mostly use the passwords to view online blackboards, course manual etc if the student is not being clear about the "thrust" of the class.

I earn a good income...shrug....much more than a lecturer I may add. Try getting paid 4000 pounds for a 10000 word essay that is needed in 1 week....

Can't beat that can you! :)

374. mrsessayguru - November 17, 2010 at 03:21 pm

ucsdprof - you can take my word for it - Mr. Dante may have UNDERSTATED things! I am often in shock at the level of intelligence of university students who seek my services and who pass through the university system!

375. lethalfang - November 17, 2010 at 03:27 pm

The "shadow scholars" didn't present someone else's work as their own. In fact, they did not do anything illegal. True, they may be "enablers" of those cheating students. But ultimately, it is the cheating students who have decided to follow through with their plans to cheat.

376. duchess_of_malfi - November 17, 2010 at 04:37 pm

#365, Rochcom, gives an example of the real story.

377. more_cowbell - November 17, 2010 at 04:47 pm

Funny to observe all the howls of indignation. I wonder how many posters here are profs who "borrow" their students' research and publish it under their own name.

At least one of them gets paid for their work.

378. hulibrary - November 17, 2010 at 04:51 pm

Although many colleges and universities employ plagiarism detection tools paying someone to write a paper for you will not be generally caught. But, any resonable instructor should discover that if one piece of submitted work is written in a certain style, say in response in a written exam, and another piece of work, submitted by the same student suddenly appears using a totally different stle or level of writing then it should raise a red flag. We tell our students that faculty are trully adept at noticing work that uses a 9-10th grade style and vocabulary followed by a submission (from the same student) that appears to use style and vocabulary of a graduate student. I doubt that a "shadow scholar" would be willing to replicate the styles and vocabulary of his/her clients closely and still make a sale. If the student requests a paper using broken English, street language, poor grammar, misspellings its doubtful the the "shadow scholar" will follow the exact pattern.

379. walkerst - November 17, 2010 at 04:52 pm

For the many, many English PhDs who are unable to find decent work, a career as a 'shadow scholar' probably would pay much better than scrambling to cobble together multiple adjunct appointments. How depressing.

380. ryanmichaelm - November 17, 2010 at 04:56 pm

I find it laughable that there are those who blame the writer for tapping in to a legitimate line of income.

The problem being discussed here stems from the shift of our society's collegiate paradigm. There was a time when going to college meant seeking to become a well rounded and learned individual, but that is no longer the case. Now we look at a degree as a means to secure a job, to wear business attire & seem important--but most especially to impress our friends and family.

Education is looked at as a chore; something to drudge through before getting paid the big bucks by some Fortune 500 company. It's the job of the EDUCATOR to come up with class content that sparks interests in our youth. If your students are cheating, it's because YOU haven't done your job correctly. I've never seen a child intentionally blow-off something they were looking forward to.

Stop pointing the finger at the "higher-ups" and the ghostwriters who you feel should share your altruistic ideals. Harness that do-gooder drive you've perfected as a defense mechanism, and put it to use.


381. ravettb - November 17, 2010 at 05:23 pm

I haven't read all the comments, so I probably missed this one: there's an *easy* solution to this problem. Simply do *not* assign any out-of-class short essays. Any short essay must be written in class and turned in there. As for long essays and theses, require that they be written on computers owned by the school, where the keystrokes are recorded. Bingo, no problem.

382. kmgardner - November 17, 2010 at 05:25 pm

Ed Dante's job vs. my job:

None of my students are rich enough to buy a term paper. My college recruits aggressively among recent immigrants, graduates of a failing, urban public school system, and older single parents in dead-end service jobs. It is not a for-profit university, but it follows the same recruiting model. Few of my students will be in any position to repay their loans when they graduate.

About a third of my students are ESL students with a very shaky grasp of english. Nearly all of the rest are "hopelessly deficient." The student Ed Dante quotes makes my typical student look like Virgil. Most cannot understand their textbook.

With five classes, I have nothing like the time I would need to teach remedial english skills to 170+ students. The vast majority of my students desrve to fail my classes. - I am planning to fail six of them.

If I give my students the grades they deserve, I will be made to suffer. The administration would have a talk with me about expectations and would strongly urge me to change my grades. (Yes, I've seen it happen.) My student evaluations would tank. My contract would certainly not be renewed, and I would be out on the street with no way of making a living or paying my own, substantial loans.

People with comfortable salaries and tenure can tut-tut about grade inflation all they want. Living on the edge of homelessness and financial ruin is terrifying. There is no chance that I am going to endanger my livelihood by standing on principle.

This article inspired me. I am actively looking for a job at an essay mill. Ed Dante's job is no more unethical than mine, the hours are similar, and he is earning more than twice as much.

383. prof_et - November 17, 2010 at 05:35 pm

I must commend the entrepreneurial initiative of the ghost writer's company, but the true target market has been missed (although he aludes to the potential)! If there is some subliminal need for the "writer" to expose the idiocy of some aspects of higher education, why not make some real money with little more effort? Every year professors around the country are denied retention toward tenure or tenure itself based upon a shortage of "publications". The "writer" clearly knows how to use Google Scholar and understands the basic "structure" of a research article. It would take very little time for the "writer" to study the primary focus of multiple journals for the purpose of "assisting" (without credit)the faculty who desperately need publication or their career is in jeopardy. How much is that worth versus a student paper? Theoretically a "top tier" publication would be worth tens of thousands. Scenario: A faculty member is in their fourth year approaching their fifth year review for tenure. They have one shot at tenure and if they fail, they must leave the university and it will be difficult to obtain another academic job. They are one or two journal articles short of tenure requirements. The time from submission to acceptance averages about 9 months...would you pay $10,000 to be assured of tenure? I don't even know if it is illegal--unethical yes--illegal? If the desperate faculty contributes information or statistical analysis and the true author's name is included (since co-publication generally counts the same), it would probably even meet the ethical test! The real gem (and joke) of the educational world is the "research publication". Tenure, promotion, merit pay, and many other things are based upon the number of publications you have in academia. Hmmmm can you say "international faculty"?

384. raymond_j_ritchie - November 17, 2010 at 05:42 pm

(1) As one commentator has already said I am also very surprised how little the guy says he makes. Surely he should be getting at least 200K a year.
(2) A student would have to be a real fool to use these services. Think about the how likely it is that you will be blackmailed after graduation. Maybe that is how Ed is making his real money.
(3) The only way to stop this nonsence is to use primitive examination methods. No term papers or essays. Forget hand-it-in and similar software. Give them a list of topics and a week later make them sit down and write essays out longhand in an exam hall. Lab practical reports can be done the same way. Students will hate it.
(4) Oral exams are also very effective.

385. soandsew - November 17, 2010 at 06:36 pm

re: Ray ritchie
1) Apparently the compensation varies, per some of the other commenters claiming to ghost write term papers. However, just look at the pay of similarly educated writers -- this comment thread is full of adjuncts, assistants, instructors and so on, all complaining they make half that much. You would end up better off as a tenured professor of a traditional college, but there are far more writing intensive liberal arts graduates than tenured professor positions.
2) This works for the same reasons much black market trading does -- more money andn satisfaction is made by not turning people in. If Dante's figures are indicative, he wrote 66 papers for half of $2000, and works in a company with 50 such writers -- that's 3.3 million dollars a year the company is making for matching writers with students. The company would be lucky to extort a handful of students before someone turns them in to the FBI, which would destroy a booming 3.3 million$/year cash cow... it's very unlikely that extortion could possibly recoup the cash value, let alone all the time spent building up the business, jail time, etc.
3) Tech can also overcome problems... simply have everyone video tape their writing process, and only check suspect students. Writing by hand doesn't allow for editing, biases against slow writers, and doesn't support annotated research papers. Giving them a week's notice solves nothing even for the standard essay, presumably someone else will still write it and they can simply memorize and transcribe.

386. freidon - November 17, 2010 at 06:45 pm

Students don't know how to write. Not even at a basic level.

It's rather amusing for me to read the comments of this article. There are ongoing debates questioning the truthfulness of the ghost writer, how english and writing skills are underapreciated, and who really is to blame for the problem. All those responding are seeing things from a University standpoint. Few people have mentioned High School. Those who have only did so to point out the problems in texting and chatspeak.

I'm currently a Senior at one of the best public schools in the state. I'm fortunate to be skilled in reading and at least adequate in writing. My peers are a different story. In my Honors English class, we are currently read Hamlet. Despite having a well liked teacher, no one volunteers for reading parts. Now, understandably, Hamlet is rather difficult to read....but that isn't why people find the floor interesting whenever reading is brought up. The real reason?

My peers are embarrassed to read aloud. Our best readers read at a slow rate, occasionally stumbling over words that are by no means outdated. My teacher is shrewd; he diverts away from awkwardness by letting the students have fun with it. The boys in our class compete over who can read for Ophelia the best. My classmates don't laugh at whoever is reading because he's having trouble reading it, but because he's a Southern football player sporting the worst British accent imaginable.

However, the problem remains. Despite how great of a teacher I have, he doesn't have the time to grade papers for a hundred and fifty students, nor is he fortunate enough to have an undergraduate to hand the task to. We know how to generate the typical five paragraph essay, but the longest paper we've ever written was three pages long. Double spaced. In an Honors History class, my peers thought that a seven page paper was grueling. Also double spaced.

I have never had a teacher discuss with me how I could better improve my writing. I get by with an easy A just simply because my writing ability is well above the standard. Yet I'm sure he or any other English major could scour this comment with red ink at my numerous mistakes and awkward phrasings.

The fact that I'm going to college having little to no idea how to write an official paper scares the heck out of me. The fact that my peers will attempt the same is bewildering.

If you wish, you can continue with your conversations debating the issue. The fact remains that getting a diploma is more important in today's world than actually getting the education the diploma represents.

387. ucsdprof - November 17, 2010 at 06:53 pm

ryanmichaelm wrote, "It's the job of the EDUCATOR to come up with class content that sparks interests in our youth. If your students are cheating, it's because YOU haven't done your job correctly. I've never seen a child intentionally blow-off something they were looking forward to."

I agree that educators should be serious about identifying and punishing academic dishonesty. However the notion that students cheat because they are bored seems obviously false, at least in many cases. Many students will cheat in classes where they are motivated.

388. nylund - November 17, 2010 at 06:55 pm

I'm just a lowly TA, but I'd like to add that I've worked for a number of professors who don't even bother to look at any of the assignments. They just hand me a stack of papers and I hand them back a stack of grades. Sometimes I read them seriously, and sometimes, I just skim them enough to get a sense of where their work falls within the distribution of quality so I know how to disperse the grades. I feel bad about the kids who try knowing that the professor hasn't bothered to look at any of it, but mostly, I'm too overworked with my own school work to care. It often just feels like a completely pointless process and on bad days I can't help but think that every school is little more than a diploma mill.

But mostly, the quality of work is so bad that professors and TAs alike have just stopped caring. When so many students are just so terrible its hard to care without losing your mind at just how insurmountable the problem seems.

389. more_cowbell - November 17, 2010 at 07:02 pm

good piont Nylund. The TA (and adjunct) system that exists really allows this kind of cheating to go on undetected.

The fact that this is going on at the graduate student level for theses says to me that the student has likely been doing this sort of thing for years, and getting away with it.

390. crimsonschwein - November 17, 2010 at 07:23 pm

As a student I find it extremely upsetting that my classmates are more likely to pay a stranger for help rather than getting free assistance from a writing lab.
I will admit I do the recommended studying for all my classes and get A's easily but very few classes require long written anwsers instead leaning towards single paragraphs or single page essays.
I have noticed that many students opt not to buy textbooks because of price and their disinterest in actually doing assigned readings. This is also limiting the education process possibly as much as the reliance on testing. However I would like to point out that even when the readings are available online via the teacher students still don't read them. So it really boils down to laziness which is more a product of societal teachings than the education systems.
All that said I still am studying to be an Art Education major and someday hope to educate young people on self expression through "art"...

391. abgrund - November 17, 2010 at 07:33 pm

Cheating a legitimate part of the academic process. The primary function of so-called "education" is socialization; it has very little to do with the acquisition of skills and knowledge, especially after third grade which is when most Americans stop learning. Cheating is part of this socialization process, especially for business students whose main workplace function will be to exercise discreet dishonesty. The lesson to be learned is very applicable in real life: cheat, but don't get caught; protect your cheating friends and they will protect you. And you thought your students weren't learning!

392. lukanon - November 17, 2010 at 08:18 pm

We have a system that demands high levels of reading, writing, and research skills -- but fails to test for them with any precision or consistency. The system fails to reliably support or promote those who truly have the skills in the first place, and later fails to reward them in the non-academic world after graduation.

A cheat who buys the work isn't just "as good," as someone who does their own work, but is generally treated better by the system as a whole, all the way up the line in academia, and ultimately in the world beyond. That's in part because in the real world real professionals simply buy the the skills from professional writers, rather than providing their own skills -- and often pay a pittance for that writing, too. Brilliant reading, writing, research and analytical skills qualify a student to low social standing, unreliable academic rewards, and very nearly peasant-level standing in the mainstream world of employment. Entry and mid-level proof-readers, copyeditors, factual essayists, reporters, fact-checkers, or copywriters are economic peons, barely higher in rank and status than sharecroppers. High-ranking writing professionals are, for the most part, lucky to be middle-income pluggers.

As long as neither academia nor the world at large reward people for actually being good students, and so long as no serious and consistent attempt is made at any level to punish the cheats, reward the genuine writer/scholars, and promote the value of the skills, well...

With no punishment for cheats, no outstanding rewards or support for non-cheats, no cultural support or admiration for the work done, and an economic system that makes it mandatory for a reader/writer/scholar to sell some service or other to pay the rent, you can simply expect and accept that Dantes are going to exist, in sufficient volume to create an entire business class in its own right. The students who would have passed in the first place are exactly the students who never got serious admiration for that skill in school, and who will never get paid for that skill again unless they're realistic and sell what they can do to clients who can pay.

The students who can't pass without the help are often the ones who know it's just a charade both in school and out, and refuse to get messed over by the system when it's already bogus. They're cynical and amoral, but they know the game, and they play it well.

Figure out a way to change the rules and standards of the game, in school and out, and maybe, just maybe, the blackmarket for "original essays" will dry up. Meanwhile survival imperatives are going to keep on driving the unskilled to pay for the right to "borrow" skill, and the skilled are going to play along, because it's one of the few games in town with a paycheck of any kind for academic writing talent.

393. howartcow - November 17, 2010 at 08:26 pm

Between 1963 and 1972 the percentage of "A's" given in courses at four year colleges and universities went from 13% to 42%--an unsettling statistic. I am an early boomer (1947) and led arguably the first generation of college students for whom a four year degree was a sine qua non for a middle class life. The story about professional ghostwriting of academic assignments suggests to me nothing so much as an illustration of two economic principles. First, the justly famous Marxist argument that quantity shapes quality; the post-war economy's need to "process" large numbers of engineers, teachers, and managers dictated an easing of standards of excellence (get 'em in, get 'em out). Second, in a severely competitive jobs market, expected future economic rewards will outweigh ethical qualms every day of the week. Further, the conscious realization by well-meaning staff possessed of high standards that to justly fail an inadequate or dishonest student--even one who had no interest in learning except as dues paid for a degree--might be to condemn the morally immature (!) to a future with few prospects.
My probably impractical partial solution to this problem might be to reserve some universities for those who have demonstrated--however tentatively--a love for scholarship and research in Art, Science, or the Humanities. Since most of higher education grows ever more bent toward occupational training, and breadth requirements shrink and devalue with each passing year, why not give out more differential bachelor's degrees? Those who opt only for a pass to a decent job will receive a second class degree. Those who have the courage to attempt literature, languages, science, and art in depth will be rewarded with a higher degree.
Proven instances of cheating will receive severe penalties. Further violations will be grounds for expulsion. Selling papers to students should be a misdemeanor morals violation, punishable by fine and publication of the violator's name and photo.

394. alice2010 - November 17, 2010 at 08:42 pm

@ryanmichaelm: The shadwow scholar is not a legitimate line of work and you know it as well as "Ed Dante" -- if it is so legitimate than why does "Ed Dante" need to hide beyond a pseudonym? Yep.

395. ucsdprof - November 17, 2010 at 09:15 pm

The real Ed Dante was far too busy writing essays for students to pen this piece for CHE. Rather, he paid a colleague at another paper mill to concoct and compose this story, to which he attached his own fake name. This is what it has come to, people.

396. kahekili - November 17, 2010 at 09:21 pm

To "skaking" (comment #15): You wrote: "graykitt, there is no ad hominem nor venemous attack upon you, as much as you may like that. you are being criticized for having, well, buffoonish ideas. (sorry charlie, that's not venemous. merely descriptive.) and why do you feel the need to melt three anonymous identities into one? does that make you feel better?"

a. Spelling: venomous
b. Grammar: meld (not "melt")
c. Punctuation: "that's not venemous. merely descriptive." You have written a full sentence followed by a fragment. The two should be connected by a comma, not a period.
d. Capitalization: highly recommended if one wants to be taken seriously.

397. neader333 - November 17, 2010 at 09:40 pm

@ books4jocks:
"I get so frustrated by all the blustering about integrity, the importance of writing, bla bla bla, when so few people actually want to teach writing in a way that is relevant to students' lives and careers. " - This is easier said than done. Have you ever tried teaching a subject 90% of your students could care less about?!? - Then you ask, well why are the students in the class? They are there because of the law, in the case of high school, and the continuing pressure of upping our standards to compete against other countries.

I wish I had the talent of speed reading so I could read every single comment, but I don't. So I hope I am not repeating what anyone else has said.

This problem would be solved if young students faced real consequences. I know for a fact that students would have completely different attitudes if there was a consequence that actually affected them. I would really like to say "If we could beat kids, the world would be a better place," but that's not exactly what I mean, so please do not misinterpret.

Also, like the author stated in the article, what drives people is money. In other words, we are a greedy society! How did this happen?!?! More importantly, how can we fix it?!!? I believe if we could fix that problem, it would take out the necessity of the "ghost writers" for those wanting a PhD. Unfortunately, this will probably never happen in my lifetime, but I can dream.

What I want to do to help:
With an education background, I hope to get on a local school board to help support successful administraters in public schools.
It is one of my goals to write a book that will change the world, but that will take a significant amount of time.

398. jonathanathan - November 17, 2010 at 10:04 pm


#335 has it right: investigate this industry for plain and simple FRAUD.

Sure there were frats with files of test answers in the olden days. Of course there has always been simple cheating. But today it seems necessary to pursue this author and his industry with charges of FRAUD for a reasonable curtailing of this activity.


In addition, one cannot but find Ed Dante a tragic character. He wrote an amazing novel whilst an undergrad (Can't wait to read it! When is it going to be published?!), got the jaded eye for some damn prof and now helps people cheat those evil profs who stifled his literary career.

Oh. Sorry. We don't know the gender of the author. I hate that She/He/It stuff anyhow. Let's just call the author S/H/It.
Hey! Check that out! I just plagiarized a Slavoj Zizek joke! On him! Or S/H/It.

I'm just waiting for S/H/It's novel to come out!!!

I love you S/H/It! You're the bestest writer that ever lived!
Can't wait for your stuff to hit Oprah! And Barnes and Noble. And Walmart.

Good. Luck.


399. geeber - November 17, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I don't understand. I assign readings to my students. They don't do them. I conduct lectures. A third of my students don't show up, another third might as well not show up. I give them multiple handouts of advice on writing and assign a style guide. They don't use them. I offer my assistance in reviewing early drafts of essays. They write their essays the night before instead. I offer to let them re-write when they get poor grades. They don't take advantage of this offer. I hold study sessions for exams. They don't go. So, could Mr. Dante explain this to me again? How is this my fault, and not my students' fault?

400. michaellongson - November 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I won't claim to be a scholar or an educator. I am a student at a small Associate level seminary. I have no delusions that this type of behavior does not happen at my school. However, there is only so much an educator can do to prevent it. The author is bragging about creating custom term papers, yet he then criticizes the educators for not being able to catch the culprits. Isn't that the point of a custom term paper? The truth of the matter is that everyone involved carries some degree of fault, but I do not think that all educators can be lumped together in receiving the blame. Many educators work very hard at trying to avoid this type of cheating. I had a professor who required the students to write a term paper in class, based off the lectures. He kept the rough draft and the student was required to turn in a final copy the following week. This allowed the professor to see a sample of what the student could turn out quickly, and then the finished product. My English professor requires us to write a one page essay - handwritten - on with every test. I will not pretend that no one is able to slip by, but many educators are trying the best they can. Those who don't care or turn a blind eye to it, they will need to own up for their own actions someday.
It saddens me that people have no conscience in this matter, including the author. I personally receive a great deal of enjoyment from the learning process. When I am assigned a research paper, I enjoy the process of researching the material and formulating my own ideas as much as receiving whatever grade I earned. If the grade is not what I felt I deserved, oh well, I am here to learn and serve God, not to look good to others.

401. miina - November 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm

freidon--Your comment struck a chord with this high school junior. Though my classmates aren't struggling as much as yours seem to be, they share that same debilitating fear of writing. Sure, most of us at my school have the ability to whip out a competent short essay in 10-20 minutes, but if asked to do so would run away screaming. We're lucky have great teachers who actually help us improve our writing skills, but nobody actually wants to write an essay.

Even more terrifying than the in-class essay over here is the junior term paper, which occupies a special place of fear at my school. It's the subject of much moaning and groaning, even if it's only supposed to have a maximum of 2500 words and we're given nearly a month to research and write the thing. Compared to what is (should be?) expected of college students, this is noting. But I wasn't the only one in my class wailing "I'M GONNA DIE." Yes, we high school students will have to deal with big papers all the time once we get to college, and should learn to deal with it. But if we're already so terrified of writing now, it's no wonder that paper mills sound so appealing.

402. infovoyeur - November 17, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I have scene student's in my Universitys Computer Labb, supposedly writting a "papier" with pile of books open around and also simul taneously Goggling like mad. And then just droping paragraph in on after the other. If he can write better then me that way, a mirrikle. So even then when self-writting, not plagairiarizing... No wander there "essay's" come out a brouillon, thats french for both "skrambeled mess" and also "first draft." True Exposition, aha--do the following principles meen anything to, them, us, you? Conceptualizing (idea, concept)... Convergence (unity)... Completeness... Calibration or proportion... Categorization (subparts)... Crystallization (explicit labeling of subpart points)... Concretization:(specific vivid examples instances proof)... Con-Sequence (structure)... and the rest, Coherence, Cohesion... [See book "Expository Elucidation" by some writer last name Beck, pub. dait oh about 2007 I think.]

Chester from Wonderside

403. lixious - November 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I just turned in my supporting documents for my graduate application today, and after reading this article, I am angry.

1. All of my failures and successes of my undergrad studies were my own; 100%.

2. I am applying for a foreign language literature Master's program, and I am looking forward to writing a thesis completely on my own, because I still believe that education is more valuable than money.

3. As a foreign language major for my undergrad studies, I wrote papers almost non-stop, many of which were completed in-class during exams. This is to be expected for a major composed mainly of literature courses. However, most of my general studies courses also included in class essay exams, including science courses I took. I did not attend an ivy league university, but a public university. I wonder what institutions these students who cheat attend, that they are not being called out on the discrepancies between their exam content and outside of class content.

I am angry, as an aspiring future educator and as a student who loves to learn, that so many people have no respect for the educational process, and are making it through to graduation without being called out. I wish that I could hunt these people down and force them to find other ways to prove their worth, than through education. Shame on them, and shame on this ghost writer for enabling mediocrity.

404. arowens - November 17, 2010 at 11:00 pm

This guy needs help!

405. blackprince - November 17, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Meh, no big deal. These students who can't write essays will be caught out during their exams anyway.
I did a degree in physiology in undergrad with a minor in sociology. My soc courses were mostly evaluated with essays, and I never ever paid anyone to write an essay for me, nor did I get a prewritten essay and adapt it. I just made sh!t up. I didn't care, it was just a grade and frankly undergraduate work in these courses was useless to me anyway. This idea that ppl on here have that "ohmygod, Rome is falling to the Visigoths if we allow this to happen" is silly. The real subjects that impact the world are the sciences and applied sciences and most of those don't have particularly long essays. I think that to combat this trend, professors should assign fewer essays and greater weight to examinations. Oh, eventually I graduated magna cum laude, and I went to medical school. I had a few sociology type assignments there as well that were total bullsh!t as far as their relevance, and again I faked sources made sh!t up. I did very well.

406. chlorochroa - November 17, 2010 at 11:16 pm

This article reveals just how awful capitalism can be. Apparently as long as the "job" isn't technically illegal there will be no shortage of morally bankrupt individuals lining up to take it.

The author, and others like him, should be ashamed of themselves. Further, they should refrain from placing the blame for their immorality on educators and focus instead on their place and growth out of a larger society. This is exactly the kind of behavior our corrupt system has come to promote and glorify (see BP, Halliburton, Wall Street, the last several US presidential administrations, etc.).

