Paper Mills and students' suck success - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Paper Mills and students’ suck success

I advise students that if they are going to college to get a job, then they should drop out of school. It’s not their fault. Often, it’s everyone else’s. The parents push them. The high school counselor pushes them, and colleges and universities seem more like hungry vultures than academic institutions, circling them looking for bodies to fill seats while offering each one “a pathway to success.”

In every class that I have taught in the last 16 years, maybe four students in each seem to want to learn. Others are there because, well, they have no real idea except it’s either go to school or work more dead-end jobs. Few go to learn or even understand what learning is. This is where college essays come in.

Need to Write a College Admissions Essay? Have Someone Else Do It

It turns out that if one can write decent, they can get a job writing college essays for students. There are even sites that will write your admissions essay for students. One is called Academized, and they boast how many admissions committees base their acceptance of students on “their essays.” So why write it, right? Have someone else write your kid’s admissions essay for them.

Wow, this sounds similar to some kind of admissions scandal we had a while back where some wealthy folks bought their kids admission to top universities? The parents got a slap on the wrist. The real message the courts sent was cheat all you want. If most could get their kids into the Ivy League, they may be willing to spend two weeks in jail. That is if they have no ethical standards or respect for their own kids.

Though smaller in scale, there is little difference here. Someone else is writing a student’s admissions essay. Of course, such is cheating. It is illegal because it’s plagiarism, and no college or university accepts this. Such is against the law, so why are these services not illegal? They openly admit that they will do high school homework, admissions essays, and write any academic paper the customer needs. They will even do drafting work that a student can turn in to those picky professors that actually expect students to write something.

It’s lying to a college or university and pretending that the potential student wrote something they did not. They are being judged, but it’s not their work. Anyone that does not understand how egregious this is has no business ever stepping foot in a college.

You Can Be an A Student and Never Write a Single Essay

There are also sites like “Write My Essay Online” that have over 80,000 votes about how good its service is. If the student’s professor assigns a paper, no worries, just have someone else write it. It doesn’t matter if it’s history, social work, biology, or literature, just fork over some cash and get an original essay that will not come up as plagiarized.

If such is too old school for some, here is a fun little artificial intelligence activity. Go to Talk to Transformer and type in a phrase or even a word. I tried feminism. It will automatically generate an essay for you to cut and paste right into your online template (just don’t forget to put your name on it for college credit). Got to love AI, it’s so great that someday we won’t even have to potty train. It will do it all for us.

If you are a little more ethical but just shy of ethical, you can always use a paraphrasing website that will rephrase a direct quote. However, such has not been perfected. Here is a sample.

My Original:

This is only a preliminary project that is being conceptualized. It’s not ready for an IRB, and I will likely graduate before everything is in place. Feel free to contact me if you have interest. I need a good deal of assistance with methodology.

Here is the paraphrase using QuillBot:

This is only a conceptualized preliminary plan. It’s not prepared for an IRB, and I’m probably going to graduate until all is in order. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me. I need a lot of technique help.

First, such is less stealthy than an original essay that is written for the student. Technically, this phrase is too close to the original in that its syntactical pattern is almost identical, and if you read closely, something seems very amiss. “conceptualized preliminary plan” and “technique help” are awkward, and such a paraphrase is often beyond what a freshman or sophomore would write. These can get more awkward as writing gets more academic:

My Original:

The recent controversy in the United States with YouTube that pedophile rings were set up through comments seems circumspect in that it’s questionable if such videos cater exclusively to pedophiles.

The bot’s (QuillBot):

The recent controversy with YouTube in the United States that pedophile rings are set up by comments seems to be circumspect in that it is unclear whether such videos were intended specifically for pedophiles.

The paraphrase does not make any sense. Comments cannot set up pedophile rings, and no one was intending to cater to pedophiles. That is not what I wrote in the original at all. I’ve seen entire papers constructed from QuillBot and others. Though it can make for confusing and sometimes hilarious reading, it leaves me to wonder what has happened to so many of us. Are we OK being fakes and cheaters?

The point of using a paraphrase is that it shows me, a teacher, that a student can read a statement, process that statement, and put that statement in their own words. It is a complex set of actions that demonstrates a student’s ability and competence. One cannot show anything with a direct quote or if another person or bot writes their work for them.

What Should Colleges Do?

Stop accepting students. College was never meant for everyone. Our college has an 8% graduation rate overall (though some programs have nearly 100%), so our college should probably accept only 8 or 10 percent. But we are pushed to make everyone complete, so this is where paper mills and AI bots come in.

On a more realistic note, professors like me are overrun with essays. In an average semester, I have to grade the equivalent of 575 essays. That is 1,150 in two semesters. I have no assistant, and such does not include course preparation, advising, committee work, and the list goes on.

In my career, I have graded roughly 20,000 essays, and I wonder how many were actually written by my students. If only I could have a bot that helped me grade papers? That’s in the works, and I will likely be out of a job soon, or if my college decides to accept only 8%.

If I wanted to be a police officer, I would have become one. I refuse to take hours on each paper to see if someone cheated. If they do, they do. If I catch them, and I catch them every semester, I make them rewrite the paper. If they do it again (some actually do), they get turned over to the college and get a mark on their transcript that says “you cheated” forever. Yet, such is hardly a deterrent.

The real problem is with our culture. It’s never been fond of education or learning, only the imagined glory that comes after.

 

Editor’s Note: The Baltimore Post-Examiner contacted one of the essay services to check on how much does it cost. Students could pay up to $300 for a paper that would get a B, but if they wanted a “professor” to write it, it would cost $500, and that paper was a guaranteed A.





About the author

Earl Yarington

Earl Yarington is an associate professor of English at Prince George’s Community College and a graduate student in clinical social work at Louisiana State University. He is also obtaining sex therapy certification through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. He interned in corrections statewide for a sex offender treatment program. Contact the author.
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  1. Jeffrey Snodgrass says:

    An astute article to be sure. One line sums it all up: “Are we OK being fakes and cheaters?” That’s the big question.

    Reply

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