Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anyone else want to cut this bitch?

"April" posted this link to a Salon article in which this whiny bitch explains why, because she is "poor" and can't get a real writing job, she feels justified in writing essays for students who pay her $100. $100! Get that? She's a whore, but not a 25cent whore!

The comments are well-worth reading, apart from that one asshole who said this wouldn't happen to a guy.

Anyway, reading it reminded me of the time one of my colleagues said "I would never write for an essay mill because they don't pay enough". That was almost as funny as the time she asked me for a class activity and then presented it as her own idea in a job interview.

I guess my point is, everyone has ethical standards, even though some people's standards are not so much standards as cash negotiations.

We've all read the stories here about people who got fired for giving too many Fs; if you were in that place, would you grade more leniently? Have you succumbed to pressure to let an athlete pass? Did you give a textbook a gentle review, hoping for more income from that publisher?

Where's your line? Does it move if you are broke?


  1. My line: I have considered offering my talents to an essay mill. I would be doing it right now if not for other issues...

    When you go a semester or two without an adjunct gig (or you have 4 and still can't pay the rent), and non-teaching jobs are non-existent, you consider LOTS of options.

    In the end, I know I couldn't do it -- I write too well and care about my work. No way am I writing A quality work for pennies on the dollar. And I can't bring myself to write a C paper. I literally don't think I could do it.

    1. You could give assignments, write them for some of your own students through those paper mills, then bust those students for plagiarism.

  2. Once upon a time, I had an academic job that paid me $1K/month after taxes, and yet was tenure-track, 40+ hours a week, and in one of the most expensive cities in the country (my rent for a single room was $600). Yes indeed. I cleaned houses, took adjuncting gigs, tutored a small child, and worked as a personal assistant. My boss in the latter job was completing an MA. I checked out books for her, made photocopies, underlined things, and edited her writing, all legitimately within the bailiwick of a research assistant. But I told her that there was no way in h--l that I would write the thing for her.

    That was, and is, my line. And no, it doesn't move when I'm broke. I've even worked in the, uh, nudity industry. If it's legal, there's almost nothing I won't do for a living. Except cheat or help someone else cheat. Better an honest ho than a shady academic.

    1. That's just a matter of opinion. Some people, including myself, take an opposite view, that is, that remaining fully clothed is more important than being honest. There is a story about some female inmates who would say "OK, we are stealing, but we are not selling ourselves". Those inmates who used to be prostitutes would reply: "We sell what we have, we didn't steal it".

  3. Reminds me of that old chestnut:

    A man asks a woman if she'd sleep with him for $1 million. The woman thinks about it and says, "Sure. I guess so..." Then the man asks, "Would you sleep with me for $1?" The woman immediately recoils and says, "What kind of woman do you think I am?" The man replies, "We've already established that. Now I'm just negotiating."

  4. A few years ago, I had a kid in a class who was the director's daughter. In fact, the only reason the course ran was because his daughter needed it to graduate and she had failed it prior. Other people had given her Fs. She barely barely made it through. I gave her a generous C-. Sure, I felt like a whore, but I make no apologies. I was in grad school living in survival mode, contract to contract. I was nearing defense and didn't need any nonsense coming my way from daddy-o director. He was the unethical one anyway, running the course just for her.

    Because I'm not in survival mode anymore, if that happened today, she'd have got an F like anyone else who doesn't meet the requirements. She's still a do-nothing dipshit anyway, so it's not like my grading sleight of hand made much difference.

  5. Recently, I saw a student message board where a student was asking about "honest essay websites." One person responded as follows:

    have you tried my classmates says they've got really great essays...and free of plagiarism

    Oh really? Because I would hate for the prof to think I was taking someone else's words and passing them off as my own when all I did was take someone else's words and pass them off as my own.

  6. I have my price, but it's more than any student can afford. Basically, I need enough to retire early, and comfortably, which is to my mind about 1.5- 2 million dollars. Anyone that wants to give it to me will get a lovely essay in return, written and researched to their specifications.

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  8. As a professional astronomer with tenure (I hope not among the last of them), during my student and postdoc days, I was tempted to make some quick bucks by casting horoscopes. I never did: I wouldn't have been able to bear the shame. That, and it would have been too hard to keep a straight face.