407. bezrodniykosmopolit - November 17, 2010 at 11:33 pm

America not much fair to us that speak other language than English. Market is the big image here. We use it to get even. So what?

408. chlorochroa - November 17, 2010 at 11:41 pm

A relevant quote from another author

"...but we cannot hope to understand the mysterious ways of Market. Market put those bankers at Goldman Sachs in that position for a reason, though we, the undeserving and unimportant little people, cannot begin to figure out why. Everything is done according to Market's will. It should be enough for us to know that this was ordained by Market. We will receive our reward in the future as long as we are faithful in our belief in Market and never sin by listening to the evil rantings of the unbelievers."

kivals October 21st, 2009 11:25 am

409. paltry - November 17, 2010 at 11:43 pm


410. tassiekaz - November 17, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Loved the article
Ed Dante - get back to writing fiction, I'd love to read a novel based on this

411. lixious - November 17, 2010 at 11:58 pm

blackprince: you have a narrow view of the purpose of education. If we all studied applied sciences, our societal structure would fail.

bezrodniykosmopolit: seek help to learn English, if you plan to attend an English speaking school. Major universities should have remedial English courses. How can you learn a subject if you do not understand the language in which it is taught? I agree that the prices are unfair, when you have to take extra courses to be prepared for other courses, but when you go to any other country to study, that's par for the course.

412. oxymoron - November 18, 2010 at 12:29 am

I find this article to be astounding. It is one of the more factual documents of university level cheating besides the actual papers written and proven as false works. The general situation (that it is so difficult to prove that a student is cheating using a service as advanced as this one) is one of the more entertaining bits. It goes to show, if there is a will there is a way. Obviously this does cross ethical boundaries and shouldn't be regarded as a wonderful process, but the logic behind it (all from the writers) is remarkable. One day even this level of cheating will be capable of being stopped and easily detected, but as for right now, understanding the process of how the cheating is done, detecting the writers and organizations, and finding the proper level of justice is a wonderful learning opportunity. Even the fact that the situation is occurring at all can be used to argue against the schooling systems and to show the current level of intelligence of students to be lacking. It is a great opportunity.

413. bethimar - November 18, 2010 at 12:50 am

@341 (corum)... On the side note: what is the difference between "further" and "farther"?

Further is a conceptual distance, while farther is actual distance.

I think you should take your argument one step further.
Furthermore, I think that Dante's existance is a result of more than just lazy professors or students.

It is a farther walk to the store than to the river. It must involve a bridge--or a swim.
How much farther is it to Bill's house?

414. bethimar - November 18, 2010 at 12:56 am

This article--and the comments that followed--have been inspiring me to write, create, and think. Judging from the number of comments, I'd say I'm not alone.

Write your book, "Ed Dante"... but please, make it a good one. All of those years of developing cut-and-paste, fill-in-the-blank phrases has rubbed off on you even in this article. I don't want to hear any more of your whining when, after you send a crappy manuscript, multiple publishers reject your work and write you off as insignificant. ;)

Of course, it could be amusing to write the entire book in that style... but I think even THIS audience would run out of patience for an inside joke of that length.

415. wow_wow - November 18, 2010 at 01:07 am

I went to college with an undergraduate student who would write papers for other students, for a fee. The same person was also hired on a regular basis by professors to grade papers for pay. From time to time this "freelancer" was actually grading the same papers they had been paid to write--which the person found amusing--and profitable.

416. hansgiebenrath - November 18, 2010 at 05:05 am

Another of the sagacious-mendacious contributing to an influx of stupidity in the work force? Obviously if he read Plato he would know he's adopted the foolish attitude of Thrasymachus. Whatever, with ADHD like mine I gave up on the validity of academic institutions long ago. If you like to read and write, then you will. If not, then pay someone else. That's Capitalism BABY!

417. kendraken - November 18, 2010 at 07:27 am

I am distressed by the pervasiveness of anti-academic and anti-humanities sentiments in the responses to this post. The fact that it is possible to ghost-write papers is taken as proof that humanities degrees are "BS," even though some commentators claim to do other students' math homework for a living.

A great many commentators blame instructors for making plagiarism possible. It is a cliché to cite tenure for fostering indifference, although at many universities composition courses are overwhelmingly taught by graduate students and untenured faculty. Others suggest that the problem is that courses are taught by underqualified adjuncts. In my experience, adjunct faculty are often no less qualified than tenure-track - just less lucky in the job market lottery.

I am a junior faculty member in a small program at a highly ranked, large public university; I have taught writing-intensive courses both here and as a graduate student at a similar institution. The university has responded to budget crises by reducing requirements, increasing class sizes, cutting TA positions and eliminating writing center services. Many faculty teach large classes with no TAs or grading support. My colleagues care about teaching but recognize that our career advancement is based mainly on research. Even though my own classes are relatively small, I am not able to respond to essays as thoroughly as I did as a graduate student teaching only one course.

Most of our students, many of them English language learners, come from public school systems that have far greater problems. There is simply too much to do for a single course to make up for all deficiencies. At the same time, grade inflation means that students feel that if they are good enough to get into this school they deserve at least a B, and giving lower grades leads to many hours of tearful office visits, low course ratings and reduced enrollments, which can jeopardize our own continued employment or the future of a small program. Although I lament students' preoccupation with grades, I find it understandable. Admissions to graduate programs and professional schools are competitive, and at a large university where instructors rarely have the opportunity to know their students personally, grades are the most obvious way for a student to stand out. I can understand how students in lectures with several hundred students may not feel much personal responsibility toward an impersonal system.

When I teach upper-division seminars, I build proposals, outlines and drafts into my writing assignments but find that, even when the syllabus indicates that these are worth a substantial portion of the grade, the majority of students do not complete these preparatory assignments. I do not think that most of the others cheat, and as a person who finds writing to deadlines difficult I do not have the heart to fail half the class.

Instructors are also blamed for a lack of imagination in designing assignments. To some extent, giving highly unconventional assignments does students a disservice inasmuch as it will not help them with future classes. Knowing how to interpret the instruction to "write a five-page paper analyzing this text" is part of the cultural competence students need for their college careers. The process of researching, drafting and editing a paper over time is a different type of task than in-class exams and complementary to it. The suggestion, which appears repeatedly in these comments, that assessment be based entirely on in-class assignments is not feasible. If all writing were moved to class time, we would not be able to cover any other material.

The best comments are those that acknowledge that we are all part of a system. I have been deeply upset by all the plagiarism cases I have discovered, feeling them to be a betrayal of the premises of education and a failure to recognize my eagerness to help the students, but no one has the power to eliminate cheating altogether.

418. dvoyles - November 18, 2010 at 07:51 am

::: chlorochroa :::

Maybe these people "should be ashamed" of themselves. But that shame isn't going to get you a degree, or a job in this down market. Doing what it takes to get ahead, unfortunately, will.

419. dvoyles - November 18, 2010 at 07:58 am

::: qtronman :::
"Why go to school at all if you want to cheat? Of what meaning is the degree, which is supposed to represent work the student has done, assignments completed, examinations written, etc-"

A degree doesn't mean anything, and hasn't meant anything in years. An undergraduate degree today, is what a high school diploma was 30 years ago. Every A**-hole has one. A graduate level degree today, is what an undergraduate degree was 30 years ago as well. A ton of people have them, but they may not be of much use to you. Anyone can hold a sheet of paper in their hand with his/her name, and the title of their school. It is up to the individual to make some competent work and a name for him/herself to make it in the real world and prove useful in the work force.

420. arubaprof - November 18, 2010 at 09:18 am

I can speak to the truth of the above article as I am engaged in the same profession as the author. In fact, I have even done work for other university professors...one of whom hired me to author this very comment on their behalf. :)

421. srikiraju - November 18, 2010 at 09:24 am

I disagree. Because a degree is so common, having one is more important to secure a competent job. Employers obviously prefer to employ through the large pool of college graduates.
I think you actually mean that it doesn't set up apart anymore, which is true.

422. brainfooddude - November 18, 2010 at 10:47 am

I just want to point out that the true loser in this situation is the cheating student. Having a graduate degree in your back pocket does not ensure success, and usually (though not always) the real world weeds out incompetence. How many of these chronic cheaters end up in a mediocre-paying job and are miserable at work? My guess is most.

For the few who do actually use the skill of paying others to their advantage successfully, what's in store for them? A six-figure income and a meaningless life? The value I took from my education was not just the ability to make money, but the desire to be a lifelong learner and to seek out a purposeful life.

423. nx_ie - November 18, 2010 at 10:57 am


"Michael: Question about plagiarism guarantee
Call accepted by operator Scott. Currently in room: Scott, Michael.

Scott: Hello, Michael! We have a zero plagiarism tolerance policy, each essay is written from scratch according to your instructions moreover we incorporate special software to check every assignment and deliver you the original.

Michael: Are you aware that the second-last paragraph of this sample paper on your website is plagiarized directly from another source? http://essaysreasy.com/files/examples/university_level.pdf
How can you guarantee this won't happen to a paper I purchase if its in a sample paper?

Scott: It is a sample which is available for everyone and the paper you`ll order will be available only for you and our writer also our team has a very strict no-plagiarism policy, which allows us to offer you 100% originality guarantee or your money back.

Michael: It says on your website and indicates in the sample that this actually was graded by someone. Is this not then accurate? It also says this is an example of "original and non-plagiarized research"; how is this so?

Scott: Someone could use this sample for his / her own paper as it is available for everyone to look it through.

Michael: Do you agree there is plagiarism in this sample however? Here is the original source: http://mkqpreview2.qdweb.net/article_print.aspx?L2=3&L3=49&ar=1603. Here is a sample copied sentence: "In the 1980s, Shell bet on deep-water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico" "and became an early leader there by developing the necessary techniques and equipment for extraction." Was the sample actually graded? Why wouldn't someone expect also to have their paper they bought also plagiarized if this is supposed to be an example of an original and non-plagiarized paper?

Scott: One sec please!

Michael: Is there someone I can call or email at your company to ask about this issue? Please send a message to our email sales@essays-r-easy.com and our manager will be happy to answer to all your question concerning the company and its work.

Michael: Could you provide me the name and direct contact for a manager (e.g., phone)? Do you perhaps have any answers for my questions? Is this plagiarism on your website? Please, any information would help.

Scott: Please follow my instruction and our manager will answer to all your specific questions."

424. chlorochroa - November 18, 2010 at 11:08 am


Perhaps. But following this path has given us a society in which there is little if any accountability for cheating at every level. In the worst cases this results in things like catastrophic oil spills, illegal wars of aggression, torure, a media apparatus of enablers, and basically glorified lawlessness of an increasaingly grotesque nature.

I think that a little shame can be a good thing and perhaps lead a person to a life of self-confidence and honor. If you fail at academics you can still be proud that you tried and ended up pursuing an alternate path to success.



425. ddrhl - November 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

Blame. Blame. Blame. Blame.
Especially blame everyone and everything ELSE.
What good does that serve?
I did my own work.
You can, too.
Will the results be fair if you do? No.
Will they be fair if everyone cheats? No.
Welcome to reality.

426. nx_ie - November 18, 2010 at 11:23 am


"Dear client,
Thank you for reporting this issue in our sample essay. It was most likely a typo by the writer. Such things might happen as all essays are written by people and people sometimes make mistakes. However, this is a very rare occasion and 1 copied sentence in a 900-word paper will not cause any accusations of plagiarism even from the most strict professors."

--> not only do pay for paper websites post plagiarized documents as sample written papers, they tell you its not that big a deal.

427. littlehamsterz - November 18, 2010 at 11:37 am

Good morning everybody. Your comments have been most interesting.

I'm an undergraduate student at an Ivy League institution, and this article doesn't surprise me in the least. I go to a school where some people obviously paid their way in one way or another, but generally people are indeed intelligent.

I needed to take a general writing course freshman year, and the writing in that class was simply appalling. Peer editing those papers was like a slow and painful death.

Honestly though, college level writing courses don't teach you one lick about how to write. The structure of the general writing requirement at my school is nothing but a joke. They require you to write with pre-deteremined structures each week, and the finished product need not be more than 2 pages in length, allowing for only the most shallow and cursory of papers. I believe other colleges have rather similar writing courses.

My background in high school consisted of an International Baccalaureate degree, which I had to earn (oh yes, I earned it myself 100%) with many lengthy essays, internal assessments, and extra exams. Liteary analysis, research paper, historical analysis, you name it, and I've written it. All of my writing abilities stem from those four intensive years in IB, and none of it from college. To go to college and receive such a laughable writing requirement is akin to degrading my intelligence. In fact, our laughable general school wide writing days in high school had a very similar structure to the class I took in college. There was a pre determined chunk structure that you needed to follow in this order: introduction sentence(s), argument/hypothesis, concrete evidence, conclusion. The only difference was we had to write one paragraph and in college I need to write two pages with slightly different structures.

I've always felt that the American education system has miserably low expectations of its students. With miserable excuses for writing classes such as the one I took, how are students supposed to learn how to write properly? I was lucky enough to escape that fate by attending an IB school, but where do other students fall that are not so lucky? There's a reason that America can't compete with other countries academically. There's something very wrong with the American education system. It fosters mediocrity, and you're surprised that students sometimes must cheat? Without a firm basis for writing skills, there's no option but to cheat for those that are ESL/never learned how to write, because failure is not an option, especially at my school where everybody wants to go to med school, vet school, graduate school, etc., competition is cut throat, and curves are steep.

I'm a student who has never cheated, but I completely understand why you would. We have a system that prevents and hinders the majority of students from learning writing skills properly, and you can extrapolate to math, science, history, and everything else. The blame doesn't lie on any particular person, but on the entire structure of American education.

Additionally, Chinese education is extremely grade oriented and extremely competitive, yet the majority of their students excel. Foreign exchange students to America do very well in general, so I don't think that a focus on education for education's sake would fix this matter.

Good day :)

428. newer - November 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm

This not only applies students' academic integrity,but also some faculties with low educational backgrounds offen do much more cheating behaviors and plagiarism. However, those "smart" faculties cheating behaviors are protacted. becasue they have powers. No one can bring their evil behaviors out. Instead, some intellgent and honest scholars have no jobs. Where is fairness? No body knows.

429. chron7 - November 18, 2010 at 01:16 pm

Just thought of something. What happens if the records this company keeps somehow leak - or the company eventually folds? Holders of that customer list could have the impact of Heidi Fleiss.

430. coachpzizzle - November 18, 2010 at 01:29 pm

As a public educator who teaches teenagers how to write, let me point out a couple of things: a) most teachers of elementary or middle school have only bachelor's degrees in various general subject areas; b) to be certified in most states to teach public education, you must only pass one content area test and one pedagogical exam; c) public school teachers serve clientele from every walk of life, yet we're expected to transform them into ideal students in 187 days; and d) regardless of teacher-student ratios, most upper-division teachers handle caseloads of more than 150 students each without the luxury of student graders or TAs. We must grade and assess every student's progress, and we are the sole parties responsible for documenting their failings, their engagement and their growth.

To lay blame on the system is one thing. I agree that it's broken; however, be careful that you differentiate between educators and the system we work in. There are good teachers and bad, like in any industry; but I truly believe, after spending my lifetime dedicating my efforts to student success, that most teachers would be horrified to know their work did little to prepare their students for higher education or the "real world".

It's already a thankless job without blaming the craftiness of cheaters on our shoulders. Cheaters will cheat, idiots will find ways to manipulate the system, and those who are unqualified will inevitably get around obstacles holding them back. It begs the question: are they truly so idiotic or incapable of success if their problem solving led them to identify their weakness and find a solution?

I don't know the answer, but I know this article literally made me feel sick.

431. pacificgeezer - November 18, 2010 at 01:39 pm

How different is this from what assistant professors, associate professors, and professors have been doing ever since the New Criticism triumphed in the 1950s? Does writing your own banal, derivative essays for publication give you moral superiority over students who buy their term papers? Robert K. Wallace in MELVILLE AND TURNER (1992)records a moment at the 1990 MLA when the audience was in enthusiastic agreement with a "petulant stranger" who from the doorway shouted, over and over, "the facts don't matter." Many of the essays published in 2010 in famous journals are mere fantasies because they violate known "facts." No wonder so many teachers can't tell when students are cheating.

432. dvoyles - November 18, 2010 at 01:55 pm

::: srikiraju :::

"I think you actually mean that it doesn't set up apart anymore, which is true."

Good point, I absolutely agree with you here.

::: chlorochroa :::

"I think that a little shame can be a good thing and perhaps lead a person to a life of self-confidence and honor. If you fail at academics you can still be proud that you tried and ended up pursuing an alternate path to success."

I agree with you on this point as well. An individual can learn a lot from academics, in regards specifically to what they do/do not enjoy, so it still has the possibility of putting them on the correct track.

433. anon11 - November 18, 2010 at 01:56 pm

I'm not sure if my memory is based in fact or an urban legend, but I remember believing that our degrees could be stripped or a note put on our transcripts if we were found to have written papers, done homework, or taken tests for current students once we had graduated.

Right now there are no consequences for ghost writers whose identities are revealed. Perhaps there need to be. At least that would dissuade some from seeking employment in this market.

434. pacificgeezer - November 18, 2010 at 02:56 pm

Anon11, can you document your impression that degrees were stripped because of plagiarizing?
What, say, of the man who went on to become a famous Shakespeare scholar after plagiarizing his (then-travelling) professor's dissertation? Or the man who blamed a photographic memory for his plagiarizing a book on Eudora Welty? Or . . . .

435. anon11 - November 18, 2010 at 03:12 pm

No, I cannot document it. I specifically remember that it was a penalty for recent grads who had recently taken a course to help current students to cheat, though. Whether this was an actual policy, a wishful thought expressed by a professor, or rumor is unclear.

I vividly remember talking to fellow students about how we would make sure that our previous homework was kept in a safe place, however, so no one could find it and use it in classes we had taken. But it was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..., or so it seems as I read these comments.

436. sarahr - November 18, 2010 at 03:15 pm

I imagine the author of this piece intended for it to be shocking, clever, or revelatory of some human tendencies heretofore unknown. Sadly, it failed on all accounts and the overarching impression I was left with was that these clients and the obnoxious and arrogant author deserve each other.

Personally, it sounds like Dante is grossly underpaid for producing the volume of work he does. None of this is bragworthy. That people cheat, lie and lack ethics is also not news.

This is a distasteful example of sensationalism, and the author displays a strange propensity for assigning responsibility (to the college who denied his independent study request or to the educators who purportedly have "failed") for his behavior everywhere but to himself.

437. jbode - November 18, 2010 at 03:27 pm

It's been 20 years since I was in school, but it doesn't sound like much has changed in that time. Whether this particular account is true or not (smells truish enough to me), I know that this sort of thing *was* going on back then.

Other students offered me money to do their work for them, although in my case it was computer code. One of my classmates was a TA who regularly received work that was clearly written by someone other than the student turning it in. He could tell because they always forgot to strip off the email header. Unfortunately, the professor told him to pass them anyway because it wasn't worth the heartburn of dealing with the fallout from the charges of cheating.

The real root of the problem, I think, is how we view the role of a college/university education (and education in general). For most people, getting a degree is a means to an end (getting a high(er)-paying job), not an end in itself. So of course the focus is on *passing the class* so you can *earn the degree* and *get the job*, not on actually learning about stuff for its own sake.

We fall victim to this at the elementary and high school levels as well; the whole focus on improving public education is based on making the US more economically competitive, not on teaching kids how to think or reason for themselves. We (by which I mean the bulk Americans who aren't academics) don't value education as a profession ("those who can't, teach") and we don't value education as a pursuit ("what do those eggheads in their ivory towers know about *real life*").

Parents pressure their kids to *succeed*, not necessarily to *learn*. The focus is on getting good grades, not getting the finer points of critical thinking. This is the environment that allows cheating to flourish. Not everybody needs to or should go to college, but we've set up a system where they almost *have* to in order to survive.

438. anonstudent - November 18, 2010 at 03:59 pm

The purpose of education seems to escape administration in this day and age. The machine that is academia is now built on the dollar and personal success as opposed to fostering education. Profitability of learning comes before function and now dominates its form.

A prime example I use with 'colleagues' is a law review. Decisions are made about the worthiness of a comment without regard to a word of its content. If a professor at Random University has not been published sufficiently to receive a high CERN rating, they're instantly dismissed. Is this the type of free exchange of ideas the structure of the system intends to promote?

Structurally, the culture has created a system where a few letters after one's name mean all the difference. So, to succeed in life, students think more education means more success leading to a 'requirement' of seeking more education. As a result, there are too many people attempting to be university educated. The unbalance and over-education creates the niche market from which this author profits.

Conversely, a professor, speaking in general terms, could care less about teaching class. A professor has his research to bolster his name and generate some sort of fame. If the professor can't catch someone doing this, perhaps they ought to focus on the primary job of education before the secondary of research?

439. circuitbomb - November 18, 2010 at 06:04 pm

Just you can see my responce Mr.Dante, you wont ever get any of my money for writting paper for my school. I will do this myself thank you very much.


While I don't necessarily care about your 'career' choice, I firmly believe that the number of non-cheating students is higher than the ones who do. In the long run, success comes from displaying a working knowledge of the major subject material you "learn" in schooling.

I found a vibe in your article which gave me the sense you were glorifying yourself; that you've done so much of this, and so much of that. All you've done, is teach the weak to be weaker.

I pity you.

440. scientistmom - November 18, 2010 at 06:40 pm

All I can think of while I read these vast comments tossing blame around is this:

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" (or whatever paraphrase you like).

If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. And yes, that includes you Ed Dante, as well as everyone cheating and everyone turning a blind eye to it.

441. cjdeldotto - November 18, 2010 at 06:47 pm

Reading this, I'm reminded of a key point in Michael Lewis' excellent analysis of the subprime mortgage collapse, The Big Short: the question to ask isn't "Who are these people borrowing sums of money they know they'll never be able to repay?,"
but rather "Who are the people loaning them the money in the first place?" That is, I don't blame Ed Dante anywhere near as much as I blame university administrators and the professoriate for allowing plagiarism to become such an enormous systemic problem.

442. jheroj - November 18, 2010 at 07:11 pm

So here i was, on a starcraft 2 gaming forum, and i saw this article in a thread and decided to give it a good read.

Anyways, as a current student at University Of Toronto, I can easily see why these services would be so popular and a good alternative for students pursing a degree.

But before i explain that, i just want to take a moment and support the auther of this article, as i do not believe what he/she is doing anything wrong. If we can't fix the mindset of students, there will always be a demand for this type of work, and in our free market capatalist country some entrepreneur will always take advantage and make a business out of it, with the down turning economy it is perfectly reasonable for anyone qualified to choose this path inorder to support his family and etc...

Well, back to my main point, as a student in university, and like most students, our goal in life is unclear. Currently as a 3rd year Commerce (fiancial economics) student I'm still unsure about my future and which career path to choose, and with lack of clear goal, comes low motivation and .... prograstination... but lets think about this for a second, as the son of an immigrant family, i saw first hand of my mother attending ryerson univ, finishing her degree and finding a job as a public health inspector. From what she told me, anyone could be doing her job, it doesn't require 2 gruelling years at university or the thousands of dollars that went down the drain for the degree, to be frank, anyone with half a brain and 1 month to read her inspection handbook and ability to drive and park can do her job, just as well.

This is the problem with our universitys now, most of what we learn are so irrevalent to the future careers of our choosing. Eg, in our architecture undergrad program, 1st year consits of 2 courses with MAIN focus on essay writing, right.. not designing models or drafting designs, it was purely essay writing. and as far as i know, in the future 2nd 3rd 4th year, the main focus is still on essay writing, with some occasional hands on projects that involves drawing or creating models. Now i know, university mainly teaches/enforces the idea of following schedules and deadlines, it teaches displine and time management, and well many other social skills, but with such poor circulum.... well its natural for studentss to become unmotivated and resort to cheating.

443. firehawk - November 18, 2010 at 07:14 pm

After reading the Shadow Scholar's confession and the related live-chat, I have a suspicion that there is at least a 50/50 chance "Ed Dante" is employed by a foundation or a PAC that wants to see the grading system go away in the U.S.A. While the rest of the civilized world uses the natural tendancy to compete and excel as an impetus to drive its educational system, the U.S.A. decides competitive grading is a bad, demeaning thing; a thing harmful to the precious self-esteem of the happy student. Those kids from India and China are gonna eat our lunch if we follow "Ed Dante's" la-la-land advice and become even more un-competitive academically than we are now. What's killing higher education these days is professorial t-e-n-u-r-e. Everybody knows it but nobody says so because it is a sacred cow.

444. just_another_human - November 18, 2010 at 08:32 pm

"I have completed countless online courses. Students provide me with passwords and user names so I can access key documents and online exams. In some instances, I have even contributed to weekly online discussions with other students in the class."

