As an associate dean of academic services, Catherine Bolton spends a lot of time studying, lamenting and worrying about cheating in universities – but a Montreal-based website that propels cheating to a new level made even her wince.
Professors writing custom papers for students? Heresy! But that is the very idea behind the self-described academic prostitutes at unemployedprofessors.com, which unabashedly defends its actions on the grounds that education has already become overly commodified and academia is downsizing the tenure system. So what's a poor unemployed prof to do?
Sell essays on demand to over-wrought students with a catchy tag line: "So you can play while we make your papers go away."
"The idea that it could be legitimate for any professor to sell their brain, when they know better than anyone that papers are assigned for students to learn," said Bolton, an associate dean for the faculty of arts and sciences at Concordia University. "There are for sure teaching assistants and graduate students who do this, but professors?" Schubert Laforest, president of the Concordia Student Union, found the concept both ironic and reprehensible.
"It's the first I've heard of professors doing students' work," he said. "It just seems to hinder the academic process. The focus should be on acquiring skills, not trying to get an easy A. But I'm sure some students will take advantage of it."
The problem is not confined to Montreal or this group of arguably unethical professors. Cheating in university is an old problem – and it is only get-ting worse.
A recent Pew Centre survey of 1,055 college presidents showed that plagiarism is viewed as a growing problem on campus.
As described on the website of turnitin.com, a leading online plagiarism checker: "We live in a digital culture where norms around copying, reuse and sharing are colliding with core principles of academic integrity."
The professors' service started last fall and has about 30 professors involved.
While they don't guarantee an A (because they're not supposed to be providing a final product), they do guarantee high-quality work and turn away about 15 applicants for every one they hire.
There is no set price, as the ghost-writers bid on the projects and the market then dictates the price.