    I have made money on the side from consulting, from aerospace firms, who had me measuring the altitudes of balloons and tracking rockets. There's nothing wrong with this: this is real science. I got $150/hour for it, the standard consulting fee for a physics professor, at the time. (I just know someone is going to say they got a lot more...yeah, I'm sure you did.) I had to report it on my taxes, just like any other income.

    I've been tempted to charge for identifying UFOs, although I normally don't. Again, as long as this is still real science, there's nothing wrong with it. I am in the phone book, and seeing as I work for a public university, it's a matter of public record that I'm a professor of physics and astronomy, so UFO reports do come my way. All I really have to do is be courteous, and do my best to answer their questions. Almost always I can identify what they've seen within minutes, so I don't charge them, particularly not if they're calling during my office hours. The most common sightings are Venus and lenticular clouds. I do my best to let them down gently: people can get angry when you point out what they saw was just Venus. I hate it when I get accused of being part of a conspiracy: I wish I got paid enough for that.

    More than once, I've been asked to do more extensive work, such as reviewing videotapes purported to show UFOs, or analyzing photos purported to show psychic phenomena. If it'll take me more than an hour to do it, I find that all I need to do to put a stop to it is to say the words, "consultant's fee." It's never gotten further than this: I've never gotten far enough to state the fee.

    As far as my regular faculty job goes, I've always had high standards, and it has always been a real pain to maintain them, or even medium-high standards. It helps enormously to have higher-ups who will back you up: but of course, this hasn't always been so. I've never been forced to change a grade, but I sure had to argue hard, and it did not score me any brownie points. In fact, the former department head with whom I often argued recommended that I be denied tenure, but she was out-voted, because I have a good record of bringing in external funding and involving students in research. Things have improved immensely since I got tenure, and even more since I served as department chair: although I wish my current chair had higher standards, I've won every argument I've had with him over them, so far. Even though we have a big athletic department here, I've never felt pressured by them: in fact, they've always been nice to me, I think partly because they've been caught violating academic standards so many times now, they do a better job at following them.

    Sadly, though, we do have an Incompetent Dean of Students. This fool is shockingly lax with cheating: every time I've turned in a plagiarist, he's taken exactly no action, and has often tried to involve me in some touchy-feely nonsense, which I've so far been able to avoid. When I was department chair, and one of my junior faculty would turn in a plagiarist or other cheat, and he'd let them off, I'd make it a point to say to the junior faculty, "I'm sorry." What else could I do?

  9. I did this exactly one time. My third year on the tenure track, Trophy Boy Student enrolled in my technical writing course. He was the darling of the administration because he belonged to our national academic honor society and had won some big minority scholar of the year award. Thus he brought a lot of positive publicity to the college.

    At first I was very excited to see his name on my roster because I thought I'd be getting a great student. But it quickly became apparent that Trophy Boy Student was a super-keener. He came to my office hour every day before class and took up the whole time, yet he never implemented any of the suggestions I made to improve his writing. He would argue with me every single class when he missed a quiz question. But as bad as it was for me, it was even worse for his classmates.

    My college requires a collaborative technical project as part of the curriculum. I ask students to give me group member requests during the fourth week of class. No one wanted to work with TBS, so I had to assign him randomly. His self-esteem was so high that he ramrodded himself into being group leader before the others knew what hit them. He wouldn't listen to any of their suggestions. They had to research the topic he chose because he shouted them down. They got a bad grade on their research proposal because although his teammates had actually read the directions and listened to me, he told them they were wrong and edited all their work incorrectly. By midterm, they were in my office begging me to do something about him.

    When I called him in to talk with him about his behavior, he immediately began blaming everything on his team. I gave him pointers for being a better leader and getting everyone's input as part of the process. The one thing that his teammates did manage to do was wrest editing control away from him, which saved their grades on the rest of the project. But he continued being a boor all term. By the time they did their project presentation, no one would even stand near him, and the rest of the class gave him terrible marks because his portion was so unfocused.