The sentence above could be used to question degrees that individuals received through an online program, which is very sad because for many individuals it is the only way they have of getting a degree. And, I would bet the vast majority of students do the work themselves.

Nevertheless, this is a little tip: depending on the learning management system you are using, it can be extremely easy to tell the location each of your students logs in from, and you don't necessarily need the IT guys to look it up for you. You can sometimes, depending on your LMS, find it in the reports in your course. You only need to check once, because generally speaking, the same IP address shows up each time they log in (because they log in from the same location). You can use an IP Map to tell where (geographically) they logged in from. You can also, depeding on the email service, determine the IP address the person sent the email from by looking at the headers on emails. I know it's a bit geeky, and you probably don't want to check them all...but just in case you have some suspicion, it is not that difficult, in most cases, to determine where someone is when they send an email or access a web site, or access an LMS.

I realize the discussion is about improving education, and I wish all students thought about what they were learning with that childlike wonder to want to learn, to want to accomplish something themselves, to say "I did it myself!", or to just plain be individuals of integrity. It would be nice. It's just not the case.

445. ann_observer - November 18, 2010 at 09:40 pm

How to bust the custom-essay scam: have the student sit in plain sight at a desk with nothing but pen and paper, and write five paragraphs explaining what the essay is about and how the ideas behind it were conceived. Then compare the paragraphs to the essay. If the student can write something qualitatively indistinguishable from the essay, she deserves the credit even if she didn't write the essay; otherwise, she's toast.

Now if only somebody could do something like that with Barack Obama and his Bill Ayers opus, "Dreams From My Father"...

446. lisasimpson - November 18, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Presumably, some of the graduate students the article mentions find their way into college and university faculties at some point. Could the habits of paying for writing continue? Is there a business in writing articles, papers, conference proposals, etc. for college faculty?

We just assume that all of us are so fully involved in our fields, passionate about our research, and that we would never think of such a thing.

And just look around--we can't imagine any of our peers doing this.

And if honesty and character don't keep us from such an unspeakable act, there's one more thing to consider:

We're not paid well enough to do this.

447. mentaloptrics - November 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Reading the comments and indignation from the Ivory Tower types here makes me laugh. I have been in the capitalist US system (the real world) since my graduation with bs and ba degrees in the early eighties and have to say that you all are clueless.

Capitalism rapididly weeds out those who cost more than they are paid versus those who make (or save) more than they are paid.

I would give a substantial bonus to an employee who was able to save a million dollars yet had to pay two grand to a contractor to write it up to get it through the system (have done this). I could care less if they cheated as long as it is legal.

In my experience it is really hard to find people that can save two percent on a real life manufacturing cost. However, it is really easy to find people that can write about how those savings could/were attainted.

tldr; Those who can do, those who can't teach. Had to be said as it is not in this thread yet.

448. crcruz - November 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

I'm from Argentina and never understood this paper/essays system. We have written tests and oral exams here for every course. I'm not comparing the level of our universities with those in the US, I'm not crazy. I know american universities are the best. I just don't understand why a teacher would accept a paper as an evaluation for student's performance in any subject.
I've visited UCDavis last October and couldn't avoid noticing that there were a massive number of foreign students that couldn't speak english even at a rudimentary level. This is nuts.

You're most welcome to make fun of my english, it's just my fourth language anyway...

449. kjeanieb - November 19, 2010 at 12:58 am

I am no faculty member, just a lowly undergrad student at a local school. Can we be honest? Just in the past semester, I have seen students blatantly copy every scrap of homework from other students, bomb exams, and pass anyway. The way education is approached in higher learning institutions is flawed, no doubt about it. There is some blame on the student as well. However I would go so far as to say that is due to his or her upbringing. If you have floated through life without really caring much about your future, you will do the same in college. PARENTS, step out of denial and into the real world. Make sure your kid isn't completely screwed up before you send him off to waste thousands of YOUR dollars.

450. haughtkarl - November 19, 2010 at 01:08 am

@mentaloptrics -- thank you for validating post #437 by jbode.

451. wargamer - November 19, 2010 at 01:30 am

I once wrote timed myself when writing a Java program, and achieved an astonishing 300 - 400 lines in 1 hour. At 33 lines per page this is around 10 pages per hour. And that is working code, and includes time spent testing and debugging. To be fair however, i had put some thought into it ahead of time. Though On average i churn out somewhere around 100 lines of code an hour or 3 pages. So what this person claims is entirely possible, after all, an essay doesn't need to perform a job unfailing like an algorithm does.

452. tommehbell - November 19, 2010 at 08:41 am

I have to say that I feel like I'm not charging enough for the papers that I write for other people. And in fact I've written so many papers for one particular person that I jokingly told him my name should be included on his diploma.

And I've been doing this for years.

As an undergrad I've been asked to write master thesis and graduate dissertations, and undergrad research papers.

And to think that because I failed one Econ class my freshmen year I might not get into graduate school when I helped several people get their PhDs and Masters *shakes head*

Seeing ths I'm going to start charging more :)

453. lsalavar - November 19, 2010 at 10:19 am

Hey, I'm just a lowly adinistrator trying to get through my own MS degree so I'm not competting here for English scholar of the year or grammatical genius of the decade. What I did want to comment on was why nobody has stated the obvious - this capitalist society congratulates this type of "one upmanship" behavior. I can hear folks at the soccer games, in the bars and the social events of America chanting, "more power to 'em" that they beat the system. This type of thing is gonna happen no matter what professors, instructors, adjuncts - whoever - try to do. There is always gonna be somebody that wants and easy way out and will pay for it. I agree with the intelligent comment made by kjeanieb that states this is an ethical problem within families and with the individual. That is where the blame belongs.

454. lsalavar - November 19, 2010 at 10:27 am

correction: competing! Not the best typist, either...

455. pivoine66 - November 19, 2010 at 10:33 am

Cheaters aren't impossible to catch, contrary to the opinion of the author. In my undergraduate classes it mostly involves Googling suspiciously styled sentences -- if something sounds funny, Googling will usually pull up the full text of the actual source the student is plagiarizing. I explain in my syllabus what plagiarizing is and state that any paper that is plagiarized gets a zero. Likewise, anyone caught cheating on a test gets a zero. No one gets a boilerplate test or generalized research topic any more, so you can't just buy or borrow a paper somewhere and have it work.

My in-class policy is to ban phones during tests -- you can pull up all kinds of things on a Blackberry. Students know I am serious and are becoming much more afraid to take chances. The conscientious students, who are working hard for grades and often struggling to get an education, appreciate this and are the first to let me know if someone is cutting corners. I busted a couple of cheating students last semester (one brought a "friend" with him during the exam who was also writing a bluebook (they could trade later) and the other was copying answers off a crib sheet that didn't even address the question. In addition, it turned out that he had used the identical crib sheet on the previous test, which he failed on academic grounds because it didn't address THAT question either! These guys were here trying to game the system, but they were profoundly clueless about American education and how a classroom works and it came back to bite them. They are cheating their own parents or governments who are paying a premium for their education and making our administrators, who like to streamline remedial requirements to bump up enrollments, look greedy and foolish. As for me, I do the best I can for my dedicated students, which includes enforcing a no-tolerance policy toward cheating to the best of my ability.

The author's problem is that he is reaching a dead end in his ersatz career. Will he keep cranking out papers for cheaters all his life? What exactly will he try to tell people he's been doing all this time if he tries to kick the habit? The profound cynicism he is building his life on can only turn in on itself.

456. jbode - November 19, 2010 at 11:01 am

@haughtkarl #450: Heh. I was not expecting to see it done so *blatantly*, though.

457. cinema_interval - November 19, 2010 at 11:22 am

I was scrolling through responses and to my surprise saw a comment *I* wrote had been called snarky and then removed. Thing is, I NEVER commented on this article. How did that happen?

458. mrub3275 - November 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm

First of all, I enjoyed the writing very much: good flow, nicely structured, and reasonably nuanced.
A word about the education students: I teach a music class for elementary/ middle school education majors. On a whim, I have taken to singing and discussing the national anthem during the last week of class. It turns out that, at least during the last 4 semesters of teaching the song, a staggering majority of my students did not know what the words meant. Not all the words, of course, only choice ones, like twilight ["is it, like, a star?,] ramparts, gallantly. Other questions were a mystery to my students: what time is it? (When is dawn?], or that the national anthem ends with a question rather than a statement of glorious conquest. These are the future teachers of this very song, coming to a school near you in the near future, representing the perfect and self perpetuating societal circle brought to relief here. We live in a superficial, shallow, instant-gratification-obssesed culture, in which language skills have been rendered obsolete, and thinking superfluous. In a way, a person like Dante is a throwback to times of more rigorous intellectual discourse and expectation of a breadth of knowledge. [a fact the mysterious Dante is no doubt aware of, and I suspect, is a source of some smug pride on his/her part.] My one question to the writer would be: what are you going to make? What will you build with all that accumulated knowledge?

459. lvanmullem - November 19, 2010 at 01:37 pm

Hey Mr. Dante, as a struggling writer myself, and a writing tutor of many years, I can absolutely sympathize with the temptation to write essays for pay. But, that said, your writing is really fun to read. I enjoyed every bit of this article. You're funny, witty, engaging, and I love the way you structured this around the Business student. I sincerely hope you take all that student money and use it to write under your own name - It's time! And I want to read it.

460. aprilmay - November 19, 2010 at 04:00 pm

This article is depressing, and I don't understand the author's perspective. First of all, the job sounds awful. Why would someone want to work all night on someone else's degree for $66,000/year? This is very good money, but not amazing money. Also, I found it interesting that they largely avoid the moral implications. They are a cheater just as much as the student clients. Does anyone else take issue with the title? A good writer, yes. A scholar, no. Are there no other writing opportunities available?

I do believe that students have cheated in my classes, but I would be shocked if the graduate students' thesis work was completely written by someone else, especially as the students have numerous discussions with me about their work and give presentations on their progress. Further, the background knowledge and skills required to complete graduate work in my program are not something you can Google and fake.

How do students find this "scholar" writer? Are there any legal implications for the ghost writers?

461. katsisle - November 19, 2010 at 04:05 pm

As a current undergraduate, I find his cavalier attitude incredibly disconcerting and astonishing. I've stayed up for hours writing a paper, and to even consider that another student in my class utilized a paper mill for theirs is infuriating. I'm part of a student-led group at my university trying to crack down on academic dishonesty, and he makes our goal of reducing AM that much more difficult. Yes, there's an epidemic of students graduating illiterate and ill-prepared to succeed in the "real world" due to the bureaucratic mess in education -- but he's just as complicit because he is exploiting the system for financial gain and perpetuating the problem. Just because he is providing a "needed" service does not legitimize his "profession." College is meant to challenge students, and the proliferation of online paper mills only serves to undermine that purpose. Paper mills are tempting, but I take some pride in the work I've accomplished--and the grade I've received. I know there are students out there like myself--so I know I'm not in the minority. It's the cheaters that coast the system that ultimately harm the rest of us; no wonder the word of a college student is dubious. The author may be smart, but he's not someone I'd associate with in my daily life.

Honestly, it would be great to read a book from him advising professors on how to catch the students in the act because it needs to be stopped.

462. stuckinthesystem - November 19, 2010 at 04:06 pm

"I sincerely hope you take all that student money and use it to write under your own name - It's time!"

Thank you lvanmullem.

I am an undergraduate student and grade first-year business management papers. They often make me want to cry. I want to cry for the student, for myself, but mostly for the fact that they continuously make the exact mistakes I spend so much time teaching them how to avoid.

In my tenth grade English class we began the year with writing a few paragraphs on a topic of our choice. Our work was then collected and put aside by our teacher. Throughout that academic year we read and discussed pieces of writing from the most wonderful writers in the English language. We practiced editing, critical thinking, sentence and paragraph structure, composing a thesis statement, creating an outline, and many other tools.

We were then assigned an essay in which we were to use all of the techniques and skills we had acquired. However, we were to only work on our essay IN CLASS. We collected our work at the beginning of each class, and submitted everything at the end. Nothing was to be brought in or written outside of class.

At the end of the year we were again asked to write a few paragraphs on a topic of our choice. When we finished, our teacher handed back the same assignment we had completed at the beginning of the year and were asked to reflect on what we had learned.

That year I learned how to communicate. I still say that I learned more in that class than any other course I have taken. Thank you Mrs. Leger. I will never forget you. I wish you had taught everyone's tenth grade English class.

463. lexi_girl - November 19, 2010 at 04:19 pm

There *IS* a way to easily scan, analyze, and score text shreds to compare authorship... in fact, we have been working on a tool that would quite possibly help faculty identify fraudulent papers.

Thus far in our trials, it doesn't seem to matter if the text is 1 page long or 5,000, as long as we have other text to which to compare it. (We've had success testing the tool against the Federalist Papers, for example.)

Feel free to contact me on gmail to discuss.

464. polarstar - November 19, 2010 at 04:36 pm

Thanks pivoine66. I share your point of view. If I catch you -- and it isn't always so difficult -- I fail you. Simple. What really burns me is when the students don't even try rewriting material sent to me electronically. They copy and paste material from websites and disregard the odd formatting that stays in place. If I find more than one font in a paper, I'm on the hunt.

465. just_another_human - November 19, 2010 at 04:51 pm

I agree with *lvanmullem #459* I found the article very engaging, and enjoyed the humor woven into what was otherwise a disturbing article. The writing style was actually a breath of fresh air. I sincerely hope Mr. Dante writes a book; I would like to read it.

466. pedaltones - November 19, 2010 at 05:25 pm

It strikes me in reading this article, how some fundamental problems with our education system are the same in graduate school as they are in Kindergarten. Several days ago NPR published a story regarding a recent study published on children being able to recite their numbers without having any actual connection to what they represent. Passing young children along in the system for mindlessly regurgitating sounds is as much a crime as passing along young adults presenting mindless ghostwritten papers. Until there is a redirect toward authentic learning and assessment this problem will plague the system at all levels. Have the expectations on both teacher and student dropped so long that someone can receive a passing grade on a paper using only Google Books and Wikipedia? Have we completely abandoned the expectation that writing should be a tool to demonstrate a synthesis of course material?

467. sentenceguy - November 19, 2010 at 05:45 pm

With 400+ comments ahead of mine, it is difficult not to be repetitive. What is most disturbing in the article is the willingness to set aside ethics, all in the name of getting a grade or a degree that one has not earned. Something in me finds this completely repugnant. To say it is more honorable to take a failing grade when one has not done adequate work to pass than it is even to consider purchasing a paper to fulfill a requirement (for upwards of $2,000?)is a considerable understatement. What has happened to people? Certainly such students and writers need to take closer looks at themselves to realize what they are doing. But quite likely most of them will never realize it. How does one teach someone to develop much stronger ethics?

468. formeradjunct - November 19, 2010 at 05:55 pm

Well, when one of my students plagiarized an assignment, I talked to her, telling her that this was not allowed in a US higher institution, and also informed the dept. chair. When she then plagiarized her final term paper by copying an obscure paper that was only available on microfiche (and removing the microfiche document from the library), adding some incomprehensible bridging sentences between paragraphs, I reported it to the chair again. It was decided to let her finish her MA degree (in TESOL) and send her back to her native country. Some background info: The student's English was not good enough for regular classes, and she was in way over her head. The ESL dept. had recommended that she should still take additional ESL classes but had been overruled by the Dean. This was at a selective 4-year institution.

469. cmanderson - November 19, 2010 at 06:21 pm

When we interview candidates for faculty positions on our campus, they must do a writing assignment just before their interview. We give them a prompt and 30 minutes to respond at a computer in our HR office. They do not know about the topic until they read the prompt.

This assignment is scored and added to their total score, which also includes a presentation assignment.

The writing is very telling, as is the lack of imagination on the prompt topic. No one can do this task for them.

470. ifthisbeterror - November 19, 2010 at 06:42 pm

@ jonathanathan (#398):

Well, you TRIED to be witty.

471. agamagon - November 19, 2010 at 08:37 pm

Mr Dante, after close inspection of your writing this article I'm left with the abiding conclusion that you did not actually write it. For shame.

472. vegaslawyer - November 19, 2010 at 09:18 pm

Dante, if you would like to do this same type of work, but make $300,000 per year, go to law school and become a corporate litigator.

In fact, the ethical dilemmas about plagiarism don't really exist in motion and briefing practice, because it is procedural in nature. But I describe the work environment to non-lawyers as that "day before a paper is due in college and you crank out 20 pages" [on why the court should do what you want]. It wasn't a lifestyle for me, but if you can write that prolifically for others without regard for context or content, and you're already used to working in ethical gray areas... you sound PERFECT for it. You're like the incubating larvae of a Skadden Arps associate.

473. graykitt - November 19, 2010 at 09:19 pm

jonathanathan (#398) WAS witty. I agree with him that Mr. Dante is a complete hack. I'm also disturbed by the number of well wishers on the tail end of this thread: "please write your book"; "you're so talented"; "please, please coach all those clueless professors," etc. Given Dante's lack of ethics, I find these cheerleaders nauseating.

474. drmixalot - November 19, 2010 at 09:39 pm

As a professor who reads 20 plus papers a week, I really wish they used your services.

On a serious note, I am saddened that there are not options for my students who are not able to put a 5 page academic paper together with any kind of apptitude. Incredibly frustrating especially when the comment I most hear when I send a paper back requesting that they rewrite it is, "I have never had a professor be critical of my writing before." ARE YOU KIDDING ME, you submitted it in Comic Sans!

In the struggle and loving it.

475. breadbagboots - November 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

How does it feel, Ed Dante, to have made it your life's work to contribute so fruitfully to the moral and intellectual decline of our society? Not to mention putting honest and hardworking people at a disadvantage?

I suspect Dante's coming forward is for one of two reasons: a) irritation that his life's work has so far gone unrecognized and unlauded (egomaniacs and sociopaths cannot resist returning to the scene of the crime!) or b) guilt so huge that writing this tell-all is merely one step in a 12-step Purgatory he is going through (fitting pseudonym!). But somehow I think it's a, and not b. But then again, b is just as self-centered an act as a.

I like martisco's (367) comments comparing Dante's profession with prostitution. That's exactly what it is. Nothing less.

And I agree with cdwickstrom that this DOES sound like a job for the DoJ. Assuming they're not former clients of .. er .. Ed Dante. (now.... what could make me think that???) (er.. scratch that)

Since when did our society become an "anything-goes," "the-ends-justify-the-means" culture? Oh yeah... it all started with the radical '60s. It's a pity. A real pity. A damn shame.

How can shameless Dante redeem himself? By beoming an advocate AGAINST what he's just finished doing all his life. Howz about it? No one better than he to do it. He's so talented.

(he really is).

476. agamagon - November 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Wha, wait . .. the sixties? It's the fault of THE SIXTIES that talented and entrepreneurial/morally flexible (call it what you will) people will capitalize on markets that emerge out of certain social contradictions? Well what can I say. I wasn't there. It does make me wish that I was born in, and lived through the EARLIER half of the twentieth century in which everyone everywhere was a Kantian saint (*ahem*)

477. michaelm68 - November 20, 2010 at 12:24 am

The thing that frustrates me the most about this discussion is that every single poster has entirely missed the bigger picture.

This is not at base a moral issue, either on the part of "Ed Dante" or on the part of our educational system. It is, rather, a structural issue regarding our society as a whole. An issue, moreover, which is gaining in import yearly and may well come to have disasterous consequences for all of us.

The issue to which I refer is nothing less than the lack of economic security for a substantial fraction of our population. The phenomenon I am talking about is exemplified by the ongoing separation of our economy into two distinct sectors: low-wage, low-security service jobs, and jobs which are deemed to require a college degree. Fifty years ago, people who were not able to meet the intellectual requirements of college could still make a decent living and find respectable positions in society as: factory workers, skilled tradespeople, bankers, shopkeepers, businesspeople, clergy, and a host of other professions. Today, most of these jobs have either been "offshored", absorbed by large corporations which treat their workers as interchangeable pieces that can be discarded at will, or redefined to require a college degree. The jobs now available to those who do not complete college are lacking in economic security both in the short-term and in the long-term, even those that require considerable skill.

The crux of the matter is, that students today are caught between two mutually inconsistent criteria:

1) One cannot today expect to have even the slightest shred of long-term economic security unless one goes to college. With a very few exceptions, the only jobs that even purport to offer such require college degreees. This trend started in the 1980s, and has become pervasive during the past two decades.

1a) To make matters worse, a college degree has come to be regarded as a pre-requisite for occupying any position of respect within the civic polity. This also started in the 1980s and has become far more pronounced in recent decades. Respect of one's neighbors and fellow citizens is also of fundamental importance to people's economic security, both real and perceived.

2) The standards of intellectual achievement that are held by consensus to apply to college-level work are beyond the capacity of a large portion of the population. This is true of people from all sectors of society, from all ethnic groups, and from all socioeconomic classes.

Given these two fundamental economic pressures, the evils decried by the various commenters in this forum are not only understandable but in fact inevitable. Economic pressure of this nature, touching as it does on people's drive to guarantee their own survival, will produce these abuses as surely as similar pressures produce war and crime. It is as useless to decry Mr. Dante and his colleagues as it is to decry corrupt administrators, lazy professors, and low admissions standards, as it is to decry students who resort to dishonesty out of desperation, greed, or other motivation.

The stark and simple fact is that we as a society have come to require as a prerequisite for economic security and social status a level of formal academic achievement that is beyond the abilities of many of us. This is an absurd state of affairs, but it is becoming more and more fixed as the years go by.

As a consequence, demand for college education is at an all-time high, and those who do not have the requisite innate ability demand it as ardently as those who do. Of course universities are going to admit unqualified students-- economic demand of this magnitude will always be satisfied, regardless of moral constraints. All it takes is for one institution to give in to the increasing demand for its services, and others are instantly ready to follow. Of course many deans will indulge the students who pay the tuition that supports the institution that employs them. It is a wonder, really, that so many still retain the moral rectitute to resist. Of course wealthy students who are not lucky enough to be good at writing are going to purchase papers. Fifty years ago, you could be wealthy and respectable and not have gone to college, but this is no longer the case. Every scion of a wealthy family must complete college, or be considered a laughingstock. Of course poor students who were insufficiently prepared by their primary and secondary education will insist on going to college and will do whatever it takes to pass. To do otherwise in the present day is to doom themselves to a life at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Fifty years ago you could be reasonably well-off and respectable and not have gone to college, but this is no longer the case.

There is little enough that we as individuals can do about any of this, but surely complaining about the moral turpitude of one or another party is a waste of breath and/or bandwidth. I recommend, instead, working to oppose the corporatization and globalization of our economy and in support of a fair share of economic opportunity for everyone.

I am sure that few if any people will read this comment, coming as it does at the end of such a long string of variously badly-aimed and vitriolic posts, but if anyone is interested in pursuing this thesis as an academic topic, I bequeathe it to you. I am a computer analyst by trade, working in an academic research lab, with a Ph.D. in computer science, and few people will listen to what I say about this subject because my academic degree is not in the proper field. :)

478. deel5906 - November 20, 2010 at 02:20 am

To: 382. kmgardner - November 17, 2010 at 05:25 pm

Thank you! I had to read through a lot of bullshit to finally get to the truth but I finally made it. Wading through the comments from all these wanna-be intellectuals was making me sick to my stomach. Thanks to you also vegaslawyer - now there's some advice I can use!

For those who commented on how hard dude worked relative to his income, consider the added benefit of not having to kiss anybody's ass in order to remain employed. Yup. I'd say kmgardner hit the nail right on the damn head.


479. deel5906 - November 20, 2010 at 02:38 am

To: 477. michaelm68 - November 20, 2010 at 12:24 am

Nah...you fit right in. Your comment, despite being unnecessarily long, was quite interesting. I agree. Just like everything else, it's all about supply and demand. The employers have said you need a degree to get a job. So if you want the job bad enough you'll get the degree by any means necessary. Most profs aren't going to risk their livlihood by failing you, and it doesn't matter if your school is for-profit, non-profit, private, or degree mill. Who cares really? Those who want to learn will learn and they don't have to enroll in a college or university to do it.

Something else I'd like to point out, and someone may have pointed this out already but those who lack writing skills don't seem to understand that they will never be able to write well unless they read - widely and often. Become a prolific reader and the writing will eventually become second nature. So if you don't like to read or if reading is difficult due to lack of appropriate language skills then you're pretty much screwed.

480. estherlee - November 20, 2010 at 04:17 am

I have to wonder about the American education system if this sort of assistance can get anyone through a degree. Having completed 2 degrees in the Australian university system; at 2 different universities; I cannot recall a single subject that did not have at least 50% of the grade based on in class work; presentations, class participation and exams. Even if you paid for an assignment, it would not be sufficient for you to pass the course if you didn't know the work.

