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Another University President Plagiarizes Speeches
Plus, two looks at ethics and morality of cheating. Plus, another article on the Pearson v Chegg legal challenge.
President of West Liberty University Plagiarized Multiple Times, Will Keep His Job
According to reporting, W. Franklin Evans, President of West Liberty University, a public university in West Virginia, has plagiarized public remarks multiple times since he became President earlier this year. The Chair of the school’s Board says he will keep his job.
In May, the President of the University of South Carolina resigned after a plagiarism incident (see Issue 26).
At West Liberty, the President is accused of lifting and repeating passages, without attribution, from Forbes, NPR, an op-ed in a local newspaper, the New York Times, The Smithsonian and others.
Evans and Rich Lucas, the West Liberty Board Chair, acknowledge the plagiarism. Lucas, according to the news report, said,
There are many important issues that all universities across the country are facing at this time. The WLU Board of Governors believes Dr. Evans is the right person to lead and grow WLU now and for our future.
Two Views on the Ethics, Morality of Cheating
Two unrelated articles, a day apart, offer interesting insights on the moral and ethical considerations of academic misconduct. One is by Dan Reznichenko, a sophomore at Duke University. The other is by Vance Morgan, a philosophy professor at Providence College. Both are worth a review.
The Duke student writes, regarding cheating:
I don’t see how a regulation, or the threat of punishment, would therefore stop someone who has already decided to do the ‘wrong’ thing. People cheat on the most heavily proctored exams, and find the most ingenious ways to do it, too. The issue is endemic to college campuses, regardless of how competent the administration is.
If not proctoring, what prevents cheating? The answer seems simple enough to me: removing students’ need for academic dishonesty.
He is right that cheating is endemic, though I’d argue its magnitude is more substantial. Even so, Reznichenko continues that students cheat in easy classes and not challenging ones, saying:
The crucial difference was that the difficult class was ‘fair’. There, the professor gave every student a chance to succeed. Their homework was reasonable, they taught effectively, and showed students how to prepare for assignments; nobody had a reason to cheat. Conversely, the easy class was taught poorly, the homework was excessive and often irrelevant, and the exams were almost impossible to prepare for.
This rationalization for misconduct - it’s the instructor’s fault for teaching “poorly” or for giving “excessive” homework - is probably not new. But it is incredibly common. Given that, Reznichenko’s logic pretzel of rationalization is worth trying to digest.
As for the Morgan piece, it takes the form of discussions with his ethics students regarding relativism. One of those discussions is about whether students understand cheating to be a moral absolute - that is to say, wrong. Morgan writes:
Not a single student suggested that a person who cheats is unaware that cheating is morally (and factually) wrong. It’s very possible that a person who cheats does so because she believes that, under certain circumstances, moral principles can be overridden in the interest of other important factors. How, for instance, is one to weigh the importance of doing the “right thing” with the impact that failing an important final might have on one’s GPA and future prospects for graduate school and career?
Whatever decision the student makes, the issue is not a matter of ignorance that a moral truth is in play.
This, I believe. Students are not in the dark as to whether academic misconduct conduct is wrong. Cheating is not about a failure to explain appropriate conduct or to be clear about expectations. Confusion is rare. Rationalization and cost/benefit calculations are common.
Financial Times Looks at Pearson v Chegg
To start, I adore the headline:
Student cheating is now a multibillion-dollar business
Yes, it is.
Noting that Pearson is old and has seen declining valuations and that Chegg is newer and growing, the article says:
Companies that struggle to innovate often resort to the courts to hobble sprightlier challengers. But whatever its merits, the Pearson lawsuit does highlight one awkward fact about Chegg: it is helping students cheat.
Again, yes, it is.
it was the pandemic that provided a catalyst to Chegg’s business, which now boasts 6.6m subscribers mostly paying $14.95 a month, and new opportunities for cheats. In addition to its bank of answers to textbook questions, Chegg allows students to submit original questions and have them answered by an expert “in as little as 30 minutes”.
Whatever you think of Pearson, old or new, Chegg is a company with products designed to facilitate cheating. I am glad to see it in the Financial Times.
Two More Examples of U.S. Essay Mill Ads
As I’ve highlighted before, essay mills and other contract cheating sites are not hiding - they advertise to students constantly.
Most of their marketing is done on social media - just run a Facebook or Twitter search on your school’s tag(s) and you’ll see them. Usually, dozens of them. Selling essays, homework “tutoring” or offering to take online classes for students.
Still, some of their ads are easier to see - sneaking into pulp “news” articles on sham news sites with links to their homepages. These articles proliferate search engines, giving credibility of the outbound links, causing the links to be listed as legitimate educational resources.
Here are two more examples.
In “Ohio News Times,” a headlined article helpfully advises students, “How to prepare for online exams on distance learning.” Aside from the bad writing, the article says that to prevent cheating, some teachers are asking students to write papers or do projects. On this, the piece helpfully adds:
If this kind of work is not your forte, use do my homework for me service.
That sentence includes a link to “McEssay.com”
The article also helps students “prepare for online exams” with this pearl of wisdom:
Use gum or smells for concentration
The other example of essay mill advertising is in Seattle Weekly, which I think is a semi-legitimate publication. Anyway, it ran a “sponsored” article titled:
TOP 20 Best Essay Writing Services: Trusted Companies Reviews
How helpful. But basically it says students don’t have time, writing is hard and also, “plagiarism could show up in entirely original content” so, be carful not to write it yourself. And besides, it’s hard.
It goes on to list 20 essay writing services and how reliable and easy they are. If you know much about essay mills, they are probably all the same company. In any case, the article is worth a scan to see just how pernicious these companies are.
In the next “The Cheat Sheet” - Faculty start to complain about StuDocs and other newer cheating providers. Plus, an article from a lawyer who represents students accused of misconduct. And more.
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