Plagiarism cheats you of knowledge
‘Professional editing services’ not worth the risk
University life is only about one thing — partying.
At least according to UnemployedProfessors.com, a website where students can post their assignments online and have “professors,” — or people who supposedly have scholarly credentials — bid on the papers they want to write for a fee of around $200.
This website is one of many, but it stands out due to its use of colloquial language, profanities and comic strips mocking the seriousness of plagiarism.
“Let’s face it — academia is a machine that thrives only on what it incestuously produces,” the homepage of UnemployedProfessors.com states. “The people writing for you here are those who’ve been sucked in and spit out by this machine. Why are we here? In short, our job is to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you.”
The website attacks the integrity of the academic system and tries to make it seem like the only way to succeed is to plagiarize.
However, Karen Overbye, an English instructor at Mount Royal University, said students who plagiarize are really cheating themselves in the end.
“You’re not giving yourself any credit in many ways,” Overbye said. “Really, you’re saying: ‘I’m crap.’ We should be here because of intellectual curiosity. If this is your profession, you want to be really good at it.”
Now Overbye has introduced discussion about this website in her English classes, not only talking about the ethical side of this issue and the fact that teachers are here to help students reach high goals, but also to apply it to course material as well.
“I try to appeal to the sense of responsibility and not just shaming people,” she said, when asked how to avoid the use of these sites.
“We set the bar high and then we help people reach it. We don’t want to set the bar so low that anyone can reach it.”
Section E of the Code of Student Conduct for Mount Royal University covers the definitions of words like plagiarism and cheating. Section 7.a.i. reads: “Plagiarism occurs when an individual submits: the words, ideas, images or data of any other person as his/her own in any academic work which is a component of a course or program of study at Mount Royal.”
Although the line seems clear when it comes to what is considered plagiarism, there is some ambiguity, because MRU has policies against copying and pasting materials from online sources, yet there are no policies against “professional editing services,” as websites like UnemployedProfessors.com are cleverly called.
Sharren Patterson, also an English instructor at MRU, said she had an experience with a student who bought an essay from a “professional editing service.”
“She felt that this is a competitive world and that in order to get ahead you do what you have to do,” Patterson said. “So I said, ‘Well, now you’re going to write a new one because I won’t accept it.’”
“I have no idea really if (the student) wrote it,” Patterson said, adding that she was sure that the student had a very rough draft, which she submitted it to this editing service, which then fixed it up and added the documentation.
Although Patterson said most instructors at MRU disagree very much that these websites aren’t considered plagiarism, the problem comes from websites hiding behind the name “editing services.”
There are always scholarly situations where work is peer reviewed and edited by others. This is where the confusion comes into play, because an editing service could refer to actual editing, such as fixing typos and word choices, or it could mean the assignment is being created almost totally from scratch.
Jeff Keshen, the dean of the faculty of arts, said the penalties for using a service like UnemployedProfessors.com are severe.
“What you’re doing here, in fact, is that you are physically taking money out of your pocket, you’re transferring funds, with the intent of using someone else’s work to represent as your own,” Keshen said. “In that particular case I think that that is a more egregious violation of the rules.”
Although Keshen understands that sometimes students plagiarise unintentionally, using these websites is completely inexcusable. “The line is clear,” Keshen said.