481. integral - November 20, 2010 at 05:25 am

I am personally a math major, so I do not have any real experience with people cheating in my classes. I saw plenty in my general education courses. I wasn't nearly as shocked by the cheating there as I was at my discovery of why they were cheating: most could not write a lick. I'm not even talking about esl students either, I mean native English speakers somehow in college with what I would expect to be a second grade reading level. It wasn't just that they couldn't write, they couldn't even understand the essay instructions because they were not able to read them. Clearly the system had failed them long before college. Now, don't get me wrong; I am certainly no expert on writing. I don't want anyone to get the idea that I am trying to put others down, I certainly have my own difficulties with the English language. My point is that the education system is flawed from the start and it is not the fault of the professors. A professor cannot be expected to perform their regular duties and fix nearly two decades of inadequate education floating around in the student's mind.
However, there are some things I must concede. The system being driven by fear rather than thirst for knowledge can be detrimental. As I stated earlier I rarely see academic cheating in my department. However, I often do see students cheating themselves. For example, in many math courses one can pass simply by memorizing applicable algorithms but this is not really education. The education in math comes from understanding why the rules work the way they do and how they can be applied to other topics. This is how new math is developed and important concepts come to light. Unfortunately, most math students are left number crunching rather than thinking critically. Student are encouraged to work faster and to find the most efficient system of solving a problem rather than explore. At times I find myself wondering why I even continue. As much as I love math I don't feel like I am actually learning and I know I am not alone.

482. osmpe - November 20, 2010 at 10:35 am

Yeah, I must admit I like the article. I can understand both the author, and also all the discontented teachers and proffesors who see Dante's work as a sabotage to their own work. It is a tough topic, but should I choose sides I would side with Mr. Dante. At least for now.

I have always been a C student, but I wasn't plagued by lack of inteligence - rather the lack of interest. I find it very easy to talk science stuff about electronics or physics, but when my thesis teacher came up with topics such as "describe the beauties of spring season", I got lost immediately. My problem is that I am not bullshiter, so when I don't know what to say I rather keep silent. You might thing that it's a nice thing about me, but I can tell you honesty doesn't help with university studies.

When I wrote my senior project, I stuffed up all my major thoughts and sources into 20 pages, and then I spent 6 months trying to expand my paper into 60 pages. The result was that an excellent readable 20p paper became boring fat copy three times the original size. Yes, I know - I said I was just a C student - but frankly, I think the problem is that students are not required to turn in quality papers, however they must turn in exactly 60 pages or more of some text. On top of that the text is usually about topics that are of no interest to the student (like me and the beauties of spring), and that doesn't help either.

That is also why I side with Mr. Dante. Schools have made me into their own enemy, because being at the university was probably the worst time of my life. Not the math or physics, but English writing and senior thesis was the kind of courses I kept on failing. It was an expensive failing I tell you that.

I knew about Mr. Dante's industry, but that was also out of my financial league, and I probably wouldn't use their services anyway, because I always take pride in quality of what I write. That is why I had such a problem with stretching my papers into some pre-specified length.

Nevertheless, my university buddy, a rich lawyer's son, completed his MBA without ever writing a paper. Guess how he's done it.

483. castelauro - November 20, 2010 at 11:25 am

To quote plclark´s (1) insightful remark: wow.
First, I must congratulate the Chronicle and its readers for this and acompanying articles and profuse commentaries for raising a critical issue.
Second, I fear we run the risk of becoming a gigantic stifled or deaf scream.
Finally I invite the exhausted reader to (re)read two comments: mblmbl (247) and cdwickstorm (335) wich echo my oun feelings.

484. purplelotus - November 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

"Mr. Dante" is playing what the psychologist Eric Berne called "Cops and Robbers." Why does he choose to do this work? Clearly, large numbers of people graduate from college with similar backgrounds and disenchanting experiences but do not become writers for paper mills. While he might be able to obtain a variety of non-illicit jobs, he, instead, chooses to pursue an illicit occupation with all the accompanying thrill of "getting away with something." Just like the robber with the "dumb cop," Mr. Dante tries to show how smart he is as he churns out document after document without reprisal. It's a "Catch Me if You Can."

Berne points out, however, that the real goal for the robber in this game is actually to get caught -- it coorelates to the childhood game of "hide and seek" where the child is disappointed if no one comes to look for him or no one finds him. Mr. Dante is desparate for some sort of recognition or acknowledgement (which he supposedly didn't get in college, or maybe high school, or even earlier with his parents) hence we get his article -- obstensibly his attempt to communicate the failures of education but which also shows his inability to obtain recognition in any other way from the authorities he belittles.

Probably some of the students who use these services are, like Mr. Dante, engaged in a game of "Cops and Robbers." Many of those who have responded to the article discuss how to become better "cops" in order to catch the "robbers." This is another payoff of the game for the robber--to get the cops to build more and more elaborate systems to prevent the crime while the robbers build more and more elaborate ways to break the system.

Of course, we can't forget the satisfaction that the cop feels in catching the criminal -- he or she might be playing "Now I've Got You, You Son of a B****" where feelings of self-righteous indignation and pent-up anger can finally be given legitmate expression!

Question: Do we really want to acknowledge the game we're in?

485. jskabala - November 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

This guy wants it both ways - he criticizes the system that cares too much about grades and stifles creative students, but he himself mercilessly mocks the typos and grammatical errors of his clients.

486. profmom - November 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

This is the most amazing post-article blog discussion I've ever seen. For the first 90 or so comments, I was just astounded by the amount of vitriol in the posts, then as I skimmed the next several hundred, I started wondering why people were so often focusing on what seemed like side-issues, rather than the core issue of rampant cheating, overburdening of the education system, etc. Then I remembered something I learned years ago--that a majority of the time, anger is covering fear. Look under the anger, and figure out what we're afraid of. I think we know that a lot of things about our system are broken (not just the educational system, but our whole culture), and we just don't know where to start to fix them, and we're wondering when the other shoe is going to drop and the whole thing is going to fall apart (see post 477--michaelm68: a great overview of the systemic problems). I think we do need to constantly work on our problems and try to improve our society, and our education system, but I also think that things are not as bleak as they might seem.

Yes, students cheat a lot and always have, and the open communication we have now has made it easier. Sometimes it's the lack of skill or knowledge, sometimes laziness, sometimes the result of a poor teacher or poorly constructed assignments. BUT...I would argue that the majority of students are still doing the majority of work themselves. Think about the number of college students in the country, and the total number reached in a year by shadow scholar and his/her colleagues. Many students cheat when they are feeling overwhelmed and afraid, not on every single assignment (and I'm NOT saying that it's alright, and I will still bust a student if I catch them plagiarizing or cheating just on one assignment!)--it doesn't mean that they are completely incapable of writing or thinking.

I do think we need to try to make things better. I do what I can in my own little sphere of influence by talking to students about why it would be better for them not to cheat, by talking to them about personal integrity, actual learning, and the costs of getting caught. I have them write small things on a regular basis, things that connect directly to what I'm talking about in class and to their own lives. I have them work on big papers in steps, and submit the final paper through a plagiarism detection site. I am sure that some still cheat. But I am equally sure that a lot really learn something. I have had students come to my office 2 years after I had them in class to say thank you for catching them cheating, and for how I handled it. I have had students write and tell me how what they learned in class helped them understand how to interact better with their kids and families. I have seen former students get hired and do wonderful jobs in our community. Teaching is still worth it! It's late November, and we're all in that jaded time when we tend to be disgusted by most of our students and colleagues. But remember that there are a lot of good ones out there, and we can make a difference! (and I've been called Pollyanna before, so go ahead!)

487. kcercone - November 20, 2010 at 01:43 pm

I am saddened by many of the postings as well as the primary article. I know cheating is very common and I try to prevent it continuously- but obviously no matter what I do, it is happening. I worked hard as a student (never cheated on anything- never knew I could so easily) and continue to strive to do my best in my 2 jobs, one as full time faculty and one as an online adjunct part time faculty.

I feel sorry that our society has evolved to such a state but I know I have done my best in school as a student and continue to try to do my best as a faculty member. No matter what I do, it is a lose- lose. I can try to fight it (and do try hard) but can see that it is getting me no where the majority of the time.

My husband says I care too much. I do! I beat myself up all the time over student feedback on the student "evaluations". One negative comment and I get upset because I work so hard to help them succeed. It is almost like being stabbed in the back- I never saw it coming.

They even use these student evaluations for my personal teaching evaluation- that really is a joke! (But I guess the joke is on me as I suffer the consequences- not my students).

I have a lot of things I could say but I am withholding them to hire someone else as I am no where near as eloquent as some people here with their "erudite" words- hey I probably did not use that right, but, I did not hire that writer yet!!!

Why do I care? I just do as it is inside me as a core value which seems to be missing in so many. Where is our society going? I hope that things are better than they appear on the surface.

488. terry_walbert - November 20, 2010 at 02:25 pm

If there is justice in the universe, one day Mr. Dante will find himself in an emergency room in need of a life-saving procedure and the doctor and nurses will all be his former clients.

489. saraelise81 - November 20, 2010 at 02:34 pm

This article is interesting to say the least. I have been in school for about 7 years. I have 5 degrees and I have never resorted to paying someone to write my papers.
As someone who has been mostly successful in academia I see the appeal of this job. Just the thought of getting paid a decent wage to do this kind of diverse research is appealing. My ethics however would not allow me to participate in something that complete undermines the educational experience.

490. andre123 - November 20, 2010 at 03:02 pm

College is a business, that is why they put hurdles in the way of professors when they try to crack down on cheating. The general public needs work, college degrees are the new ticket to a "good" job. The majority of students are not there to learn, just to get a degree. The jobs that these students would have done are gone...to China and etc. The government has responded to the very clear cry for expanded college education. Government, school administrations, parents and students are all pushing for the same thing...to graduate, and there is the poor college professor, the only one who actually wants them to learn something. Professors are not especially well paid, teaching students who don't give a damn, and distracted by all sorts of other "service" tasks demanded by the university machine they are strung out. Or, they just resign themselves to the system as it is and go through the motions. Probably many of them, like so many of the students, really ought not be there!

We need to scaled back higher education, and reinvest the vast sums of money saved in our industrial base so that we can compete broadly in the world at many levels and in many industries. We don't have enough bright people, nor enough people willing to work hard enough, to maintain the illusion that we will remain the country that churns out the highest tech stuff around while providing our population with rewarding high paying work. Look at the facts.

491. mselliem - November 20, 2010 at 03:26 pm

With a mile of reader comments above me, I did not take the time to see if I am repeating someone else's comments. But, as an educator of educators, here are my two cents' worth of thoughts.
Although I do not condone the type of work discussed in the article, we as educators are solely responsible for the thriving business of ghosted materials. From teachers misunderstanding the purpose of stream of consciousness writing during the 1980s, to college professors grading mostly for content and passing over poor writing skills, we are responsible. From firing teachers whose students are not scoring high enough on standardized and (mostly unstandardized) state qualifying exams, to condoning (through allowing) sloppy composition by pre-service education undergraduate and graduate students, we are responsible.
Many educators, both at the K-12 level and post-secondary institutions, either believe they are unqualified to "teach" or expect good writing or feel it is not their job to help students with the writing process--that writing is something someone else should have taught students. This outright plagiarism (defined as presenting someone else's work as their own) will continue as long as we do not question the differences encountered between the quality of writing in an in-class essay exam and a student's project or term paper; or between the way a student communicates in an online environment and said independently written papers.
Have we stopped caring, or do we simply lack the time and/or ambition to help our students succeed? Are university deans as guilty of "turning a blind eye" so that graduation rates and GPAs entice more applications, as grade school administrators are to publish higher test scores? What is the answer? How do we stop this trend toward degenerated skills among our students? Not just writing skills, but, as Dante indicated through his words, "As long as it doesn't require me to do any math," math skills and probably science skills as well.
The worst aspect of hiring a professional to write a student paper is that students learn nothing from the writer's work. They learn only to let others think and speak for them.

492. breadbagboots - November 20, 2010 at 05:03 pm

Not everyone belongs in college either, IMO. (certainly not grad-school).

Whatever happened to us being OK with the notion that some people are better suited for trade/vocational/2-year degree schools? There's nothing wrong with these schools. They are just as worthy, as are the people who attend, and the jobs they train for). Perhaps there just aren't enough of these jobs anymore.... (this is probably the crux of the problem!). My belief is that everyone has a dignified place in the world. This one-size-fits-all thing (which some consider noble, but I think it's stupid) is not working. It de-dignifies. EVERYONE.

It's an extremely simplistic notion to expect everyone to get a (4-year) "college degree," and to expect that this will help Americans compete in the world. WRONG. The system as such is cearly failing. It's failing both the poor students and the college-ready students. Open enrollment and remedial services for barely literate students (who clearly have no business being in college) has created a costly bloat in higher education. In addition to sucking up valuable academic resources, this bloat has ultimately brought down the value of a college education for everyone -- because "everyone" is getting a
"college degree" these days. Now this same trend is sadly spreading to the graduate level (as clearly evidenced by Ed Dante). It's like educational inflation.

This dumbing-down needs to stop. It's all part of the "spread-the-wealth-around" mentality. The result is a vast sea of mediocrity and incompetency. Leaving no one who knows how to repair a toilet. Or a V-8 engine. Or draft a blueprint. Or properly fertilize a rose garden. Or build a cabinet. Or draw blood with finesse. Or handle an electrical emergency. Make 4-year college admission much more difficult. Let those who don't qualify go somewhere more appropriate for their career training. Or maybe this is un-PC of me. But the truth is, people in these non-college degreed careers are some of the people I admire most in this world. I hope that training/vocational education gets more support in the future. We need people from ALL walks of life to keep our country (and the world) running.

As an academic who has witnessed firsthand the evermore sorry (even cringeworthy) state of some of our "college students," I've been wanting to say this for at least several years.

I think political correctness has been a major culprit. It's a disease that has reached almost a terminal degree (no pun intended!).

Oh - and I like Terry Walbert's comment (#488); good one!

493. abgrund - November 20, 2010 at 08:18 pm

Education makes you dumber.

It's amusing how many commentors here assume that a doctor or other professional who cheated in college would thereby be less competent. The truth is that whatever they would have cheated on is almost certainly irrelevant to their profession because 99% of what is learned (or not learned) in college has no consequence in practice.

The skills needed in the real world are learned in the real world, through on-the-job training such as internships. The four or five or seven years of college is not only an almost complete waste, it represents a /loss/ of that many years of possible experience. Would you rather have a surgeon who wrote all his own papers on the theory of social equity in medicine, or one with ten years of experience instead of three?

But suppose the medical student cheated at, say, anatomy? So what? He can easily look up anything he needs to know about it. Whatever he learned in undergrad anatomy was forgotten by the time he got to residency, whether he cheated or not.

It doesn't matter if he can't write worth a lick, either. A piece of writing can be embarrassingly bad yet still communicate very clearly. If, you dis-agree, than your knot verry smart cuz u couln't unredstand, this sintince. Persuasive writing has its uses but is unnecessary for most professions.

494. 22101980 - November 20, 2010 at 09:54 pm

Perhaps a national educational organization should conduct a "sting" operation in collaboration with participating colleges. It could post an ad to write term papers, then turn over the names and emails to see which students are seeking help.

Then bring them up on charges of academic dishonesty. Depending on the rigor of the disciplinary programs of various colleges, students might get a "F" for the course, or possibly be expelled. The knowledge that colleges are actively pursuing online cheaters would quickly end the practice, or at least slow it down.

By not doing this, colleges implicitly accept the practice, which is unacceptable.

495. collegestealth - November 20, 2010 at 11:14 pm


496. book_worm - November 21, 2010 at 12:49 am

As a university student, this article greatly saddens me though I know it to be true. I feel there's been a decline in ethics over the years, not that I can say what's right or wrong. Generally, liberties are being taken, such as untracable cheating, that create many imbalances with unprecedented consequences. Saying "it's not fair" doesn't really describe the situation. I don't cheat because I was brought up in a house that frowned upon it--not that that always works. I enjoy learning and writing, although I have felt lately that writing (for subjects other than creative writing) doesn't allow the freedom of voice that it used to--I think content is prized much for heavily. Of course this is understandable as the purpose of writing for academic subjects is to summarize or tie together what one has learned. I just don't enjoy writing as much as I used to because of it.
I'm sad that Ed Dante's talent has been siphoned this way as opposed to finding a proper place with his/her own name on it and the proper respect generated in response. I feel students need to step it up in deciding not to cheat. I understand some students' difficulty in mastering language, but that should not be a detriment to their learning. Accomodations should be made for such students. I hope that just because they cannot express themselves as eloquently as others that does not mean they are not learning. I feel the education system could use some changes. I feel for the instructors as I've met such wonderful teachers and human beings in the education system that simply do not have all the control we may attribute to them. Administration needs to step it up as well. I wish education was less a corporation and more an instidution to better future generations. I love learning and I personally want to be well prepared to lead in the future. I don't want all the burden to fall on the few who are capable--or to collapse on top of those who are not. (Of course experience is important, too, and the inabilaty to test well does NOT mean one did not learn the material as everyone learns differently. Perhaps teaching/testing styles can change, as well.) For now, I study and try to apply myself honestly and be a role-model to anyone who choses me.

497. umslblows - November 21, 2010 at 02:42 am

I've come to the conclusion that most of my learning will come from the things I teach myself. Public universities are not a place for those with real intellectual curiosity to pursue those curiosities. They are a place to get your stamp of approval, and the approval process is all about process - not actual learning or development. I don't really care if other students cheat, I'm not there for them. There have been several comments from people who I assume are educators and are worried that this kind of cheating devalues the actual degree. I hate to break it to you, but even without cheaters, these degrees don't hold much value as a measurement of knowledge.

498. doalright - November 21, 2010 at 07:36 am

In 497 comments, the word HOAX only comes up twice. Let me help: a grad school thesis is often accompanied by a verbal defense in front of peers. Those peers are probably part of a small group that shares a specialty. Getting caught is a real risk. Next, consider the idea that The Chronicle now has access to a criminal organization of 50 people - busting a ring like that would be a much better story than this one. People are so gullible. No names, no sources; just an ominous blue photo and some wild claims. Military Strategy? Pharmaceutical treatment plans? Seminary Students? c'mon...

499. kk152 - November 21, 2010 at 08:59 am

I'd like to add that this is because the whole world is changing. There are more and more university graduates, and grades are always so important. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, because the rich can afford private tutoring and all. Come to think about it, this is like another type of private tutoring. Honestly speaking, how much out of your whole university is being applied in your practical job after you come out to work in society? And for those who are working, how much do you remember of what you have studied?

Sometimes I also start to question about the meaning of study, it's lucky though that I enjoy most of the content of my studies, and I do think that the most important is the process.

500. breadbagboots - November 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Ah, so according to #498's theory, this article could just be an elborate ruse to put in place some sort of intrusive surveillance plan a la #494's suggestion (which otherwise seems like a perfectly good idea). A convenient crisis for some bigger agenda, IOW.

Could be.

501. mimir - November 21, 2010 at 01:33 pm

There are multiple problems. The first, cheating, is strictly moral. "Ed Dante" (puh-LEEZE) is trying to set himself up as some sort of capitalistic savior when the truth is that he wasn't a good enough writer to get published in fiction and so turned to crime. Guess what? I wrote not my first but my first TWO novels while in college, and unlike him, I 1) got published, and 2) didn't ask for academic credit. His failures as a novelist and the academic system, whatever its faults, don't justify his choice to be a career scumbag.

Second, the educational issue is quite the OPPOSITE of that which Ed purports. He claims that post-secondary institutions don't do enough to teach students. No, in fact, post-secondary ed has more remedial classes and more paths to a degree than ever. For some, this is a boon. Others, though, are simply hopeless. Some cheated on their TOEFLs and should never have been admitted to a English-speaking university. Some should have never, ever gone to college--and as much of this is personality as it is academic ability. And others were plenty capable but have been cheating so long that they don't have a prayer of ever catching up.

The solutions for the three groups are, of course different. Group 1: Tougher, better-supervised TOEFLs, and quit admitting marginal students. Cutting back on student visas, which should be done in any case, would help solve this and would stem the tide of very mediocre foreign grad students who are driving down the value of American techincal degrees and reducing average American technical competance. Group 2: The high school diploma has become grossly devalued over the past 20 years. Statistics show that high school graduates get better jobs and have better pay than non-grads, so in their infinite wisdom, policymakers decided that almost everybody should be able to get a high school degree. The problem is that "almost everybody" has not, in fact, become a better student, so employers are not using a college degree as a litmus test against complete stupidity. It's a shame when you have to spend at least $8k and two years of your life proving you're not an idiot after having just come from 13 years of formal education. Now, there are still MANY opportunities for skilled tradespeople, many far better paying than service jobs that are now requiring a college degree, but high schools are steering kids away from these opportunities in the delusional belief that having a two-year degree in communications is better than being a plumber. (Additionally, state and local laws are making trades increasingly unattractive, but that's a separate issue.) You'd be FAR better off being a welder than a retail clerk with an unemployable degree, but high schools are holding out the myth that "college is for all." Some people who would be great at other things can't handle or won't like a degree with decent money-making opportunities, AND THAT'S FINE. High school degrees need to mean something--a certain level of writing and numberical competance, a certain knowledge of history and government--and they need to prepare students for a real future, not a round of expense and ultimate failure in secondary school. Better to be an electrician than MANY college degrees!

As for the third group, they should be flunked. Simple solution for cheaters: flunk them early, and then perhaps they will learn their lesson and bother to actually do the work and learn the material presented.

The idea that colleges are not doing their jobs when students can't string sentences together coherently is ridiculous. Students MUST be expected to learn this back in high school (see above about a high school degree needing to mean something...) and they should not be admitted to college if they cannot do this. Period. College is long past the time for coddling.

"Mastery-based learning" is great, but guess where it is works? In tutorial systems. This is also known as having a tutor or governess or homeschooling. It does not work in an institutional setting in which there are clearly defined schedules and goals, and even in a homeschool setting, there is a great beneift to working on a set deadline for many things. I homeschool right now, and I can take advantage of the system to allow my 7-year-old to use a high school algebra book at a 75%-of-normal pace. In fact, already, he's taking three courses at the high school or college level, and while in some of them, he'd still make acceptable grades going at a typical classroom pace, to maintain the mid-A level uncomprehension that believes is the sweet spot for progress and retetion, we go more slowly. You cannot do this in a classroom, though, and if it is a failing of the classroom system, a greater failing would be to replace clear methods of evaluation with fuzzy portfolios or the like. Even we still test; even with a largely one-on-one instructional setup, it is still beneficial to take a step back and examine how well everything has been learned thus far. The vague, warm-and-fuzzy "student-supportive" model that the writer imagines is a farce on every level, from being deliberately self-deluding about the goals of the cheaters who turn to him to having no sense of the virtues of a classroom set up. If the student were doing their part, only a fraction of them would be clueless (that is, PART of group #2--most aren't suited to college more because of personality than ability). If they are clueless, they should be flunked and sent somewhere else where they have a better chance at success.

502. hannahmel - November 21, 2010 at 03:48 pm

I used to teach for the ESL program at a well-known university in Florida. I remember one year I was grading final exams along with our rubric system and one paper from another teacher's class raised more than a few red flags. There was not one grammar mistake in the entire paper and the student used words such as "paisley," which no ESL student would ever know. I turned it over to the teacher who administered the exam as well as the academic director and the paper was entered into our plagiarism program and came back clean. I insisted there was absolutely no way this student wrote the paper and was told, "There is no proof. The room was closed and there were two teachers watching. It does not come up on the internet. What do you propose we do?" I responded, "Simply take three or four of the words that the student should not know and ask her to define them."

This was rejected.

The student received a 98% on an obviously-paid-for essay.

I quit my job after that semester and have been working as a standardized test scorer ever since.

503. melstampz - November 21, 2010 at 05:50 pm

Instead of commenting on the problem, I'd love to offer a potential solution: in-class writing. While it may not apply to all course types, in college or university settings, I find that in-class writing is a teaching method that is quite under utilized.

In my many years of education (both receiving it and aiding others with it) I found that in-class essays, assignments, and written on-the-spot group presentations were the most benificial to my writing and thinking ability and that of others. Granted, this approach means more marking for teachers, but it is one sure-fire way that educators be certain that a student is writing their own work and learning in the process!

I enjoyed one semester of being a student in a University level English course in which I was required to write 12 short (2-page) essays in the class room setting (one per week). Nothing has developed my academic know-how in the way that this experience has & I am ever grateful to the professor who took all that time on my account!

504. mcc99 - November 21, 2010 at 06:05 pm

I think two major forces contribute to the rise in "paid ghostwriting" in academe. First is the nature of colleges and unis as businesses. When it comes down to it, that is what they are. Academicians may bristle at this but like any other endeavor requiring money, it all (eventually) becomes all about money. Colleges and unis became pretty much all about money long ago, just nowadays, they are REALLY all about money-- pretense has laregely dropped away. The only people arguing against this are people who grew up in another era, but they will be moving on soon, leaving the more jaded in charge.

