• The Shadow Scholar The man who writes your students' papers tells his story

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    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.

    Read
    the rest of the article

    November
    22, 2010

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