Contract Cheating

Twenty pages of writing in one night. Yes, many students have unfortunately hit this stage, but they like to think of it as mastering the art of procrastination. Yet all who reach the point of having to physically hold their eyelids open eventually ask themselves, “Is this really worth it?” To some students the answer is “yes,” but to others the answer is “no,” and this is where the problem begins. Whether due to procrastination or plain temptation, cheating in college is omnipresent.

“UCSD is not unique,” Bertram Gallant, the director of the Academic Integrity Office, told the UCSD Guardian. “The kinds of cheating that we work to prevent here are universal — students copying assignments or exams from other students, plagiarizing, using unauthorized aids during exams and contract cheating.”

Contract cheating involves paying a person or company to fulfill the requirements of an assignment. Specifically, these companies target millennial college students through endorsements from Vine stars and ads on social media streams. With a quick Google search, today’s students have access to a myriad of services dedicated to completing entire assignments.

“The International Center for Academic Integrity, of which UCSD is an institutional member, is extremely concerned that these contract cheating companies are devaluing the meaning and usefulness of college degrees,” Bertram Gallant told the Guardian. “[This] then erodes the educational system and negatively impacts a society that places great value in the attainment of higher-education degrees.”

However, these contract cheating companies are not the only ones creating the problem. Students, who are failing to report instances of not only contract cheating but cheating in general, also contribute to the problem.

“Students are co-creating a culture in which cheating is the norm and integrity is the exception,” Bertram Gallant explained to the Guardian. “Students who are silent are helping to devalue their degree and are helping to create the next professional and executive who can’t be trusted. Thus, the member institutions of ICAI believe it is absolutely critical that students speak up and out for integrity.”

Although all forms of cheating are condemned, Bertram Gallant emphasized the severity of contract cheating, which is considered fraud. Students caught contract cheating are suspended for a year at the very minimum; more often than not, they are dismissed entirely. In order to prevent expulsion from happening, the ICAI has taken on a massive international project to diminish contract cheating.

“The main goal is to prevent students around the globe from falling victim to these contract cheating companies who posit their use as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ because students are busy and do not have time to do their academic work,” Bertram Gallant told the Guardian. “Our other goals are to help educational institutions prevent this type of cheating and detect it when it occurs.”

The ICAI was not yet ready to closely discuss the work it’s doing or success it has had thus far. Nonetheless, Bertram Gallant noted that UCSD’s Office of Academic Integrity is excited about the international project.

UCSD itself has taken on some initiatives such as the ‘excel with integrity’ campaign.

“[The] campaign reminds our campus that we can only achieve academic, research and athletic excellence with honest, fair, trustworthy, responsible, respectful and courageous behaviors,” Bertram Gallant told the Guardian.

Recognizing the moral character and courage it takes to maintain your own as well as others’ academic integrity in the face of external pressures, the UCSD AI office has provided students with an anonymous online report form. This way, students and others such as administration can work together in order to uphold integrity and stop cheating whenever possible.

One such company, MyPaperWriter.com, has a feedback page filled with reviews on the quality of work it does.

“I read the dissertation that they wrote for me and researched on internet thoroughly to check that it is genuinely written from scratch,” one reviewer said about his recent experience with MyPaperWriter.com. “And, the results were positive. Even if I had written it myself, the dissertation would not have come out like this. Now I know that the experts of this company work up to the expectations of the clients, in fact more than they expect.”

Still, students are attracted to the ease and security of contract cheating, which companies promote through misleading and enticing reviews that promise an easy A.

“So there’s this pressure, and its driving a lot of people to do this; They’re not doing it because they’re bad people and they just love cheating, right?” Kiri Hagermann, who teaches in the Making of the Modern World writing program, told the Guardian. “They’re doing it as an easy way to make that grade that seems so important.”

Many students see only the benefits of contract teaching, and not the negatives of the deal: Companies like MyPaperWriter.com do not help students advance their intellectual abilities. When students look at their assignments, it can be tempting to see only the requirements, the deadlines and ultimately the grades. However, teachers and administrators want to stress that an assignment can be more than just a grade.

“It’s disappointing to me because I really believe that it’s not really these grades that matter, and they seem [to] matter in the short term because you want your GPA to be high, and you think that will get [you] a job. But in the long term, failing your way through a few papers will be way better for you, because you’re actually going to learn, right?” Hagermann said.

Writing classes can impart valuable skills that can be used in any career, and a student who uses contract cheating and doesn’t do the work might miss an opportunity to develop as a writer.

“There’s some skills too, this ability to take something — a reading source or a visual source and something like that — and understand it when you haven’t seen that before,” Sascha Crasnow, who also teaches in MMW, said. “That’s analysis that scientists do all the time in their labs, and exercising those skills in different ways. They’ve done studies that show when you learn skills in multiple ways it strengthens your abilities to do them and remember them. Those skills are applicable across a lot of different fields.”

That lesson remains lost on many students who are narrowly focused on achieving high grades, and the long-term consequences are often ignored.

“Yeah, you make that grade, but that grade’s not going to matter,” Hagermann said. “Whereas if you learn how to write, that will be beneficial to you your entire life.” [icon name=”stop” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]

written by Noam Leead and Dominic Spencer