The second force is the ready availability of information sources and ways to look up information. Without Google, the author of this aticle would be stuck in Nowhere-Man Land. He could not possibly keep up with demand well enough to make the money he does. But with the magic of Google and the Amazon and B&N book preview on-line apps, he can do what he does.

As for the students' immorality, well, whenever something can be done, it will be done-- maybe not by everyone, but by enough so that it is noticable. Finally, there is the lack of desire even by faculty to maintain standards. For example, do academicians take the time to run the papers submitted to them through on-line tools like http://www.plagiarized.org/ ? Many do not or simply don't know it's available, but even if they did, well, it'd be too much work, wouldn't it?

Ultimately, the students are to blame for them short-changing themselves, for being lazy, and being willfully ignorant. But the college-as-business world is as much to blame for letting the kids doing this kind of thing get away with it since, as I have said, it's all about money. Nothing is going to change that any time soon, so you can be sure the author and those like him will be in business for as long as he wants.

505. badmonkey - November 21, 2010 at 07:58 pm

There was a bit on this around 2004-05 on either 60 Minutes or 20/20 that looked at cheating in schools. Texting is a very popular way to cheat it seems. The numbers of students cheating are absolutely staggering. There's a sense of entitlement these days with students. They seem to think all they have to do is show up and how dare you fail them. Whatever the news program they also had a ghost writer for student essays. Very similar to this. He didn't use actual sources just google, wikipedia etc.. There is a software program available (forget the name of that too) that you can feed the papers into and plagiarized sections show up highlighted. But as these guys are professional writers even if the do lift something directly you can't catch it because it's completely rewritten and virtually unrecognizable and as such untraceable.

Someone above mentioned 550 words per page. I don't think that's accurate. At least not using MLA format where you double space. So it's closer to 250 words per page. Not sure about other formats.

506. tim_bitz - November 21, 2010 at 08:01 pm

RE: graykitt
Ok I don't agree or disagree with the author but graykitt, seriously you ramble on about how you can't be a detective for your own students but you think you can detect that some person is using three different names on a random discussion.... but you're not a detective right? Interesting how you would try to discredit someone after clearly outlining your own incompetence to do exactly that. Amazing.

graykitt -

"... we're not mind readers, nor, given the large number of students many of us are teaching at once, do we have the time to become detectives who compare students' oral communication skills (or their accuracy when emailing or texting, as in Dante's supposedly funny quotations) to their writing produced outside of class."

"I thought you should know that certain recurring patterns and preoccupations in your essay and comments make it evident that all three names are being used by the same person."

.....but if it was your own students it's not your fault they get away with it hahahahaha. If those post were by Dante he's laughing at you too.

507. doalright - November 21, 2010 at 08:28 pm

#500, I'm saying that this article doesn't convince me that the author or the story are real. The Chronicle says it was contacted by a "literary agent", implying some basic level of journalistic integrity. The Chronicle needs to reveal what their definition of a "literary agent" is. To me, Dante's rant is overly sensational and hard to believe.

508. rpbird - November 21, 2010 at 08:30 pm

This is easy to defeat on the undergraduate level, so long as it isn't Engl 101/102 (where the instructors are required to teach the writing of research papers). I never gave report or essay assignments. My students were required to make an in-class presentation. I only gave essay exams. The community colleges I taught at had a requirement that every instructor must have a written component to their assignments. I got a special excemption from it because I gave essay exams. Why didn't more instructors follow my lead? They didn't want to grade essay exams. It's a hell of a lot of work grading essay exams. On the plus side, my students actually came away from my courses with increased writing skills and a real knowledge of history.

509. eaeeae - November 21, 2010 at 08:53 pm

The Secret Scholar gives away the secret to successful assignment writing - start with the quotes and write around them. Took longer without computers, let alone Google, but four or five text books and a few pages of pull quotes artfully organised, plus of course accurate typing and attention to layout, was more than any professor ever expected of me. So much easier than thinking about a topic for long enough to gain an understanding sufficient to gather evidence in its support. And who, among my assessors, was ever interested in what I thought anyway?

510. rpbird - November 21, 2010 at 09:12 pm

OMG, you should have been cursed with my thesis committee. I still hate their guts to this day because of what they put me through, but I came out the other end knowing I EARNED my graduate degree.

511. fgwrong - November 21, 2010 at 11:39 pm

It's all because of the grade based evaluation system. I came here for knowledge and I have been gaining new knowledge and skills. But when it comes to grading, I am in a miserable position. Profs think I should meet their criteria, I should think their way and I should do things they think is right. And the load they put on students is overwhelming. I can's manage time for anything if I am to try to meet the grade-based requirements. Still, I will never be a client of Dante. I would rather return without a degree. My aim is knowledge and I will get it even if I don't get a degree. But not all students are like me. They need a degree with a good grade and are forced to seek services of people like Dante and to resort to other unethical works and plagiarism.

512. prof_gradgrind - November 22, 2010 at 02:17 am

The threads through the discussion that have focused on education as a business are correct. Be honest. What universities tell students about the quality of their education, and what we really deliver are two different things all together. When I was hired on at a private university for an online teaching program, my immediate supervisor asked me to grade my papers with rigor, to really hold my students to account. So I did. And I got bad reviews from many students who were angry that I had been so severe on them. The report went all the way up to the Dean's office, and I was called into the adminstrator and was told I had to increase my scores or I would be eventually let go. At no point was I asked for my impression of my students, or of their work ethic. I realized at then that it didn't matter what I thought. I was a widget that served a certain purpose in the department. What was of the greatest importance was not the quality of the product given to students, but the tuition dollars. The most important thing is happy students. This means that they are more my boss than my boss. If I was going to keep my position, I could not grade papers critically. I do believe that our program gives a great educational product to students if they want it, but it is also clear to me that universities are not interested in fixing the rotting of our institutions, or else they would back up those who try.

513. jpbelmondo - November 22, 2010 at 02:19 am

The outrage from academics is hilarious; it's the tell they are in the same business as the author -- getting paid for helping students to pass. If they were actually concerned with teaching their students, they might actually think about the problem highlighted by the article, but that would require some actual work.

514. ltrain - November 22, 2010 at 04:29 am


515. justahat - November 22, 2010 at 09:19 am

In graduate studies in science and engineering you apply mathematics and logic. One can still cheat, but if unable to explain the reasoning in your papers forget about obtaining the higher degree. Is having a paper ghost written, that you could have written if you had the time, and submitting it as your own work unethical? Of course! To get the best jobs one way is be in the top of your graduating class, preferably with a few extracurricular activities and rewards under your belt as well.
That takes a lot of time. Effort can be applied, but if you run out of time you are sunk. In a world where image is often more important than substance, being smart isn't just IQ, but an art.
Does that justify having papers written by some one else?
On the other hand go for an applied physics degree with a masters in international business, and learn how to speak foreign languages, and you can name your ticket. One key to success is learning how to do mathematics at least to the graduate level, being able to reason logically, and obtain an MBA. Do that and in this dumbed down world you will never need to cheat, because you will quickly rise to upper managemenet in business, and then you can pick and choose other smart people to run the buisiness. Welcome to the ranks of CEO, CFO, CTO, and so on.

516. pwiener - November 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

As far as I'm concerned there is one issue here, and one puzzle. Granted, cheating is immoral etc. The issue: students cheat because they are assigned papers, as if that were the only way to prove one's intelligence, learning, commitment, integrity. Their assignments are cheatable. Stop depending on such assignments and education (and graduation rates) will radically change. The puzzle: how can any human being, however skilled with language, churn out meaningless garbage hour after hour on anything? If he can and does, doesn't it prove that the assignment was meaningless too? "Ed Dante" is dreaming when he thinks of himself (or herself) as a writer. No writer I've ever known or heard of has such little regard for words. Dante is a prostitute. I wonder if he has health insurance?

517. kingsusocprof - November 22, 2010 at 01:07 pm

to jbooten (#60). My sense is that you are struggling and "even bothering" to write your paper because you have integrity and you care deeply about the relationship between learning and your education. The fact that the struggle of (many?) others appears to simply be the challenge of finding someone without integrity (and who benefits from an ethically blind love affair with technology - if we CAN do it then we SHOULD) is simply a sad statement about how university students have been encouraged in countless ways to approach their education.

We as faculty are implicated in this whether we like it or not, for teaching has alway been and will always be hard work that requires BOTH diligence and a love of learning. If we truly care about our students actually learning, then "adjusting" to these paper mill publishing times means that we might just have to demand of ourselves and our universities that teaching needs to become THE central focus of what we do.

518. agoulem - November 22, 2010 at 02:58 pm

As Bob Dylan asked "Who killed Davey Moore?"

519. adamw - November 22, 2010 at 06:19 pm

hello all, my colleague and i are psychologists conducting a short survey about this article and about human judgment more generally. if you would like to take the survey, please click on this link


520. ray_selen - November 22, 2010 at 06:51 pm

This is what happens when teachers and professor are so lazy they don't know and don't want to know anything about their students. This is 100000% educator's fault.
I grew up in another country and received education there until I got to college in the US. You couldn't cheat there even if everybody had computers and Internet and cell phones. Why? Because the teacher would put you up in front of the class and ask you qustions and you had to answer in his and everybody else's presence. If you couldn't answer right then and there you got an F.
Yes, you could cheat on your homework, and papers and what not but the teacher knew every one of us, they knew our personalities, habits, abilities, shortages, they even knew our writing style. If a pathetic student came back with excellent homework but they sucked when tested in person, the teacher would figure out the fraud in a second.
These American educators know nothing about their students! Everything is garbage scantrons, "yes" and "no" questions, true or false, computers! Blah! Trash! Trash! Trash! The American educational system has turned into absolute, abominable garbage! And then they wonder why students drop out at alarming rate. One can only handle a robot, a broken record, an academic bureaucrat that walks and talks like a zombie for that long!
For American educators every student is a number, annoyance, invonvenience, the necessary evil to make a paycheck! How pathetic! I mean, I was amazed that my professor had "work hours" that I had to make sure I showed up in that time bracket to his office if I had any questions about an assignment. And then they didn't look very happy to see me show up at the door!
And I have to pay for this? I have to pay for this garbage they call education???!!! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!
American educators, you lazy bastards, get off your fat hinds and start doing teacher's work, familiarize yourselves with your students, mentor every one of them, get to know them, stop treating them like coke bottles on conveyor line. Each and everyone of them has a personality, try to understand their personality. Throw out the scantrons, ask your students to write papers by hand, yes by hand! No spell-checkers, no calculators! If you don't, this situation will only get worse. The educational system in this country (like so many other things - economy, family, etc come to mind) is in a deep crisis and playing politics is not going to cut it this time, mister! Figure it out! Thank God I'm out of this matrix!

521. 11mustang - November 22, 2010 at 07:53 pm

Oh, MY, Gosh!!!!

Had I known these services existed, I could have become a highly degreed individual and been paid to spout off liberal excretion and live off the academic teet instead of doing honest work.

Now I understand how the idiots who populate academia got their degrees. It wasn't understanding of their fields of "expertise", it was their understanding of how to lie, cheat and steal....

All perfect attributes for American academia!

A nice self-perpetuating cesspool.

522. curt4364 - November 22, 2010 at 08:35 pm

Don't blame colleges and universities for not preparing students. Blame the primary and secondary schools for not doing their jobs, parents for having unrealistic expectations. And blame students themselves for not getting their acts together. You can blame universities/colleges for accepting these students, though their ability to discern qualified from unqualified is probably hampered. Some of the examples you give involve students that aren't just poorly prepared, they are just plain intellectually lacking.

In the US, we've dumbed down content, standards and requirements to the point where we pass nearly everyone. And somehow, the mantra is now 'everyone should go to college', where is should be 'college is not for everyone'.

523. eaeeae - November 22, 2010 at 08:36 pm

To 512. prof_gradgrind

>>my immediate supervisor asked me to grade my papers with rigor, to really hold my students to account. So I did. And I got bad reviews from many students who were angry that I had been so severe on them. The report went all the way up to the Dean's office, and I was called into the adminstrator and was told I had to increase my scores or I would be eventually let go.

524. eaeeae - November 22, 2010 at 08:49 pm

The comment system just ate the post that was intended to follow #523.

When I taught for part of the Fall 1975 semester at Scarlett Heights HS near Toronto, I was told to assign an essay on Catcher In The Rye (has there ever been a more overrated book foisted on hapless highschool students?)

I bought a copy of Coles Notes, the better to identify those students who merely lifted enough passages to meet the departmental word count requirement.

Several did just that, and received an F grade, whereupon I was called into the Head of Department's office to be told that Scarlett Heights HS did not issue F grades "because students would just transfer to the school down the road and everyon's job would be at risk."

Those parents and politicians pressing for teacher evaluations based on grade performance must remember that if high grades are what is equired to keep your job, high grades will be manufactured.

525. trifacto - November 22, 2010 at 09:14 pm

Interesting article...

Pretty sure 90% of the comments are wrote by the author though. I imagine to make the article appear to be more popular. The responses follow a pretty easy pattern, very formulaic, including the "fake" comments that seem to be against the author. You see almost a template applied in the responses of "different" posters. There is a group of grammarians, a group of plagiarists, a group of professors, a group X's. They all sound the same and make the same exact errors in typing, spelling, and grammar.

The issue is serious and says a lot about what happens when the ideas of Liberal Capitalism are applied in places they don't belong, like Education. Regretfully, I think it ends up being little more than an advertisement for this guys future book, paid for papers, and ironically, anti-plagiarism software.

So why point it out? This happens all over the web all day long. An article or essay is given that is really just a fake advertisement. Then a fake debate is given in the comments all to make it look like it is a "hot topic" or "hot item" so you will buy it or vote for someone... Recognize it and don't fall for it.

526. newer - November 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm

as far as I know, some honest intructors in the university who have expereiences to catch students' cheating behaviors have lost their jobs. Instead, some "street smart" lecturers who always steal other scholars' works have got tenured or got permanent jobs in the university. Those street smart lecturers in the university do more cheating things, no body complain their cheating. they have more powers to bully students.

527. steveofcaley - November 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Trifacto's comments only make a pitiful tale more empty.

This mercentary traffics in what people do not wish to endure - the burden of continuous, independent thought which lasts longer than a commercial break.

I doubt he would find his product much more imbued with quality than Wal-Mart's. They are passable. No one can tell anything better, nowadays.

I have no loathing for "Ed Dante" - his corruption is a mere little story in the ocean of corruption which we have embraced. I appreciate his work, but am not titillated by his commentary.

528. jumpedship - November 22, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Mr. Dante wrote this to "initiate a conversation"? Jeez he's so impressed with his, um, skills, he thinks we'll all buy his transparent bullshit.

Sounds like he's killing himself for little more than minimum wage, should his productivity claims be believed. And if he's not in it for the passion or desire to contribute to something positive -- as are most educators, or at least the best version of themselves -- what's the point? With his test-taking and admissions-acing abilities, why not slog through law school and at least be paid well the tedius toiling.

And what about that novel? No work ethic to follow up, unless there's class credit attached? Is the only thing driving this guy an obsession with academic approval? I guess he's figured out how to keep riding that train. Oh yes, but he's "retiring" so he writes this missive, like handing in a perfect test only to announce that you're dropping the class. It's all about being best at the game and above the game.

Sorry, I don't read this article as being about the state of education -- it's a window into the mind of a narcissist ... or some sort of "ist" (I don't have a degree in psyche, so I won't stray too far out here).

There's nothing new here. Of all the college profs I know, this merely puts a personality to a reality that is already known, and struggled with. I guess all that's learned is that there is a smug fool out their delivering these papers that are clearly "passing" but little more than that -- a shear waste in every sense, and for everyone involved.

So, Dante .... congratulations? On your "retirement"? On "initiating a conversation"?

Whatever will you do with your energies now, or have the best of all your years gone by? Maybe there's a novel spinning around in there somewhere .... but you know, a common trait among good novels is the palpable sense that writer respects his readers, and among all your "learnedness" that might be one lesson you never mastered -- or figured out how to imitate.

529. steveofcaley - November 22, 2010 at 11:56 pm

An addendum - to abgrund (edited)
It's amusing how many commentors here assume that a doctor or other professional who cheated in college would thereby be less competent. The truth is that whatever they would have cheated on is almost certainly irrelevant to their profession because 99% of what is learned (or not learned) in college has no consequence in practice....Would you rather have a surgeon who wrote all his own papers on the theory of social equity in medicine, or one with ten years of experience instead of three?....But suppose the medical student cheated at, say, anatomy? So what? He can easily look up anything he needs to know about it. Whatever he learned in undergrad anatomy was forgotten by the time he got to residency, whether he cheated or not....It doesn't matter if he can't write worth a lick, either. A piece of writing can be embarrassingly bad yet still communicate very clearly... Persuasive writing has its uses but is unnecessary for most professions..

Absolute rubbish, sorry, every line of it.

Academia now permits the concept of "cheating" to be as a clever principle of using unfair techniques to wheedle good grades out of the system. There was once the concept that instruction was offered for its own right, and one could only "cheat" one's self.

As a practicing internal medicine physician, the skills which I developed and refined derived substance from the entire spectrum, from the first year of medical school into practice. Persuasive writing, and its analogy - perceptive listening - is one of the core competencies of care for the patient.

Many of my colleagues were dull fools throughout medical school, but had become dull fools in the herdlike and cynical processing which we call "pre-med," if not well before then.

Perhaps I am a classicist, but the skills of turning one's attention to a matter, examining it inquisitively, persisting in the application of concentration to it until it begins to speak of deeper principles which it follows - that is a skill as useful to the physician puzzling over disease, as to the ancient students of natural philosophy. Education doesn't make one stupider - stupid makes one stupider.

530. subersive2 - November 23, 2010 at 09:38 am

Hi Everyone, Hi Dante!

I can't tell you how refreshing this was to read. I have been writing term papers as my sole source of income for 10 years. Dante is BANG ON. Except for a few small details, this was practically like reading my own professional biography. I am slightly less cynical than Dante is, even though I admit to being ruthless and mercenary. From a purely selfish standpoint, term paper writing is a blessing.

We term paper writers are a strange breed. Don't assume too much about us. Doing this full-time as a sole source of income is very different from writing a paper for your friend in college. And to those who doubt that Dante is telling the truth about how much he writes or how much he earns, I can verify every word.

The most difficult part about this job for me is telling people what we do for a living. Saying "I'm a writer" or "ghostwriter" raises too many questions I can't answer without spilling the beans. To some, I tell the truth right away and it becomes the conversation piece. Other times, I make up some B.S. about being a communications consultant. So what are we exactly? I'd love to know how Dante has fielded this question.

Unlike Dante, I treasured my university experience. I went to one of the top 5 liberal arts colleges in the United States, where classes were small and we learned "how to think, not what to think." I even designed my own major because my college, unlike Dante's, encourages independent study.

I graduated with honors but still had no clue what I wanted to do next. No one--parents, peers, academic advisors--could give me any guidance. I applied to a handful of graduate schools (because I did love learning) but each one rejected me.

Keep in mind, with a bachelor's degree in a self-designed major I was as good as a high school dropout in terms of employability.
I found myself wondering if I were doomed to soul-sucking office jobs for the rest of my life. Soul-searching got me nowhere too. I went to India for 6 months and stayed in an ashram. I really did. I tried to find a niche, but kept coming up empty.

Then for many years I slogged at various temp and odd jobs. Somewhere along the way I got fed up and fancied the idea of writing for a living. It sounded romantic, anyway. I looked for freelance work on online bulletin boards and before too long came across the term paper gig. All that was required was a Bachelor's degree. No writing samples, no bylines, no experience necessary.

Ten years later, here I am with high job satisfaction. I set my own hours, I get paid to write, and I go where I please. When school season starts I rent a flat in whatever country I choose. As long as I have an internet connection, I can work in Africa, Asia, Europe, or South America. I have been living this dream life for years. Sure there are downsides. I'd like more respect and I'd also like to make more money, but who wouldn't?

Over time, I discovered that I'm actually not a good writer after all. But I am a good term paper writer. I can write fast, I'm especially great under pressure, and I have mastered academic jargon. For someone who loves learning and who values freedom above all else, term paper writing is a godsend.

I might be overly idealistic but I think we offer a legitimate service.

I've helped clients who are sick or whose family members are dying. I don't see how anyone can be so self-righteous as to think that there is never a legitimate need for this type of service.

Dante mentioned our three categories of clients. I agree with those, but there is an important fourth: adult students. Continuing education is big business, as people want to upgrade their professional skills. Many of my clients are working mothers and others who have full-time jobs in addition to taking on coursework for professional advancement. My services are essential for them. I also have adult clients who have degrees in other countries but who need American school credits to find employment. Instead of learning what they already know, they pay a little extra by outsourcing their diploma.

I also noticed that many of the negative comments here suggest that Dante would be better off getting a more legitimate writing job, suggesting that his skills are wasted. What world do you live in? One of my best friends is a graduate of UPenn and has a Masters degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. She spent 8 years toiling in NYC as a staff writer for highly respected magazines. Did she make good money? Of course not. She was barely making ends meet. And she's a schmoozer too. She went to all the right parties and met all the right people. After 8 years, she finally left the rat race and started teaching for a living. She hates it! She still freelances and I think she makes less money than I do.

Making a living as a "real" writer is nearly impossible. Unless you have an "in" with a publisher you're just about screwed. And what writer wants to spend most of their time marketing? Because that's what you have to do. Writers need to be salespeople and suckups. Or lucky as a lotto winner. That is why talent is so often wasted.

Someone noted that term paper writers make just pennies per word. So? Those pennies add up to what can be $100 per hour. Over the course of the year, a decent income can be made by people like us. And at least we get guaranteed payment for the work we produce. It beats pitching articles at the promise of $2 per word, getting paid zilch for the time spent querying, and still not knowing if you'll close the deal. All for what? So you can have a byline or two? I'll take my life over the bitterness of needless struggle. The writer's life that most people romanticize about does not exist; it's like the American Dream. I'm living a real dream, and I owe it all to the paper mills and the people who support them.

531. offshoreguy - November 23, 2010 at 10:27 am

Many commentators have alluded to problems with the academic model. But I've not seen this expounded upon.

Here is a problem from my perspective. Most of higher education is a complete waste. Requiring completely unrelated classes outside of an engineering major, such as a foreign language, history, humanities, or English class, is a complete waste of time and money for a student. Clearly there is an oversupply of teachers in this country. Universities deal with this oversupply by creating graduation requirements that have zero bearing on a degree. Presto! Suddenly there is an artificial need for teachers. Welfare for teachers?

If there were a free market in education, classes would be focused on the student's major rather than keeping teachers employed.

532. triflesegment21 - November 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

To #525>> trifacto:
First of all I like your user name, it that latin? Second, I doubt you are Ed Dante yourself. I know there's no way you can disprove it like there's no way for me to prove what i think. But if you are not, I am extremely impressed by Mr. Dante's writing skills if all the other above comments are his own imagination about what the world might make of this article.

Mr. Dante you are your own legend but please dont try to appear like one among the sociology majors coz you dont seem like an idiot to me. Its their job to make a fuss out of everything; i suppose yours is to work silently.
532 comments? And I dont know how popular you are on Facebook. You are a new internet phenomena! I might as well write a paper about you for my Professional Ethics final assessment- engineering students don't have a very good taste for topics you see. Let me know if you wanna help. And ofcourse you take Grammar very seriously, right? You can see I might need your help.

533. tsentz - November 23, 2010 at 01:13 pm

This should be a movie.

534. schacht99 - November 23, 2010 at 01:32 pm

I'm 26 and since I was 6 years old I've been in "school" -- kindergarten, elementary, middle, jr. high, high school, college, and now graduate school. Looking back on all this education the experiences that I value most involve meeting people who cared about learning, who spoke from experience, and who taught by example. If someday I become a teacher, then this is the kind of teacher I also want to be. If I am successful in this pursuit, no guarantee exists that my students will not cheat or use services like Mr. Dante provides. After graduation, some of my students may even continue to show poor math and writing skills. However, if I meet my goals as an educator, then such flaws will not matter because my students will enter the world with more resilience and confidence to improve their circumstances. Also, they will have clearer values distilled by reflecting on what is important to them. If I do education well, then my students will be able to make mistakes, suffer defeats, and still actively search for a good life. As far as I can tell, such educational goals remain possible in a world with or without ghostwriters like Mr. Dante, with or without administrators who penny pinch, and with or without colleagues who fail to bring students up to grade level. As far as I can tell, great teaching is possible under a variety of difficult circumstances.

535. bruce1776 - November 23, 2010 at 02:22 pm

The author should find himself in the emergency room being treated by a doctor who he or she helped cheat through medical school.

The contention that there is anything whatsoever with the evaluation function in education is bogus. There is a two-fold task to education - teaching and certification. The value of a degree lies not just in the knowledge, but in the abilituy to certify the knowledge to others, like employers, or say, for a physician, to the patient whose life is in the doctors hands.

