uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum -- Q. Aurelius Symmachus, 384 C.E.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Plagiarism for Profit

Below is a letter I sent to my congressional representative, Keith Ellison, this morning regarding the existence of companies that offer custom-written essays designed to beat plagiarism rules at universities. As I mention in the letter, this should be considered fraud. Companies should not profit from academic dishonesty. If you feel similarly, I encourage you to also contact your representative about this. Write your own letter though -- probably wouldn't send a very good signal if they got multiple, identical letters on the issue of plagiarism!

Rep. Ellison,
I am currently completing my Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, where I work as a graduate instructor teaching Greek and Latin. On every syllabus I hand out, there is a warning from the college about academic dishonesty. Most of us who teach have been good about spotting plagiarized work, and certain sites have assisted with this.
But I was shocked recently to read a commentary from a former employee at a company that writes customized essays for students to circumvent plagiarism (found here). Then this morning, during a routine web search, I ran across this company, which audaciously boasts that it will write a paper for students that can "beat any plagiarism test."
I don’t understand how this is not already covered under the laws governing fraud, but if not, I am alerting you to this as my representative in the hopes that this can change. In an era in which every politician running for anything hyperventilates about the state of education in this country, I find it disturbing that we would wink at the existence of these fraud machines, churning out more unqualified graduates for the workplace and encouraging more of the same. It is perhaps telling that this company and another like it appeared in the fourth and fifth top sites upon my Google search. This indicates to me that these sites are popular and probably used more often than we know.
Thank you for any attention you can give to this matter, and any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated.
Don M. Burrows

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