    When all his points were added up, he had a solid B in the class. This was not good enough for TBS, however. After he got his grades, he came to my office in a livid state. You see, TBS was going to become a physician, so a B grade would not do. He had worked really hard and earned an A. And besides, he had talked to Professor Q in another department who said that group work was not a valid way of teaching college and was completely unsuitable for assessing the abilities for someone as brilliant as TBS. He then began throwing around his award status and the fact that he personally knew the president, vice president, and dean and would see to it that he got the grade he deserved. I sent him off to talk to my chairperson thinking that surely that would be the end of it.

    When my chairperson called me in, he looked at me and said, "EnglishDoc, you can do what you want, and I'm not going to try to stop it. But you should be aware that TBS has done great things for our college and the administration really appreciates him. You could fight this, and you probably would win eventually. But it will be a long, ugly, drawn-out battle, and I'm sure that since you are up for promotion this year, you wouldn't want to have to waste your time and energy. It certainly would make you known to the administration. Besides, 86% is close enough to an A that you shouldn't feel bad. But it's entirely up to you."

    I read between the lines and caved. After that, I didn't sleep well for a month because I felt so degraded. I vowed that I would never, ever again sell out just because someone higher up wasn't willing to step up to the plate to help me do the right thing. If I'm going down, I'm going down swinging. No student will ever come out of my class again with a grade he or she didn't earn.

  10. Wow Englishdoc, that's quite a story!

    What I have found is that it is not pressure from the administration to grade higher that slowly might be eroding my standards, but simple exhaustion. I am so tired of fighting already, and I have only been full time for seven years! Prior to that, when I was part time at many different kinds of institutions, I saw that not all students were as low level as mine are now at my current college. And I am realy swimming against the grain when I try to hold them to a standard that is similar to what they will encounter at other colleges. As do we all, I have SO MANY other administrative responsibilities BESIDES teaching, and I sometimes admit I just don't have the heart to fight. So what I have been known to do with my difficult students is to grade them up by a half a letter grade or so. They still end up doing horribly, and most often not well enough for their grade to transfer to a four year anyway. Then when they come to complain, I show them their grade report and show them I gave them a break. It helps to have a WONDERFUL electronic gradebook that explains the grade seven different ways from Sunday for students. If you have some freedom in terms of how to keep your grades, I highly recommend I think it might have saved my sanity!

  11. Ohhh, OK, yes, I've been a ho once, but it was a gang-bang. I curved an entire class up 1/3 grade because, well, they had the worst average of any class I'd ever taught, below a C, so I thought, maybe it's me. I guess my line is I won't do for one student what I won't do for all of them.

    But good god, Englishdoc. I guess I'm lucky never to have had a superior pressure me about my grades. In fact, I only recently found out that my average was a full 2/3 of a grade below the department's, and I'd never heard about it -- perhaps because the department's is a B+. I always felt like a softy with my B- averages (no bell curve here, that's just the way they seem to come out). Guess not.

  12. I think the author of this article assumed that she could justify her behavior by telling us how conflicted she is. Epic fail.

    I kept waiting for the end when she would reveal that this was five years ago, and now she's stopped, and she knows it was wrong, and she wishes she hadn't done it. Then I might at least feel a twinge of sympathy since she told us this story to demonstrate a lesson she learned. Nope.

    On another subject, a lot of the commenters on this article blustered that the proffies will of course recognize when a poor student writes a fabulous paper, and the cheater will never get away with it! Half right. I've seen great papers come from bad students, and if I can't find hard evidence of plagiarism, I'm powerless. (Sometimes I'm even powerless when I DO find the evidence.)

    So if this miscreant wrote a paper for one of my students, sure, I'd notice in a second. And then I'd have to give the student a good grade, because what else can I do?

  13. For all that my maths students drive me insane with their incredible lack of background and attitude to the subject, I still count myself lucky. I'd be in a permanent stage of anger and despair if I also had to put up with the plagiarists this person encourages. Reading the comments alone is enough to sadden me - there's far too many defending her and her clients' actions.

    I suppose I would behave unethically if I seriously feared for my physical safety, but not for reasons of money or career. I can't really claim the moral high ground, though - I just wouldn't care much if I lost the job and could never get another teaching gig.


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