Luckily, teaching math, I rarely assign a paper. The solution to this is to give very little credit for writing assignments, or any assignment, outside of class. Instead, base the student's grade almost exclusively on in-class performance. Any writing assignment, or any work, done outside of class should include an oral or in-class defense of the work.

The best way of combating this is to raise the standards to where it becomes prohibitively expensive to hire someone to falsify work.

536. amyhale93 - November 23, 2010 at 03:25 pm

I have to take issue with your phrase "academic mercenary" here as it's the name of my blog which is about my life and work as an adjunct by choice, fully online professor. Clearly, you and I are doing different types of work.


537. drtimothyaldendavis - November 23, 2010 at 03:30 pm

How do I know this article itself is legitimate? Its sources cannot be independently verified, with one exception.

Consider the phrase "A close consideration of the events which occurred in ____ during the ____ demonstrate that ____ had entered into a phase of widespread cultural, social, and economic change that would define ____ for decades to come."

I did a Google search of this sentence, via this query:

I expected to see a few actual articles, but all I found were 57 hits with the exact phrase, with the blanks left in. They were all articles refering to this form of cheating. One would think that a "stock phrase" like this might find its way onto the web, if it were really used.

To look deeper, I created a one-sentence "paper" with this sentence (blanks and all) and submitted it to turnitin.com. It found 3 student papers, but I cannot see the source unless I put in a request to the instructor. Perhaps the 3 papers are writing about plagiarism, and are merely quoting this "stock phrase." If you try the same, your "paper" will be a 100% match with mine ("Submitted to University of Florida") - so please ignore that particular match, since it will not indicate any plagiarism.

The 3 matches included some or all of the blanks ("______"). This leads me to believe that the 3 papers are on the topic of plagiarism, and are merely quoting this "stock phrase".

In short, I don't see this stock phrase anywhere.

So why should I believe this article?

538. chevyman - November 23, 2010 at 04:35 pm

It's a quick easy fix. But at the end of the road when you can't write that report at work or that application that saying rings true." You are only cheating yourself" Do the work yourself. Don't compare yourself worth with others accomplishments. Do it on your on pace with your intrigity still intacted. You will be glad you did. Thanks for looking.

539. dagnat - November 23, 2010 at 06:57 pm

I have NEVER seen spelling errors such as this author quotes his clients as writing. Spelling errors have a certain phonetic logic, and they tend to cluster; i.e, certain misspellings become commonplace. None of the misspellings in this essay are common; in fact, they are unique.

The one thing in this essay that rings true to me is that Education students are the group which relies the most on cheating. As an English prof, when I taught an education grammar class, I was stunned by the students' lack of writing skills and their willingness to plagiarize.

Other than that, nothing much rings true here. I have big reservations about this essay. I'd love to hear others' assessments of its authenticity.

540. mochacoffee - November 23, 2010 at 07:17 pm

Oh, dear. I have been a shadow researcher for a renowned scholar of my field. S/he recently published a megaseller book, which s/he claimed to have done all the research. Oh, dear. That was my graduate research and it cracked me up to spot my ideas and phrases in his new book. It also had unchecked references and misquotes, but nobody seemed to notice. I know he will never get caught--his position is a testimony of his integrity. They will never find out who that shadow researcher is. Somebody has to be the shadow.

541. randerson7000 - November 23, 2010 at 07:19 pm

I share the same view as others commenting here that it would be foolish not to question the validity of 'Ed Dante's' story. It does beg questions though...

1. How much cheating goes on?

2. Who is doing the cheating and how much?

3. How hard would it be for a massive educational institution to beef up the part of their institution that certifies the degrees and cracks down on cheating? If there isn't a part of their institution like this then there needs to be or nobody will go to college and all institutions will start to fail due to lack of trust that the person certified knows what they are doing. Never mind, that's already happening.

542. dagnat - November 23, 2010 at 07:45 pm

A professor guiding a 100+ page paper would have comments on every page, not a brief, general suggestion such as the one that Dante represents his client's professor as making:

"Thanx u so much for the chapter is going very good the porfesser likes it but wants the folloing suggestions please what do you thing?:

"'The hypothesis is interesting but I'd like to see it a bit more focused. Choose a specific connection and try to prove it.'


And the "spelling errors," as I noted in my earlier post, are not typical.

543. other - November 23, 2010 at 08:27 pm

Prosecuting "cheaters", and that could mean "everyone" if we're to believe Konstantin Ravvin, (I hope every one of his future potential employers sees the GMA piece) means a negative financial impact on an institution of "higher learning". The "educators" in the system want to keep their jobs and have no real interest in rocking the boat. As long as education is business, there will be people exploiting the system. As long as you can prove your "education" with a degree, there will be people exploiting the system. As long as you can get that degree by a minimal investment and mediocre work, there will be people exploiting the system.

I understand Mr. Dante's frustration and disappointment. I have felt stifled and apathetic during most of my educational career, as well. I have never cheated though. I've been lucky enough to do well enough with 'minimal investment and mediocre work'. Also, I don't fit his client base demographics, though I could have described the three groups before he told us.

The bottom line is that most universities are simply degree mills and businesses, concerned only with their graduation rates and their funding. A warm body filling a seat in those weeks before the final drop date is all that matters. Mr. Dante's customers realize this and are simply playing the game the way it's been laid out. In fact, if you changed a few details about this story, you could be talking about the welfare system, among other things.

At first, I felt disgust with Mr. Ravvin and his hubris. Then I shrugged off the naivete and idealism to realize that he's probably right. For the most part, at least. People cheat, at everything, all the time, and there is no way to stop it. Except to change the motivation for the achievement. What, really, is an education?

544. other - November 23, 2010 at 08:36 pm

@Dagnat, et al.,

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Mr. Dante's main example was probably a recent immigrant to the US, most likely sending email from a phone. Having to learn the language and a qwerty keyboard to communicate in english may result in "atypical" spelling errors.

Are there that many here who don't believe the lengths students will go to, simply to pass a class?

545. scholarprof - November 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm


546. scholarprof - November 23, 2010 at 11:51 pm


Like we did not know this was going on ?

I teach at an online university where my students are all 25 years of age and older. The work that is submitted is filled with errors. I wish they had someone write their papers for them !

One student posted that she would like to obtain her Phd. one day. First learn to form a complete sentence free of spelling and grammatical errors and then think about graduate level work. Not one of my students can follow directions. One student was angry with me for not just giving her the credit for work she submitted, all of her other professors did. This is the state of education. While obtaining my Phd. I went had to jump through hoops, for menial things and here students are just given credit for turning on their computer.

547. weather123 - November 24, 2010 at 12:55 am

Despite Ed Dante's convincing "exposure" of the darkside of higher ed, I am also appalled by the level of cynicism that he sways us with. If there is so much cheating in universities, it also have to do with the rot culture that we built for ourselves. As a contingent faculty, I know for sure that we are treated like teaching machines by the administrators. They think more about business, money, and how to exploit their dear little customers as well as their powerless teaching machines to maximize their profit. The two goals mutually reinforce each other. The university is a ground of distrust and cynicism. I have seen a couple of successful faculties doing nothing better than their own students, who cheat, steal, and dupe. Some star academics also cheat, exploit others to pump up publications, while relegating their teaching duties to grad students and contingent faculties....aren't we feeding off each other and the likes of Ed Dante? There has to be a thorough cultural transformation of the university.

548. fightontwist - November 24, 2010 at 01:33 am

As a contract writer I would like to say a few things regarding some of the posts I've seen on this thread by certain "academics."

You're the reason I have a job and I would like to thank you for it. You spend so much time bickering back and forth at each other that you have failed to grasp that this is why many students turn to people such as myself.

If you read some of your posts you would understand that attacking each other is the primary reason that so many students are confused in class to begin with. If I had a dollar for every academic that I've heard slander another professors thesis, dissertation, paradigmatic viewpoints, etc...I'd be able to buy a new car. Some of you instructors spend so much time telling your students that what they learned in another person's classroom is incorrect that you've failed to disseminate your own information.

I think it's hilarious. It's like there's an academic pissing contest and you HAVE to win. They claim that their attacks aren't "ad hominem" while, in the same breath, sarcastically referring to someone as a "fine instructor."

I love the assault on other's grammar, too. If you spent half as much time connecting with your students as you do correcting fellow academic's "blog skills," you might not have such poor students.

This is not an assault on everyone. Merely observations that I've made a multiple institutions of various caliber.

Here's a little insight for some of you "brilliant" academic minds. Half of you aren't even as smart as the people you teach. Many of you do not require your students to use resources like "turnitin.com" to prevent cheating. I can honestly say that more than half the time I write for other students I will reuse or retool a paper which I've written for myself in the past or for another student. Why? Because you don't use these resources. You make my job 20 times easier. I get paid for essentially removing my name from a Word document and sending it via email.

The to whom I'm sending the document has no idea that I spent 15 seconds on their paper because it had been written 5 years ago. Frankly, I don't feel bad for either of you. I'm happy to take their money because it's my work and I'm happy to fool you because you're too busy arguing amongst yourselves over which one of you is the superior academic.

I personally don't care if someone does pick apart the spelling and grammar on this post. I'm half-heartedly paying attention to such things at the moment. Remember this, though, it's not my job to impress you on this forum; it's my job to fool you when someone else turns in my work. Since I haven't been caught yet, I'd say I'm doing pretty well.

For those academics who genuinely give their all to the profession and don't argue about pointless things amongst yourselves, I am truly sorry. There are a myriad of reasons that people like myself continue to find work. Indifference, poor public schooling, institutional demands, publish or perish, poor students, and the reason I listed above all serve to continue to provide me with ample work and pay.

Do I feel bad about helping other students cheat? Not really. I'm a business man. A crude version of a venture capitalist. The money is there, the demand is there, and my skills are there.

Hopefully there will come a day when people like myself are not needed.

549. fightontwist - November 24, 2010 at 01:39 am

Edit:I'm well aware of some of the grammatical and spelling errors in the post above. No need to point them out. Trust me, when the work matters, it's correct.

If you'd like to prove my point about bashing other academics and students, by all means, rip apart my post. Again, I'm sure you've read my work and given that student an excellent grade.

550. fightontwist - November 24, 2010 at 02:50 am

I'm actually going to touch on a few more things. People think that this is some sort of hoax. Look, I understand that this particular author may being lying about some, or all, things. I find it hard to believe that someone was able to have a Masters Thesis written for them and was, then, able to defend it to their committee. I'll grant some cautionary flags for statements like that.

The point is, however, that this is very real. People like me do exist. I will most certainly not claim that I've written as many topics and levels as original author is claiming, but I am a jack of all trades. It's not difficult to write a competent paper for students across different disciplines. I've written papers and completed homework for individuals in M.A. programs and undergraduate work.

Honestly, how many different times can the same thing come up in different disciplines that I would NEED some sort of specialty in that discipline to write about the subject? Need some examples? I'll gladly provide some from my "own work."

Max Weber; in how many different subjects is his work taught? Religious studies, history, public administration, business, sociology, the list goes on and on. If you've read enough Max Weber you can tailor the paper to the prompt.

I could write you a feminist theory paper using the works of sociologists such as Pat Hill-Collins and Dorothy Smith. I'll throw some Audrey Lorde in there for good measure. Maybe you'd like some Arlie Hochschild. They teach these individuals in multiple disciplines.

Don't even get me started on the amount of bridges that Karl Marx crosses.

Even academics plagiarize. Dr. Martin Luther King plagiarized portions of his doctoral dissertation. Weren't academics across the land teaching David Irving's works on Holocaust until Deborah Lipstadt and Richard Evans proved in English court that his work was plagiarized, he was lying, and that he was a Holocaust denier?

It's not hard to write a graduate level paper for someone if you've done graduate level work. Depending on the prompt of the assignment it's not that hard to write a graduate level paper if you're a highly skilled undergraduate in the field of study.

Some of you are under the mistaken impression that because THIS guy might be lying, that people like me, who honestly do the work of others, don't exist. If you'd like to continue to live in that fairy tale world, be my guest.

When I said that some of you academics weren't as smart as the people that you teach, this is what I meant. You continue to live in a state of blissful ignorance thinking that there's no way on God's green earth that someone can write papers for people across multiple fields. It's not that difficult. Especially when many universities continue to teach the same subject matter year after year. They even use the same text books.

It isn't some pain-staking task to write a paper for someone on works that are pretty much universal. There's only so many classical essays, theories, writers that you can assign. Fortunately, academics are creatures of habit. Many academics issue the same tests (with minor variations), give the same writing prompts, assign the same book (just a newer version), and lecture off the same power points.

It's not even a challenge half the time. I especially love state school systems because they try to keep a uniform code of classes so that students can transfer without issue.

I'm certainly not going to make the bold claims that "Dante" is making, but I can tell you, unequivocally, this is happening and will continue to happen. We, as students, have figured most of you out. We ask our classmates which of you are easiest to take. We ask our classmates if they have kept your old assignments. We ask our classmates if you use the same books, give the same lecture material, give the same take-homes.

I've seen some of you educators on these posts talking about how dumb some of your students are. How they should think about their grammar and spelling before considering grad school, and how they barely know what they're talking about. It would seem to me that they, and I, know more than you think we do. We don't pay attention to you because you've given these lectures to someone else and we got the notes from them. We don't pay attention because you don't have an attendance policy. We don't pay attention because you use the same recycled garbage that our fraternity brother, sorority sister, best friend, or sibling learned from you one year earlier.

Maybe it isn't the student that's dumb, but I'm sure you've never thought of any of this.

551. austinbarry - November 24, 2010 at 09:31 am

Dante should go into the ed biz. "Hey students. Stop paying up to $2000 for a paper. Learn to write them yourselves and have the satisfaction of knowing it was done right. Any subject, any level, using freely available materials. My class will pay for itself."

552. uselessdegree - November 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

I graduated from a reasonably prestigious school last spring, with a degree in English (I double-majored but will leave out the other degree so as to best protect my identity, and because it isn't entirely important to this post). Since then, the one paying job I've been able to find was a temporary one that did not even require a high school diploma, and which was physically strenuous and mentally stressful. During my time at school, I can honestly say I never, ever cheated and wrote all of my papers myself, and I got good grades.

Honestly, reading this article has inspired me to seriously consider posting ads on Craigslist, and perhaps around the campus of the school I went to, advertising my services as a paper-writer. At least then I could do SOMETHING with my degree and experience while I struggle to even find a retail store willing to hire me with my entirely useless degree. And considering how much of what I was assigned to write was frankly JUNK, I frankly don't think these students will be missing much. (Although my other area of study was not as bad in this area, I wrote so many pretentious, and frankly bull$#!t dissections of literature for my English degree, and only because doing so was often the only way to reach the page length.)

I might quickly add that the career center at my oh-so-prestigious school was entirely useless. Every time I visited, the entire appointment was spent with them showing me how to use the internship/job website...a tool I could have figured out how to use within about five minutes on my own. I was given no practical advice, and now as a graduate would have to pay to use their services at all (I would receive a discount, but the price would still be very high). No joke, helping current students cheat would be a better way of improving my own situation in life than using the tools my university set up to help its clients find jobs.

553. crackess - November 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

I know a woman, a "tertiary dropout" for financial reasons, who used to work for one of those ghostwriting outfits. She did not realize that "that" was what the job entailed, but was pressured to do it once she was hired. It was illuminating for her. She thought it was just a print shop, but that was just the sign they hung in the window. Unofficially, they wrote papers, building and maintaining their client base by word of mouth. Many, but not all, of the clients were ESL students. Students would show up with a stack of books, not having read any of them, and wanted papers written within hours.

Needless to say, she had little respect for "degrees" after that, if someone like herself with no degree at all could write well-graded papers (B's, mostly) for advanced-level classes (and yes, Master's as well, as long as the science wasn't "hard science") that she couldn't even afford to take herself. You would not be able to do this with engineering, math, or physics, but with almost any other topic, it is not difficult for a person with a good level of native intelligence to make a living writing college papers for other people.

She left as soon as she found something else more ethical to move to. At 66K a year, actually, she should abandon her proverbial scruples and go back to doing that, instead of the chump job she is doing now. It's not like higher educational institutions are actually giving people an education. It's all just a game. A labyrinth that you figure out how to move through in order to get a piece of cheese which will catapult you into a better-paying job. Education in America means nothing more than that.

I agree (from what she told me) that the reigning academic dogma and squabbling make it easy to ghostwrite. It is not difficult to catch a whiff of the teachers' preferred theories, and play to them. Because in the main, only certain shades of ideas are permitted to comfortably survive in these mills.

Some of the esteemed degreed individuals reading this piece blame the foul corporate nature of the institutional Beast, and the pressures they are under, while others sneer at the writer's income and pick him apart. I suspect that the shadow scholars don't especially care. Aside from the sheer joy of quietly slipping it on a daily basis to those who lord their "education" over the unwashed, it is enjoyable to make one's living by researching and writing in one's pajamas, avoiding unpleasant interpersonal politics.

I can certify, however, that based on my autodidact friend's stories, which are very similar to those of "Dante", that the ghostwriting business has been booming for awhile now (she did this in the 80s). Take heed, employers. And take heed, society. College graduates armed with that all-important piece of paper may not know much more than a record store clerk.

As much as academics like to stress not judging people by superficial characteristics such as color, gender and socioeconomic status, etc., they are mostly all about the theory of doing that, and not the practice. You wouldn't catch them sending their kids to trade schools, after all. Too sweaty. Too much like work.

554. wendy_l_grosskopf - November 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

Support for the idea of more frequent, and heavier weighted, in-class writings. It's also easier, then, to call a student out and say, "I'm impressed by the quality of this paper--it's solid! Although I must admit I'm a bit surprised, since your in-class writings have been far less competent. Can you please walk me thr...ough your process of writing this paper?"

555. dagnat - November 24, 2010 at 10:41 am

Ed Dante and fightontwist both spend a lot of time airing their contempt for professors.

I wonder how much of that derision is a way of excusing their own unethical behavior, which of course they never admit is unethical.

556. dziuk - November 24, 2010 at 11:52 am

After going over many of the comments I am not certain that any of my comments would be helpful and may be redundant. I have reviewed more than 2500 manuscripts and 2500 project proposals and taught over 180 classes over a 55 year period so have seen every possible form of cheating. As a physiologist/animal scientist I have students that must exhibit some knowledge in the lab and in the classroom which gives less opportunity for plagarism. Perhaps we will get down to the point,if we haven't already when plagarists will be plagarizing the plagarists. I require a spelling test, if you can't spell it how do I know that you know what you are talking about.Science is a search for the truth which shouldnn't be comprised by any form of cheating.Philip Dziuk

557. dziuk - November 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Sorry about misspelling plagiarism. Philip Dziuk

558. cocomaan - November 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Our economy's main export, nay, it's main product, is fraud. The author is just one more cog in that machine.

559. maygin - November 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I work at a 4 year college that does not grade the students; it is simply pass or fail. I am currently discussing with other professors what to do with suspected cases of students purchasing their work online. I am confident one of my students has, but without proof, there is nothing I can do. My colleagues are facing the same scenario in their classes. Since this student does not receive a grade, the pressure of grades cannot be the motivation here. She just had to write a C paper to pass. I think this demonstrates that the responsibility lies less with the school or educator and more with the student.

560. wendy_l_grosskopf - November 24, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Of course it's the student's responsibility to not cheat, yet she does. It's therefore the responsibility of schools and educators to find ways to eliminate temptations and opportunities.

561. maygin - November 24, 2010 at 02:31 pm

I work at a 4 year college that does not grade the students; it is simply pass or fail. I am currently discussing with other professors what to do with suspected cases of students purchasing their work online. I am confident one of my students has, but without proof, there is nothing I can do. My colleagues are facing the same scenario in their classes. Since this student does not receive a grade, the pressure of grades cannot be the motivation here. She just had to write a C paper to pass. I think this demonstrates that the responsibility lies less with the school or educator and more with the student.

562. maygin - November 24, 2010 at 02:56 pm

Seriously? How do you propose one eliminate temptations and opportunities? And why is this placed on the instructor or instutition? People are faced with temptation every day and it is up to them alone to decide to walk away from that temptation. These are adults that are responsible for their own actions. If a student is too lazy to write a 3 page paper on their own, then I see little educators can do to prevent them from buying the paper. In the social sciences at least, there are times where it is necessary to have a student complete an out of class writing assignment. Cheating and plagiarism exist at every school, at every level of education, since the beginning of education. I do not see how the fault can be placed any where other than on the people who decide to cheat. Placing the fault any where else only dismisses the student's responsibility. Beyond having plagiarism and cheating policies in place, reminding students of these policies, and enforcing them, I do not see what else the institution and instructors should be held responsible for. If the student thinks the class has too much work or is uninterested in the topic, then they should drop the course, not cheat. No instructor or institution can make every student happy, prevent every form or cheating, or teach every student how to take individual responsbility for their actions. At some point, institutions and instructors are just facilitors of learning and if someone refuses to take the time to learn, there is little an instructor or institution can do. But removing the blame from the student and instead saying, well if only the instructor and institution removed all the temptations, only justifies that student's actions, which only hurts the student in the end.

563. kraleigh - November 24, 2010 at 05:38 pm

I want to do this.

564. wendy_l_grosskopf - November 24, 2010 at 05:47 pm

Maygin, I understand the problem must seem overwhelming. Meanwhile, over winter break I'm going to revise my syllabi for the Spring semester; I'll replace many of those out-of-class essay prompts with more frequent and heavier weighted in-class writing assignments.

565. fightontwist - November 24, 2010 at 06:07 pm

@dagnat Did I not call it cheating? I'm pretty sure that I did. If you'd like to admit that it's unethical, fine. It is completely unethical. I am not an ethical person so your point is moot.

You seem to think that it's contempt for professors when it's not. Most of my best friends are Ph.D.'s and J.D.'s. They are well aware of what I do. I have contempt for professors who talk about how stupid some of their students are on a forum dedicated to academia. I have contempt for professors who probably encourage their students to apply for grad school in one breath and verbally bash them on another. I have contempt for professors who spend so much time verbally assaulting other professors' work that they fail to deliver their own information.

If you think that's contempt for an entire profession then I don't know what to tell you. I am pretty sure that I apologized to the hard-working and decent professors who do their job because they love educating and fostering ideas in young adults. I have no malice or contempt for such individuals. I hold them in high regard. Unfortunately the system is broken. It is filled with professors who roll their eyes at students and trash them on forum boards such as this. If you want to discuss ethics, maybe you should attack that as well.

Are my actions unethical? Absolutely. Do I cheat for other students? Yes I do. Does it bother me when people like you would rather attack the student rather than the litany or professors verbally assaulting their students abilities on a forum board? Hell no.

566. fightontwist - November 24, 2010 at 06:08 pm

*If you'd like ME to admit that it's unethical, fine*

567. tonyhbaird - November 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm

566 comments already? Well I haven't read them all, but I did read enough to realise that there was a large degree of abdication of responsibility by the teaching profession. As a "consumer" of the output of colleges, ie an employer of tertiary qualified employees, I have learned to value a degree as if it were just another piece of paper; no more, no less valuable than the envelope in which the accompanying CV arrived on my desk.

It's sad, but it is reality. I just hope that the education of airline pilots and brain surgeons is conducted by people of stronger moral fibre than many of the above commentators.

568. oresme - November 25, 2010 at 06:37 am

I would like to say that not all students out there use the "sevice" Dante provides. I'm currently in 3rd level education and I'm just as outraged as some of the teachers, not at Dante fairplay for making a living, but at these students who undermine my effords. I work hard to get a first and they just pay for it, very unfair especially as I'm one of these ESL students who do struggle to get a grasp on English grammar and spelling.

569. src173 - November 26, 2010 at 12:32 am

Dickens was *not* "paid by the word*--he was paid by installment, which he arranged with his publishers after the success of _The Pickwick Papers_. Dickens did not "pad out" a banal plot to get paid for volume; rather, he continually created installments that fascinated the British public enough that they were willing, not merely to by the monthly parts, but also the novel upon completion, the library edition, and the Charles Dickens edition years later. Obviously Mr. Dante, in his own bolgia (is there a bolgia for perpetrating a hoax?) has about as much knowledge about his "hero" as he does for the other subjects he ostensibly writes about convincingly. We are not convinced.

570. jallenb - November 26, 2010 at 11:11 am

I think perhaps it's easier to catch ESL students in cheating. I know how that sounds, but in my experience it's true. I once had a student from one of the African nations in my class, I pleaded with my department chair to encourage the student to take a course designed more for his needs. "He can't possibly pass my class," I told her. "His English simply isn't where it needs to be." She pulled up his grades, which were mostly math and science courses, and suggested that his high GPA was evidence that he could probably make it. Defeated, I acquiesced. His papers were expectedly deploreable, save for the last one in which shortly after the first page, the broken English cleared up ... and the typeface changed from Times New Roman to Arial. A quick perusal of google netted me the site he had copied the latter portion of the essay completely unchanged. Of course he failed. I later learned that he had begged to enroll in the online version of the course.

This needn't have happened. There should have been some structur in place to help this student so that he wouldn't have decided to cheat out of frustration and bitterness. I'm not absolving him of responsibility, mind you, but I am not unsympathetic to his plight.

The question that troubles me most is what can be done about these free enterprise scholarly privateers? I'm affronted by the author's quickness to blame the Academy for what he/she perceives as its failure of him, but mightn't he/she blame Publishers and Editors for also failing to see the staggering genius of his/her fiction work? What this person is doing is committing fraud and then slapping academia in the face with it. The author of this article is a criminal pure and simple. Perhaps not in any manner that would afford him/her prosecution, but the author is quite certainly complicit in the commission of a fraud.

I have rarely read such a work of unmitigated denial of one's own wrong doing.

571. pkp1530 - November 26, 2010 at 11:15 am

To empyrios and jbooten:

In the fall of 2012, I, too, begin writing a senior thesis. After a thirty-year hiatus, I decided to complete my degree, and in order to graduate, I must assemble a project.

I am quite aware of the challenges before me; in fact, most of my time now centers on how to properly execute such a prodigious assignment. Regardless of the obstacles encountered, I still anticipate initiating the research that will ultimately further my interest and understanding of the subject at hand.

At no time, while finishing my senior year, will I be tempted to glance at a cribsheet or employ a ghostwriter's pen; any success accomplished will be due to good old-fashioned industry and ingenuity. Thank you, empyrios and jbooten, for providing the inspiration for something more noble than exchanging credentials for job security-- in other words, obtaining an education for its own sake.

Now I know I am not alone.

572. klwilcoxon - November 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm

By now the subject has fairly well been talked to death. My single contribution is to ask everyone to consider college cheating in the context of American society as a whole. Nice guys finish last. Greed is good. Get rich quick. More and more in the hands of fewer and fewer. Business majors #1 at cheating. Tom DeLay convicted of money laundering, but judge expects to sentence him to probation. Elections bought and paid for by unknown contributors. Etc.

Let's face it, people - students - know what it takes to get ahead in America. It ain't studying.

573. 0noggin - November 26, 2010 at 02:22 pm

Talked to death? Not quite. As a writer, educator and someone who learned how to write by writing papers for my professors to critique, I can aver that students who cheat are cheating themselves out of the value of their education. Specifically, the ability to communicate has been proven to be key to advancement across all areas of business and public life, and cheaters sacrifice their ability to develop the very communication skills that would be key to their prospects of advancement beyond university. Not incidentally graduates possessing English and Philosophy degrees have been proven to fare very well beyond graduation. After all, the ability to form cogent analyses and persuasive arguments in writing will pave the way to advancement in almost any industry.

Speaking of which, those who abet cheaters are typically poorly paid; Mr. Dante's alleged skills could therefore have been far better employed in almost any area of industry, and for a far better salary. His statistics are no doubt inflated. I suspect that he has handed in the same paper many, many times; after all, a professional plagiarist must be expected to plagiarize, including from himself and others.

Ultimately, we must all take responsibility for our actions, and those who do work hard and are taught well will be rewarded in the workplace, if they are strategic and creative architects of their own careers. For instance, pursuing a career in retail with a degree in English is unwise.

Finallly, I have some things to say to all professors out there who want to know how to deal with this troubling phenomenon. Simply do your best to ignite your students with a passion for learning and open their eyes to the value of what they are learning: as educators, that is our job. As Socrates held, we cannot teach anyone, but only facilitate and guide their thinking. Recognizing the reality of customized plagiarism, I do emphasize in-class learning and evaluation: in-class exercises, peer-revision and team-revision/critique exercises are excellent learning tools, and fair but comprehensive and heavily-weighted exams of course are especially adept at weeding out the cheaters.

Educators: pull your heads out of the sand and be frank and open to your students about the perils of plagiarizing. If you care enough about your students, you will at least be honest with them.

Administrators: this phenomenon has reached epidemic levels in large part because of increased class sizes and the depersonalization of the student-teacher relationship. Find ways to breath some intimacy and integrity back into the classroom, and this by-product of a depersonalized learning environment will largely take care of itself.

And when that happens, people like Mr. "Dante" will mostly be out of work.

574. mochacoffee - November 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm

I hate plagiarists, especially the ones who get away with it. There should be a special place in hell for them and Dante should lead their way.

575. mmn13ps3 - November 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Well, I was familiar with the fact that people could get their assignments done with the help of classmates or some online services, even I have helped my friends out few times in the past but I had no idea that this issue would stretch up to grad school.

Its seriously demoralizing for a future college student to see that people are so willing to forgo education just for a degree. How far would a degree take someone, if that person lacks education?

576. breadbagboots - November 27, 2010 at 01:38 pm

TO all those making a political argument out of this issue.

Free market capitalism has nothing to do with what's going on here.

This is all about honesty and integrity and righteousness (... or the lack thereof). Period.

577. pkp1530 - November 27, 2010 at 02:10 pm

To breadbagboots:

Finally someone gets to the crux of matter. Kudos.

578. tyche - November 27, 2010 at 05:45 pm

Plagiarism, Student Evaluations, and Teaching Effectiveness

Hey, students are paying for their grade, not for their education. That is part of the model of the privatized university. Under this model we, as professors, have to cater to the needs of students, our clients, and the service provided is no longer learning, but it is to pass the course. That is the definition of “excellence” under the new educational model. I used to work for a system like that: corrupt.

The question is: what happens when corruption is discovered?

579. tyche - November 27, 2010 at 05:48 pm

Plagiarism, Student Evaluations, and Teaching Effectiveness (II)

The question is: what happens when corruption is discovered?

This State University (that also has rich kids and frat boys/girls) spent money buying Turnitin (program to detect plagiarism) and training its professors to use the program. In the end, if a professor dared to use the Turnitin-generated evidence to fail a cheating student, the “very efficient” Dean would discipline not the student, but the “rebellious” and “uncooperative” professor.

At this university a professor who -with evidence in hand- dared to fail a cheating student was bullied, harassed and finally fired for not being an “effective teacher.” Teaching effectiveness means that students, including the cheaters and their friends, “evaluate” the professor. Then, if a professor detected a cheater, their fraternity/sorority using social networking means (Facebook, student association blogs, etc.) would take good care of the delinquent professor.

580. tyche - November 27, 2010 at 05:53 pm

Plagiarism, Student Evaluations, and Teaching Effectiveness (III)

The question is: what happens when corruption is discovered?

It is a mafia and everybody at any level is implicated: the Dean, the Chair, students, and even other professors who advised her to “just give the student a good grade.” When that professor refused based on ethical grounds, the university, probably facing the threat of a suit, ignored the evidence presented, changed the grade, met with all the students in that small program and informed them that “her lack of support for students worked against the accreditation of their newly created program.” She was fired; a person who stood her ground for honesty was fired. Students believed the misinformation and outraged that their program had not been accredited spread the rumor through their social networks, slandering an honest person. They even created bogus blogs with false student evaluations claiming she “was the worst professor I have ever had.” I hope one of these days she can go public and denounce her saga at that university.

581. tyche - November 27, 2010 at 06:09 pm

Plagiarism, Student Evaluations, and Teaching Effectiveness (IV)

The integrity and honesty of a professor landed her jobless. One of her colleagues admonished her, “You see where your principles have landed you? You need to learn from this experience and forget about your principles. You cannot do this before getting tenure.”

Cheating students have learned that everything is possible. Some of them might become the bullies of the future. And institutions love these individuals. Honest people do not thrive in this system, at least at this State University.

582. tyche - November 27, 2010 at 06:13 pm

Plagiarism, Student Evaluations, and Teaching Effectiveness (V)

I hope Dante is not using our messages to write the next paper on Plagiarism for somebody needing such a paper.

583. deel5906 - November 28, 2010 at 12:15 am

To #497- EXACTLY. 530, 548 and 565, I couldn't agree more. I enjoy writing with a passion. I have engaged in a lot of graduate study, all of which was interesting, but useless in the real world, at least where getting a job is concerned. Writing across the disciplines is easy; although I didn't get to do it often in my university courses due to either the rigidity of the curriculum or a professor's illegal prohibition of academic freedom. My most recent experience with academia has left a nasty taste in my mouth. The cluelessness of this university's leadership is astounding and mustcertainly be unparalleled. How, someone please tell me, is it possible to complete an entire year and a half of studies with a 3.9 GPA; submit a petition to graduate in the spring, and then be told by the Dean (suddenly and without warning) that you are dismissed from the program because of "hearsay" that she finds disturbing? How is it possible that on appeal, when presented with the exact wording from the graduate school manual, outlining the procedures to be followed for non-academic dismissal, the "academic affairs committee" upholds the dean's dismissal?

I am glad that I realized long ago that I can teach myself whatever I need to know, and that all a university can provide me is the credential that society demands. In the meantime, I will be actively seeking a position similar to that of the author's. As for IHLs: "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Write on Mr. Dante!

584. deel5906 - November 28, 2010 at 12:20 am

To #497- EXACTLY. 530, 548 and 565, I couldn't agree more. I enjoy writing with a passion. I have engaged in a lot of graduate study, all of which was interesting, but useless in the real world, at least where getting a job is concerned. Writing across the disciplines is easy; although I didn't get to do it often in my university courses due to either the rigidity of the curriculum or a professor's illegal prohibition of academic freedom.

My most recent experience with academia has left a nasty taste in my mouth. The cluelessness of this academic institution's leadership is astounding and surely must be unparalleled. How, someone please tell me, is it possible to complete an entire year and a half of studies with a 3.9 GPA; submit a petition to graduate in the spring, and then be told by the Dean (suddenly and without warning) that you are dismissed from the program because of "hearsay" that she finds disturbing? How is it possible that on appeal, when presented with the exact wording from the graduate school manual, outlining the procedures to be followed for non-academic dismissal, the "academic affairs committee" upholds the dean's dismissal?

I am glad that I realized long ago that I can teach myself whatever I need to know, and that all a university can provide me is the credential that society demands. In the meantime, I will be actively seeking a position similar to that of the author's. Write on Mr. Dante!

As for IHLs: "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

585. jaysix - November 28, 2010 at 01:00 pm

While I am not nearly on the scale of "Ed", I probably write one assignment every couple of weeks. I started writing twelve years ago and it's been very nice tax-free side money. In the beginning, I was a bartender that would churn out pages during the day before my shift started. Now it's something I do on my laptop while my wife watches television after work. It's lucrative and I am constantly educating myself. I've probably forgotten as much as I have learned at this point.

My client list is short and I say no quite a bit - usually to get more money or if the task and timeframe is not something I feel the need to inconvenience myself with. It's not difficult to get new business. Anyone that would like to ghost write? Sign up for a Gmail account with your fake name, then go to searchtempest.com and scour craigslist. You'll know who's the most desperate by grammar, deadline, and amount of exclamation points. From there, you can set up an RSS feed to email you daily digests, or if you know any Boolean, set up a Google Alert. Pay no heed to "poor student" or "medical problems" or "work full time" - this is a business transaction and they're cheating the system, remember? And ignore whatever price they want to pay. Tell them your terms and say the price increases exponentially the closer the assignment gets to the deadline. They're not working on the paper at the same time they're trying to solicit someone to write it for them.

It's one thing to complain and be a highbrowed scholar type lamenting the loss of academic integrity, and another to know how to profit off a problem that isn't going away. These idiots I write for are going to be paying for things they can't answer or don't know what to do the rest of their lives. I might as well start taking their money now.

586. queenofhergarden - November 28, 2010 at 02:20 pm

I must confess. For the first time in my life I hired a friend to write a paper for an on-line class and I feel no guilt about it. Here's why. I enrolled in a graduate level class in Health Care Administration. A two hour class, I felt I could handle it with my other responsibilities. Already having a Master's Degree, I know the difference between a two, three and four hour course. The amount of work assigned for this class well exceeded two hours, perhaps even three hours. What is worse, after posting the first three assignments on the discussion board and having spirited discussions with my classmates regarding all of the assingments submitted, after three months in the class I never saw one comment by the instructor on even one assignment submitted by any student, EVER. It became apparent that we were learning in limbo, as it were, and nobody of importance was paying any attention to any of our work. Since my valuable time is at a premium and the instructor obviously has no interest in what is taking place in her class, I made the decision to hire someone to write my final paper. Of course, I selected the subject and will read it thoroughly before submission, but since I know that I would have been perfectly capable of writing it myself, and would have done so had it really mattered, I feel no guilt in paying someone to do a little busy work for me. I don't consider what I did cheating. I DO consider what the instructor has done, by taking ALOT of my time and money for nothing, as cheating.

587. mochacoffee - November 28, 2010 at 04:35 pm


You are scary. I knew an undergraduate student and a professor just like you--with an incredulous sense of entitlement. I often wondered when they lost their ethical judgment. Seriously, when did it go away? Is it possible for us to recover dead ethics? This is a social paralysis.

588. pedromartinez - November 29, 2010 at 09:53 am

Stop giving this narcissistic would-be-writer the attention he seeks. He is just craving for publicity and free advertisement! You may recall the famous hoax of The Education of Little Tree, an inspiring memoir of a Cherokee orphan brought up by his loving grandparents that became the best seller. I doubt very much that the "Shadow" has written the amount of papers he claims. There are many ways for those in higher education to prevent plagiarism by insituting basic parameters when using this type of one shot assignment by faculty. Use your faculty development to insitutuionalize "best practices" for writing and spend your time conceptualizing writing assignments that are worth the time and effort by students instead of aggrandizing this noble savage!

589. highschoolteacher48 - November 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I've been a teacher at the middle school and high school level for 13 years. Many times I've asked myself, "How did that person ever get to be an administrator?" Well, now I know at least part of the answer. Thank you for your candor, Mr. Dante.

590. bluetulip18 - November 29, 2010 at 03:17 pm

Wow. Not sure what's sadder - grad students cheating to this degree or a writer who feels the need to brag about helping them. He's just as guilty. Instead of blaming the system for letting these incompetents graduate, how about you STOP HELPING THEM CHEAT.

Oh, wait. That's right, you need to make a living. After all you can "write a four-word sentence in 40 words." I can't imagine how that could possibly be good writing. No wonder you can't make it as a real writer and must resort to this underhanded business.

591. hellokava - November 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I guess people do unethical things and get away with it all the time. All I know is that if I were a single mother trying to get a degree and get ahead and abide by the rules, made a lot of sacrifices for years to get the degree. Only to have to compete with a fake. I'd be pissed. He's not helping people like her. Granted the cheater will reveal him or herself in time but...

On cheating
I think we all like to imagine ourselves beating the system sometimes but Democracy is a system. Meritocracy is a system. There is a cost to hiring and firing. Schools have reputations that's linked to how much they charge. If they become known in the hiring world for churning out fake after fake, it will affect their bottom line. There's value to education or it will not exist. Even if its a placebo because our market system still affirms it. Plus they are not doing themselves a favor by skipping the learning process.

What he's doing is being an accomplice to theft. Theft of the value of education, both literally and figuratively. Theft of job opportunities to those who play by the rules. The cheater are not just rich or stupid. The cheaters are thieves. They value something for nothing for their selfish gain over respect for others, respect for community and society. And he knows this. Or else he wouldn't be the "shadow" scholar. He should do a dissertation on his own underdeveloped frontal lobe maybe figure out why instead of how he does what he does. Granted it all may be hard to quantify in court, I'm not a lawyer. And I maybe little harsh but somebody should point this out to him.

Also there's nothing wrong with being "dumb" or "subpar", or not being able to make it in the education system... The service sector is one of the biggest job providers in the states. Would you want a surgeon operating on you that was too lazy to fully study the human anatomy, but got the job anyway because of his "credentials"?

One last thing before I finish my rant. I think the spelling errors are a product thick thumbs and laziness instead lack of intelligence in this Blackberry and Iphone age.

592. tribalypredisposed - November 30, 2010 at 03:46 am

While I have never cheated, I know many of my fellow grads from a high school for the gifted openly stated that they got their high school degree in "cheating." Most of them are professors or high-muckies of some kind now, while I work two menial labor jobs alongside high school students.

So I could be bitter. But having been to university, twice, I think it is perfectly ethical to cheat since the university makes every effort to cheat the students. Let us be honest here. Most of what you can "learn" in an English class is pure bull, and same goes for Political Science, Sociology, Cultural Anthropology, most of Psychology, Cultural Studies, and Women's Studies. Most of what is covered in any course under these "disciplines" is known to be wrong, because it could only be right if humans did not evolve.

My wife is still in university and yesterday had to, once again, write on Freud. Freud, who abused Cocaine and is known to have falsified his data, is apparently more worth examination in classes purporting to be on human nature and on human sexuality than any hint of a mention of Darwin or his cute little Theory of Evolution.

The students pretend to learn what should never be required for them to know. This does prepare them well for the corporate world of dishonesty and ass kissing.

Anyone smart enough to deserve a university degree would never enroll. For a fraction the cost of a years textbooks one can gain access to the university library and educate oneself far better than the university will for many thousands of dollars.

593. drannmaria - November 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

I teach statistics and I usually have students complete at least 25% of the assignments in class and hand them in. I compare their grades on in-class and out-of-class assignments but there really isn't much discrepancy. I don't do this to prevent cheating as much as to enforce scheduling of work. Much desperation occurs when people put off assignments to the last minute.

Most of my career I have taught at selective programs or small schools. In the former, students are less likely to need assistance, as one said, "I don't cheat. Honestly, it's not because of my great ethics but because I don't think someone else could write a better paper than me and I don't have extra money to throw around." In the latter, we knew students very well and they were not shy about asking for help from us, for free.

That said, I have seen a lot of students - and employees - over the years that I was completely puzzled how a person with such low level of knowledge and writing ability could possibly have a degree. I've also noticed a dramatic upswing in courses taught by part-time faculty in recent years, and in graduate students who can barely speak English. I had strongly suspected that someone had written the students' undergraduate papers and admissions essays. It was the only explanation that made sense.

Thid is a bad combination of students who need more help with faculty less available to provide it.

594. cechulvick - November 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm

For those that are pursuing a credential rather than an education, buying a paper or a thesis is just another expense. The ethical issue of doing so doesn't even come into play.

This is a structural issue that our society has created and it is preserved by those that it enriches.

Place "Ed" in the cast of characters that live off this along with unscrupulus recruiters, lazy or ineffective instructors, research frauds, major athletic programs, and greedy administrators. He certainly is not alone among the bottom feeders.

595. fhun4159 - November 30, 2010 at 01:26 pm

Although I understand the anger.... It must said that education in the U.S. is not true education. We should not blame the students for being smart enough to find someone to write their work and not smart enough to do the work... I have seen that our young students have not been given the tools they need to succeed in college. It needs to start with the younger years.

596. mruss82799 - November 30, 2010 at 03:03 pm

Papers are not the only tool for assessment. A student who cannot express him/herself and does not do the work in a class will not easily pass. The Ed Dantes of the world cannot be there to take the midterm and final in an ordinary class environment. Maybe his services are better suited to certain classes and the cyber classroom? He cannot do the oral presentation based on the paper, he cannot contribute regularly to class discussion--so even if he slides a paper by it is unlikely that it will make a major difference; however it may make the difference between passing and failing.

597. bestfriend2u - November 30, 2010 at 04:01 pm

All this writer has to do is reuse the papers he has written for the students. He probably does not write papers from scratch.

598. fanon2 - November 30, 2010 at 08:57 pm

I'm interested in this article for a few reasons. How many of my professors with Ph.D's are among this writer's clients? Eeek! Since reading the comments I admit I'm afraid to write anything for fear that my blurb comment will be graded and who I am will be judged based on my absence of a definite article at the beginning of a sentence. But here goes. Ethics is a reoccurring thematic here. I had a professor tell me that he/she doesn't care about ethics. That comment scared me quite a bit. Silly me, the only place I thought ethical practice was a given was at a center for higher learning. University professors, instructors are mostly interested in themselves--have you heard the lectures? We call them "and then I wrote" stories.

The problem with academics in general, and this is not a negative, is that they think they are STARS--and that is not a bad thing--I like STARS (celebrities) but they don't pretend to be closer to GOD or selfless. This is why celebrities continually donate money to worthy causes and go to rehab. Professors on the other hand pretend that all they want to do is "good works"--educate the next generation and uncover reasons for hegemonic subjection. Finally, they insist on presenting papers that only a hand full of people are interested in or can understand. Everyone isn't Marx or Foucault. I'm not talking about any of the scholars that have posted here--I don't know you.

The respondents here are arguing that some of the professors don't care enough about students. I argue that some (MOST) of the professors that I have come in contact with don't care about themselves. The uncombed hair, the same shirt every day, the rubber-band ponytail, the dirty sneakers--really? What character is that? Professors, for the most part--seem bothered by the students. The "don't you know who I am" "why are you here" attitude is pretentious and needs recalibration.

599. dynamic - November 30, 2010 at 09:43 pm

Re: #201, I agree; from personal experience, I know that a 140 IQ and a good set of morals won't get you too far in life.

Unfortunately, cheating in school is probably good preparation for the real world. First of all, there are a lot of jobs, Dante's included, which are not very ethical. Should you want to get an non-unethical job, you'll need to compete for the job against people who lie on their resumes, fake qualifications, lie at job interviews, and fake references. Once you get a job, it's really difficult to get ahead without telling white lies, appropriating others' work as your own, and other lying, cheating, or stealing. Dante's job is just a symptom of our society in general.

600. physicsprof - November 30, 2010 at 11:26 pm

The article is an indictment -- a BS writer making his living off BS commonly known as humanities. No wonder he avoids math. Thank you, Mr Dante, you made my evening!

601. olmsted - December 01, 2010 at 10:16 am

Most commented on article ever???

I sent this one to our students. And faculty. I hope it inspires enough disdain to report/punish violators, but alas the effort to do so is high. And one of the last times I did so the student reported me for ethnic discrimination. Guess who lost? Guess who spent copious hours defending honor?

As Marcinko would say, 'doom on you' if I catch you at this. It'll cost me to punish you, but you'll bleed in the process, my dear student.

602. ianderso - December 01, 2010 at 10:44 am

While I am indeed a little late to the game in terms of commenting on this article, I have to admit that I find other readers' comments almost more comment-worthy than the article itself. I don't have much to say other than this:

I love my students. They're wonderful. Eager, polite, fun, respectful, excited about learning. There are, however, two significant barriers to making sure they receive the education for which they're paying.

First, the school itself. I work for an extremely sketchy not-for-profit communications school in New England whose faculty are generally grossly unqualified to be teaching much of anything. Hell, most of these people aren't even qualified to teach at a high-school level. It is run more like a factory than a school. It recruits heavily, mostly from rural areas or from Job Corps. As a general rule, if they have a pulse, they're accepted. And, of course, we receive A LOT of pressure to keep retention up.

The second issue is the students themselves. Wonderful young adults, all of them. Unfortunately, easily 90% of them are grossly unprepared for college. The vast majority of them write and spell at a 6th grade level. Few of them are able to solve basic, single-variable, 8th-grade-level algebraic equations. It's a shame. They have the eagerness to learn, but they don't have the basic skills they need to learn at a college level. So instead of spending time on the aesthetic, technical and philosophical issues so intrinsically important to their area of study, I end up spending easily half of my lecture (and sometimes lab) time playing high school teacher, trying desperately to get them up to speed so we can get to the stuff they're so eager to learn.

I understand, to an extent, what Mr. Dante is saying. Yes, there are colleges and professors who are "too cool for school" or too wrapped up in their research to be troubled by actually teaching their students. I experienced some of that myself at the top-tier liberal arts school I attended. But unlike Mr. Dante, I decided that the BEST thing to do was to try to make a difference from the inside. Foolish, perhaps, as I'm barely able to make a living and I'm ostracized for trying to effect positive change, but at least I can feel like I'm making a positive contribution to society in some way, instead of trying to rationalize sociopathic behavior by blaming the very system I'm gaming.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to say is that the failure to adequately teach students isn't always the fault of college professors. We often have two extremely difficult barriers before us: First, students all over this country are receiving inadequate instruction their whole lives. Second, the "customer is always right" mentality has commoditized higher education, and administrators, frankly, make it difficult for us to properly do our jobs. It's highly demoralizing, disenfranchising and disaffecting. And that, frankly, makes it difficult to care.

So much for not having much to say.

603. nursefaculty - December 01, 2010 at 12:38 pm

In the last 5 years, I have had two students from another country who had NO English language skills. In the first case, I was teaching at an Ivy League university. When I brought the problem to the program director's attention, her response was that she had a telephone interview with the student and the student's skills were fine.

In other words, I was to mind my own business. This student's papers and written work were clearly NOT done by her. But the Director is now the Dean at another prestigious University where it is NOT ok to bring up potential ethical concerns about student work. Hmmmm

The second time I had a student from a middle eastern country whose government was paying for the student's education at a top tier midwestern University. Again, when I asked appropriate administrators how the student was even admitted, and also asked how in heaven's name I was supposed to deal with her inability to comprehend written or spoken English, I was told to make sure she passed so her country would continue to pay tuition and send other students....I sent her to the writing center and told her to work with them on her papers - and she passed. (Fortunately, I was not teaching a CLINICAL nursing course where her lack of language skill would have been a patient safety problem!)

Both students are returning/have returned to their countries of origin to teach in national universities there. They have advanced degrees from prestigious US universities. And I have been branded as a 'trouble maker' at both schools.

I am sickened at the lack of ethics within higher education administration and I am struggling with the ethics of continuing to participate in such a system. I love my profession and I love teaching. Yet I, like other colleagues with PhDs in nursing, am contemplating leaving the academy. Is it any wonder?

604. hillcountrypoet - December 01, 2010 at 03:54 pm

For 520, ray:

It's a job. It's a discipline I love, and, thanks to a good solid foundation I was provided by a single secondary teacher (who also instilled that love of the discipline in me)I'm fairly good at it. Soooo...if you'll show up, sit down, shut up and do the work, I'll be happy to share with you some of what I know and hopefully, make you a better writer. But...it's also your job to learn it; I'm not going to wave a magic wand over you while you try to tweet and fart your way through my class, and presto-changeo: you become able to think critically, formulate your thoughts and articulate them correctly. It takes a bit of hard work and practice, neither of which I've seen much of in years of teaching.

By the way, before anyone construes this as an ad hominenum attack, I'm using "you" quite generically. But, as they say...if the fooshits...

Although I see hundreds of you each semester, you are not merely a number to me; I sincerely want to see each of you succeed in becoming better writers. The world out there demands it. Check the job listings: most of them require "excellent written and verbal skills" (although I question whether some of those hiring managers, with their educational backgrounds, would recognize such talents if they bit them in the preposition). When you want that raise or promotion, however and the boss tells you to put it in writing, you'll probably want to write the best persuasive essay of your life. I know I did so after I left academia in disgust (more on that later) and went into private industry: my boss told me he wanted my job description on his desk the next morning (yes, those kinds of deadlines happen in the business world). Something sound wrong with that assignment? Like maybe he knew my job description already because I successfully met it by being hired? The product was one of the best persuasive essays I've ever written as to my value to the company. Four thousand of my colleagues didn't write so well: they were "downsized" the next week.

I still dabble in online teaching because I love what I do and I like sharing a few tricks, but I left academia for one main reason. The entitlement of little snowflakes whose helicopter parents instilled in them a sense of entitlement to the extent that they felt they could protest every low grade, threaten lawsuits and make me defend my position against academic deficiency and/or cheating of all sorts (often involving weeks of gathering together necessary documentation when I could have been teaching or critiquing other students' assignments). Of course, since your student loan checks were coming in, the college wanted to keep you right where you are: sending those checks, so I got no support even though my syllabus stated that if you plagiarized you flunked my course. If you did, you did, and I would not back down from a "customer-oriented" administration. Consider it the equivalent of getting fired from a job in the real world if you phuk up. Besides, you are only a "customer" in the sense that you would be if you bought a membership to Gold's Gym: just because your check cleared, it doesn't mean you're necessarily
going to walk out of there looking like the Governator.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, if you were struggling, if you were trying, if you were showing up and doing the work, I was spending untold hours and effort to make sure you "got it." I even offered extra time/coaching gratis during my office hours (and even beyond office hours) but I very rarely saw a student visit me, unless it was to protest a grade. If you were one of the others, the ones thumb-talking, cutting, not doing the work, not trying, who thought it was all irrelevant anyway: ok, so be it. I merely considered you the oxygen thieves and concentrated on those who wanted to improve their writing and critical thinking skills. I knew they had papers to write in other classes and often it's not what you know but how well you can articulate that research that is a tie-breaker out there.

You're not a coke bottle on an assembly line, and I certainly don't want you to leave my class as a semi-literate brick in the proverbial wall, but if you intimate, by your demands that I grab your hand and drag you kicking and screaming through your academic experience and fight with a lackluster administration about it on both of our behalfs, nah...I just don't like you that much. It's a job, one that I like.

605. lworrall - December 01, 2010 at 04:31 pm

This article and the subsequent discussion -- such as it is -- brings to mind a comment a faculty advisor made to me in graduate school. "You don't know what you really think until you sit down to write." Over the years as I've reviewed other peoples' writing, I've come to believe that most people just don't like the work of thinking. They can't be be bothered.

I guess in an age of money over everything, my respect for well-written prose is merely quaint.

606. mrresistor - December 01, 2010 at 05:22 pm

graykitt said: "It seems he expects Chronicle readers to be as outraged as he was that his independent study proposal was turned down, but the request to have a course set up for his novel-editing was clearly laughable."

Why is this laughable? My department (Computer Science) has such classes available every semester. The title is "Independent Study" and they exist for both undergrads and grad students. A faculty member acts as a mentor for the student and reviews their work, and most of the faculty has a number of project ideas waiting for students interested in working on them. In fact, there is a world famous place that is filled with the outcomes of such projects. You may have heard of it: it's called Silicon Valley.

Frankly, if you or your department aren't open to such ideas, then you are failing as educators. Is it really laughable to you that you might actually help a student learn something practical? How telling that the Recent News sidebar currently includes the article "Master's in English: Will Mow Lawns".

607. drfunz - December 02, 2010 at 09:05 am

It seems to me that the professor with the business student discussed in the article was doing his/her job... asking for an outline, asking for a proposal, commenting on the proposal, asking for clarification and specifics. What more can be done? I do these things, too. But now I might add another dimension: raw writing in class at tehbeginning of the term and weekly in-class summaries of the paper's progress - without the paper sitting in front of the student. And I will tell them that I am comparing their native writing with their final paper. This might discourage some of the cheaters - I never expect to scare them all.

608. olmsted - December 02, 2010 at 10:18 am

@608, your allusion to fast, in-class assignments is a come-lately discovery I have made in my own teach these past years. I find the students love it (its quick pace and no BS ground truthing of skills), and it's great for sending the message of 'prove your ability in person'. Raw writing is also a great term.

And, should anyone want to add the 610th post (!!!!!!!), yes, I realize learning disabilities may allow some to opt out of the time limits, etc. Been there, responded to that. It can be done.

609. rukiddnme - December 02, 2010 at 10:56 am

Students are paying $2000 and up for research papers?

Don't you faculty folks see what you are missing? Just take the two grand from the student yourself in return for an A on the paper, and you cut the legs off these paper mills while at the same time financing your retirement in the Seychelles. If you have a class of 50, you can double your annual income once per term. Teach a summer term on top of fall and spring, and you earn about $400K a year. Three-fourths is tax-free. Sweeeet!

Seriously, I work in the 'real world' (tongue-in-cheek) and have to fire some of these former students on occasion. There really is no such thing as a free lunch.

610. kiranchauhan - December 02, 2010 at 11:36 am

I think a balance needs to be struck. Yes you need to write your own work, have your own ideas and create your own content. However, there is no shame is having someone check our work for errors; things like:spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency and referencing style.

Those are things which 60% or more of students just can't get right. Why? It's because once you've finished writing your work, you don't want to read it again; and even if you do, those rose tinted specs make it look like it is all fine.

I use and recommend a proofreading service (http://www.proofreadmyessay.co.uk) to all my students and peers. Having a professional eye check your work for errors is perfectly acceptable.

611. excelguru - December 02, 2010 at 12:10 pm

It happens in the engineering field, too.

612. delfeld - December 02, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Way back somewhere in 1990's, I used to type papers for people. They would give me what was basically a hand-written paper, and I would type it in as is. I did some small amount of work as an editor: correct typos, make paragraphs, make complete sentences, etc.

The line I drew with my clients was at developing content. I was asked more than once to flush out the content. When I politely refused, citing the academic standards of the university, they would inevitably -- every single time -- return with a more flushed out paper within a few days. They learned to do the work themselves.

One time I was asked to write a final paper in Philosophy by a fellow student. He offered me $50 to write it :). All the same, this conversation took place in the back room of a pizza joint where we both worked, so $50 was $50. I mentioned that it was a Philosophy course, and wouldn't that be going against the basic goal of the course? We had a good laugh about that; then he said, "No, seriously. Can you write my paper?" Then he offered me more money.

"Ed Dante" says, "Say what you want about me, but I am not the reason your students cheat."

This student may very well have found another source to write his paper. And while it is true that the pressures of life made him ask, I was one of a very small group of people who he would have asked, since few others had the knowledge base and the free time. This is the same question posed in the film "God of War"; is the person who supplies the means to be unethical and inhumane the cause of the atrocities?

"Ed" is culpable. Without him -- and companies like the one he works for -- and his acceptance of plagarism people would be forced to either do the research and learn something, or work at changing the system to make knowledge the priority. "Ed" removes the compulsion to act otherwise. "Ed" changes the system by actively creating the easy path. "Ed" is the reason that students cheat, and is responsible for that.

"Ed" means to hide his culpability in the complex system of pressures of college; he is actually the most guilty of anyone in the system. "Ed" allows people to remove the one pressure that grounds *all* other pressures: the compulsion to be capable.

613. delfeld - December 02, 2010 at 03:38 pm

Sorry -- that movie was "Lord of War" (2005)

Bad memory, but still a relevant point.

614. tyche - December 03, 2010 at 01:22 am

It is an illusion to believe that most of the cheating students will get the consequences of their cheating acts once they are in the work place. I have witnessed how most for them thrive in the “real world,” which is an indication of what the real world is about.

615. feenjs - December 03, 2010 at 01:48 am

our whole education system is garbage. tells children thru young adults that intelligence is based on a specific way of predetermined "objective" evaluation of information regurgitation (consistent references to desperation, which i felt so often in school) and not rewarding original thought. services like these help reject this system and would hopefully force competent educators to veer off the cookie cutter lessons their superiors have been forcing them to give for years, but since they dont get paid enough they generally arent competant enough for original thought themselves. author mentioned three groups, one of which being the "hopelessly deficient". if this group pertains to individuals enrolled in a moderately selective higher education program, they are the geniuses bec despite having a mind completely unwired for thought in this system, they are able to be smart enough to adapt to get to their current status while maintaining their outside the box thought (thats a huge generalization and prob false, but you get my point). most of this article is a combo of his desire to illustrate how smart he is thru describing the wide range of topics anecdotes how advanced of education the paper is for etc (basically he is a douche bec hes arrogant and this essay has so many flaws in it and its what he sent to a reputable magazine to print! in fact i bet he hasnt written papers for 90 percent of the shit hes claiming - skills of google scholar wikipedia and last minute quote from amazon arent profound, they are common sense and putting down literally everyone possible even his miller xanax classmates who gave him his big break) and a diatribe on society, eg rich people training of telling people what to do bec of flaws in capitalist society and irrelevance of their formal education other than the location of degree and major, the fact he considers what hes doing 'cheating' and deems it immoral (seminary student hypocrisy etc) when he at one point says cheating isnt the question its WHY they cheat. i think his isolation of 3 groups is stupid w last group of "lazy rich kid" (guy doesnt have access to financial aid applications). some strong "process students" dont feel this often, but as in any situation thats comparable to an extended moment of complete desperation from childs disease w no health insurance to dog running loose, no amount of money (rich kid stupid generalization) is too much to cure this state of panic (in this case a result of the skills demanded from our education system esp unforgiving highly selective academic institutions with no academic advising or professor support). this guy can go bleep himse, but if you take personal feelings about his character out of it and im all for the concept and budding industry bec theyll help correct the massively flawed system of modern academia

616. invinoveritas - December 03, 2010 at 01:49 am

This article is fictitious...c'mon chronicle, you can do better than this.

617. feenjs - December 03, 2010 at 01:51 am

i wrote that stream of consciousness. apologize for the rambling and repetitive tendencies at times and brackets to allow me to chuck a few thoughts in without worrying about grammar and style.

618. drfunz - December 03, 2010 at 08:30 am

@feenjs: No prob. I'm not going to ask you to write my next paper for me.

619. ajkind - December 04, 2010 at 02:06 pm

I teach multiple courses every semester
I know that students copy their assignments, papers, ..
I dont care about it.
For the salary, I am paid, its not worth putting in more time to do the paper work related to reporting these students to the Chair/Dean.

620. matadorscape - December 05, 2010 at 06:43 am

All serious schools must use, at least a majority of the time, in class tests in front of an alert teacher. Do not allow calculators (and like devices) or books with "tables" to be passed around, and do pass out different color paper for the students to use.
I wrote papers allowing someone in my family to get a PhD. One paper was totally a figment of my imagination. Another resulted after I skimmed 5 books.

"Get uncle Jimmy the jounalist to write the paper."

Someone I know has a few degrees and said the the education degree was the easiest to get.

621. marionbrady - December 05, 2010 at 08:39 am

When the big cheating scandal at the University of Virginia came to light, I was writing columns on education for Knight'Ridder/Tribune. Some might find the 7/16/01 column's different take on cheating useful -- or at least interesting.


[If it comes up as a thumbnail, click to enlarge.]

Marion Brady

622. cyberbrook - December 05, 2010 at 10:49 am

1) I would prefer people like this write articles, novels, and screenplays instead of cheating.

2) For what it's worth, most of my sttudents couldn't afford this personalized plagiarism.

3) I have my students submit research proposals, incorporate at least one required book from our course, annotate their references, and I google suspicious phraseology (and too often find it). It's not foolproof, of course, but it adds another layer of security.

623. brooder98 - December 05, 2010 at 04:35 pm

Cyberbrook: Like you, I always thought that personalized plagiarism was not a problem because the students at the for-profit college where I teach could not afford it. However, recently I encountered it for the first time (that I know of) from a student in my English II class who couldn't find a subject and a verb with a flashlight. I was initially befuddled because the paper didn't register any hits with Google or Turnitin.com., but I eventually realized this was because it had been written by one of Mr. Dante's brethren. Although I may not be able to legally prove that the student didn't write it, thanks to similar requirements as yours, such as annotated references, I will at least be justified in giving him a failing grade for not responding to the assignment guidelines. However, I don't think the writer would earn as much income writing novels and screenplays, if any at all. The writing was off-the-seat-of-the-pants rambling and sloppy.

624. rachellen - December 05, 2010 at 06:01 pm

"You can fool some of the people some of the time..." I realize that some of my students turn in these "fake" papers. I try to catch those that I can. While some students might pass with the help of a purchased paper it's still likely they won't leave with a grade higher than a D if their writing is truly horrible. I have ways of forcing my students to submit work that truly reveals how much they have learned. My suggestions:

1) Have your students write their papers in sections--starting with a research bibliography that you must approve. Then, have them turn in a detailed outline. Make it complex enough so that they will need to work hard to create the outline according to your customized specifications. Example: I'd like a two-page detailed outline of your project. I'd also like the following: your reason for selecting the topic, your past experience writing about this topic area, three recent major developments in your topic area, a rough draft of your introductory paragraph, etc.,

2) Always assign several in-class graded assignments so that final grades reveal real learning as opposed to "purchased" learning. Of course, cheaters will still benefit from purchasing academic papers but the opportunity to cheat will be limited in scope.

Much to my horror, I once noted that my name was appearing on a college paper website. I soon discovered that information from an article that I'd written for a "real" publisher was quoted in an essay for sale on that website. There was nothing I could do about that. However, I will continue to do all that I can to detect cheating.

625. jbpleasa - December 05, 2010 at 06:13 pm

Reading these comments, I have noticed that many readers are trying desperately to blame somebody for this unsavory situation. Many blame Mr. Dante. While I agree that his actions are rather unscrupulous, I think placing the blame on his shoulders misses the forest for the trees.

Others attempt to blame the students or the educators. Clearly, engaging in academic dishonesty reflects poorly on the character of our students. Further, that such dishonesty slips by so many educators is indicative of instructional shortcomings. But again, I think that there is a greater issue at play here.

Mr Dante hints at this in his writing, but we must acknowledge explicitly that something is deeply wrong in our educational system. Plagiarism of this sort is merely symptomatic of a philosophical plague upon education. In his 1996 book, The End of Education, Neil Postman called this plague the 'god of economic utility'. By worshiping this god, we convince our students and society as a whole that the only value in education resides in the diploma. The goal of education is not to learn or to teach but to serve as a machine that churns out students as standardized products.

We should not be surprised that students pay others to write their essays. Why spend the time thinking and learning if all that matters is that piece of paper at the end of journey? From an economic utility point of view, our students are making completely rational decisions.

So what can we do as educators? Our task is to begin to change how our students view education. This means giving students assignments that are actually meaningful, this means discussing with students the value of an education. This a monumental challenge, but it is time we began to acknowledge it.

626. ellenhunt - December 06, 2010 at 03:50 pm

Well, with all due respect to many typists in this forum ...

There is another matter that affects PhD and MS students. Professors who are, how to put this delicately ... horrible? Awful? Mind bogglingly exploitive?

In that milieu, of profressors running the program as a flagellation exercise, small wonder about hald will drop out in disgust (or because they got a clue). And in that milieu, is it to be wondered at that some turn in desperation to outsiders for help?

I think that in at least half of the cases of grad students doing this, that what the student really wants is mentoring. And they aren't getting it. What they are getting is jerked around, abused, etc.

627. samseth - December 06, 2010 at 05:58 pm

The main academic governance body at the university I attend is currently re-writing the policy on the editing of students' work - to make it easier! A PhD student last year bragged how she couldn't even recognise her thesis - it came back with language you could actually understand and, even better, 'A1 arguments'. She now has a job at a top Asian university. Faculty flagrantly disregard stipulations that all editorial work should be on hard copy only and tell their students to email soft copy to the editors. Makes you wonder why you bother learning to write in the first place.

628. callmeishmael - December 06, 2010 at 07:24 pm

Ho ho ho. As a high school dropout who spent 10 years running my own custom term paper mill, it's nice to see that things haven't changed much (other than the cost of the product). I've since gotten a BA and an MA with my own name on it and teach writing classes at a U. Once in a while I catch a student trying to pass off a paper he or she didn't write. It's part of the game. Seeing the academics' panties in a bunch over this article brings me back to my own ghostwriting days, when the only people dumber or lazier than my customers were the professors who assigned the papers. Ahhh. God times!

629. 11241058 - December 07, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Hey, can I jump in?

630. 11241058 - December 07, 2010 at 02:14 pm

I love the irony of cheating on ethics and academic integrity papers, and I suspect that many students do not consider it cheating if they pay for an original paper. Mr. Dante states that education courses are infested with cheaters, which is no surprise to me because a lot of professors are in the field for the money and students are well aware of it. Yes, the students are getting the shorter end of the stick, but when you are young, integrity and ethics are minor.
Additionally, education professors do not seem to recognize concise, though they ask for it. This author seems to have the perfect talent for writing education papers. He says, he can expand a 4 word sentence into 40 words and a paragraph into 10 pages. That is an awesome skill!

Now,I'm not saying that I condone this type of service, but I know for certain that there are worse jobs.
Patricia A. King
Argosy University

631. chesko - December 08, 2010 at 03:38 pm

On a sidenote to the content of this article, I found myself feeling quite bad for the author. He/she is right, he/she makes about the same amount of money that I do as a full time faculty member...but my job actually has intrinsic value to it. I know I am actually making a difference in my students' lives. I get to have random emails sent to me every year updating me on how the things they've learned in my classroom have helped them thrive in the professional world. I get to learn from my students in our discussions, to laugh with them, to make connections that continue to shape me into the person I want to be.

The goal of most people that I admire is to leave a mark on the world, to make your community better and to be remembered, to achieve immortality through the act of giving yourself to those who need something they can't find on their own. Living an anonymous life wherein my only achievements lie in the failure of professionals in nearly every field imaginable is...sad. It is a life suited for comic book villains, not a (presumably) talented writer whose gifts are going to waste.

632. delfeld - December 09, 2010 at 10:04 am

Arguments about the ethics of professors and universities are not to the point.

The student makes the decision to claim something which is not his or her work, and the paper-mill companies and employees make the decision to allow this to happen.

This is consciously and intentionally lying. Whatever the cause, that specific decision and action is unethical; people who make that decision are personally responsible.

Please note my original post #613 for a different statement of the same point.

633. ardee - December 10, 2010 at 08:54 am

I was once a lowly undergraduate, majoring in English Literature at a major university. I graduated in 1968 and subsequently acquired a doctorate in a medical field, practiced for many years, and am now retired.

However, during my undergraduate years, dollars were scarce (my family had very little), and I had a gift for composition. A few well-heeled dorm mates offered cash for freshman English essays. Somehow, the word spread, and desperate (sp, Dante?) students from all over campus would knock on my door at all hours.

I recall one night when I and friends were about to go out for an evening of cheap beer and loose women. A freshman I had not met before came with a request for an essay due the next morning. I told him I had taken the night off. He actually got down on his knees, but I was adamant.

When I returned in a semi-inebriated state at 3 a.m., he was asleep, on the floor, his back against my door. I wrote the essay, got paid, and he turned it in at 8 a.m. (I used a typewriter, Dante!)

My business remained small (I never saw the potential!!), but I ultimately wrote term papers and other longer compositions. Subject did not, as Dante found later, matter. A man gifted with B.S. (not the degree) can write convincingly about anything.

My masterpiece was written for a dimwitted physical education major who was taking a philosophy course. It was entitled "The Lone Swimmer as a Symbolic Abstraction". It was my masterwork.

634. old_gadfly - December 10, 2010 at 09:05 am

Who are
Jon Favreau
Theodore Sorensen
Pat Buchanan
Jack Valenti
Hendrik Hertzberg
James Fallows
Authur M. Schlesinger
Emmet Hughes

635. interface - December 10, 2010 at 09:13 am

"I'm not doing anything wrong supplying it; I didn't create the demand."

Arms, drugs, 12-year-old sex slaves, words.

636. brooder98 - December 11, 2010 at 01:32 pm

ardee: Every time I write a new piece, I think it's a masterpiece. But when I read it a few months later, I think it's a piece of shit. You gave me an idea: next time I'll get drunk before rereading it.

637. dr_dk - December 11, 2010 at 03:41 pm

Personal attacks aside (please!), I disagree with Dante's premise that the university system's focus is on envaluation over education, and that this "flawed" system is responsible for his flourishing trade. How else are we to guage students' knowledge-base than by metrics such as tests, papers, research, lab assignments, etc? Even an oral exam, perhaps the truest measure of a student's knowledge on a particular subject and his/her ability to formulate and articulate an argument, would be "graded" in some fashion. The issues here are: 1) chronic laziness on the part of the student to do the work (chronic in that this pitiful work-ethic was established long before the assignment in question)and 2) the general decline of writing/thinking skills required at the primary and secondary levels, both of which lead to 3) admitting students who are woefully unprepared for college but feel a degree (or two, or three) is a right rather than an honor. The undergraduate degree has become what the high school degree was only a few generations ago: a must-have, regardless of one's true desire to learn and accomplish.

I don't blame Dante any more than any other prostitute - he's providing a service, however distasteful. However, as a vice cop will attest, both parties are to blame and both should get busted. And contrary to Dante's pompous claims, there are ways to keep this out of your courses. How about short, in-class or in-library essays using books (gasp!) rather than relying solely on online sources (legit or Wiki-other). For larger research/writing assignments, require submissions during the course of the assignment; step-by-step micro-assignments that will keep the Dantes swimming in text messages and emails at all hours ... and their customers refilling their PayPal at every turn! Get angry, get creative, and the students may actually learn something despite their best efforts.

638. i_m_with_the_prof - December 11, 2010 at 04:20 pm

As Dante points out, it might be a clue when a student, struggling with the most basic English phrase, turns in a college-level thesis. An oral defense, however brief, of the content and written presentation might be a start (although far easier to manage in small classes, seminars and studios than massive lecture classes.) The requirement that a student list his editors or proofreaders could protect those students who need assistance with the language but does the work himself.

As Dr. DK (hail his name) notes, there have to be as many creative ways to address this as there are educators out there. Surely Dante needn't have the last word on this -- a number of his statements are suspect, but clearly his point is well taken. If a college degree is to mean anything at all, practices like his need to be aggressively caught and eliminated.

639. blipd - December 11, 2010 at 09:20 pm


640. eaglziz - December 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm

After reading the lengthy explanation this individual has written it is apparent he does what he says.
Reading and writing is a dying art in our culture, and the attention spam of most uneducated people would not survive this authors explanation how he "helps students survive" the education system.
Perhaps fifty some years ago my educators were much smarter than todays and had me write much of my work DURING school, and I had to leave a work in progress at school. This required me to bring sources, resources and other mateirals to school and assemble my OWN papers. WoW what a concept - to be able to do my own work.
Of course with todays computers educators probably feel it is near impossible for edicators to prevent slim like this gentleman from helping students - but as an IT individual I know it is possible! If your IT Department can't show you, please let me!!
my email is john.corrigan@netzero.net

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