Let's talk about writing term papers for money. October 23, 2008 9:14 AM   Subscribe

I AskedMefi about writing term papers for money. I stirred up a hornet's nest if the number of removed comments vs. time is any indication. Let's talk about it here.

Forget about being polite and squaring with the facts, let's talk about writing term papers for money since it seems like more than one of us has words about it.

In my mind people are free to exercise their moral and ethical authority as they see fit. If they decide they'd rather pay someone to write a paper than write it themselves, that's their business. I'm more than happy to do the labor.

I realize that by withholding my labor I could make a proud stand against the dull many who would dilute the pure potion of academia. But there are ten guys standing behind me who'd be more than happy to pick up the slack.

I realize "BUT JIM IS DOING IT" is not an especially valid defense, however it is a true one. I get by pretty well, but I'd like to have a few extra dimes to take a pottery class or buy an instument I don't know how to play. Taking money from immoral undergrads seems like a fine way to fund that ambition.

So, open floor. Thoughts?
posted by GilloD to MetaFilter-Related at 9:14 AM (231 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

This is going to be a really pathetic recession if people can't even fall back on sex for extra cash. To think in twenty years we might have nostalgic 2000's movies like "Zack and Miri write a Term Paper."
posted by yhbc at 9:21 AM on October 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


First, I don't think this is what Metatalk is for. If people want to discuss whether it is ethical to post this kind of question to Ask Metafilter, that's one thing, but Metatalk is not a place to discuss whether the subject itself is ethical.

Second, you must have known how your question would go over. And you must know how this post is going to go over. So perhaps we ought to be asking a better question: Why is GilloD so very desperate for attention?
posted by schroedinger at 9:22 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is not what a college education MetaTalk is for
posted by Jofus at 9:22 AM on October 23, 2008


I wonder what Jessamyn meant, then, when she said "[a few comments removed - you know where MetaTalk is and no one is forcing you to answer this question the way the OP presented it.]"??
posted by Grither at 9:25 AM on October 23, 2008


I figured people wanted to talk on the QUESTION in a broader fashion. I'm interested in what they have to say. As this is strictly MeFi-local, MetaTalk seemed like the place, no?
posted by GilloD at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2008


Lots of people already graduate from college knowing nothing. Why add to that?

I know, tangible, immediate benefit always wins over the nebulous possibility of future harm. But that's one big reason our nation is in the toilet.
posted by SaintCynr at 9:31 AM on October 23, 2008


Writing term papers for cash is a perfectly ethical and legal thing to do. We do it all the time - they just end up reading either exactly like Shakespeare or as complete gibberish.
posted by An Infinity Of Monkeys at 9:31 AM on October 23, 2008 [20 favorites]


Just curious...how much would you charge for a paper on ethics?
posted by hydrophonic at 9:33 AM on October 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


SaintCynr: "Lots of people already graduate from college knowing nothing. Why add to that?"

Alternate version: Lots of people already graduate from college knowing nothing. Why not at least benefit from it?
posted by Plutor at 9:34 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hydro- Based on my research so far (Can I take the time to point out that I haven't actually done anything more than launch a query on the possibility of this?) it depends on the deadline. It runs from 8-30$ a page depending. So, I suppose it depends on how much you'd want to know about ethics.
posted by GilloD at 9:34 AM on October 23, 2008


Well, for the record, I left a comment in the question, to this effect:

"So it's unethical and immoral but that's okay because it's legal?

Son, you need a lecture."

What this thread should be about, really, is whether this sort of question belongs in AskMe. The other day, a question dealing with emergency medical treatment was removed because it was "over the line." To me, asking for people to help you do something unethical should be over the line as well. Granted, it's going to be a judgment call on the part of the moderators, but sheesh.
posted by bricoleur at 9:35 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


let's talk about writing term papers for money since it seems like more than one of us has words about it

I wouldn't personally do it, but I think ethical choices are up to the individual so I don't think anyone can make the choice other than you. Also, you framed the question well but I think it's doomed to get mostly unhelpful "don't do it" comments just based on the subject matter.

One word of advice though, stop replying to every comment in that thread. Your replies will tend to make it derail even more than it already is.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:35 AM on October 23, 2008


Well, considering the context, it sounds like a rip off. Thanks anyway.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:36 AM on October 23, 2008


I liken it to similar questions in the past where someone wanted to know what it's like to be a call girl or a phone sex operator to make a bit of extra cash. It's dodgy, but it isn't illegal and we can talk about it, right?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:38 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bric- But unethical to whom? Is it unethical for me to do the work or for the person to ask me to do the work?

And again, I'm making a general query here about people's experiences. No one is "helping" me to act.

Hydro- Agreed. It's incredibly expensive. At that price, I'd just as soon pull an all-nighter
posted by GilloD at 9:41 AM on October 23, 2008


You are moderating pretty heavily in both threads. Why not give it a few minutes and see what happens? We don't really have a way of knowing how many posts were removed from the AskMe question. Jessamyn used the generic 'a few' but you are trying to make it sound much larger (hornet's nest, time vs. comments). It seems a little attention whory right now.
posted by fixedgear at 9:43 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


All else aside, I'd like to second fixedgear, GilloD. Give these threads some room to breath, especially your askme question; hyper-responsiveness tends to get in the way of useful thread development around here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:45 AM on October 23, 2008


>>Alternate version: Lots of people already graduate from college knowing nothing. Why not at least benefit from it?

Uh, because that self-interested "everyone is doing it" viewpoint is the same kind of crap that caused the current financial meltdown? Just a guess.
posted by SaintCynr at 9:47 AM on October 23, 2008


The difference between this question and the ones about prostitution or phone sex is that those things, while they may be illegal or "dodgy," are arguably not immoral or unethical in themselves. At any rate, they are victimless. If a question involving those things came up which did involve a victim of some kind, I'm betting it would be removed.

Selling term papers is not victimless. When you abet collegial plagiarism, you hurt the student who buys the paper (arguable), his/her classmates (not arguable if the grading is on a curve, unless the paper you provided sucked), and any persons or institutions that will be making decisions about that student in the future based on his/her academic record.
posted by bricoleur at 9:48 AM on October 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


It seems a little attention whory right now.

That's what I'm sayin'. You seem like an intelligent enough guy to be able to get a bead on the social norms and mores of online communities you've joined, and you've been on Metafilter for three years. I find it difficult to believe that you had no idea that you'd stir up a "hornet's nest" asking this question. Why not post to Ask Yahoo or Answerbag or any of the other numerous question-and-answer sites that might have different community standards?

Then to that add the fact that you are closely moderating your own thread and threw up your own Metatalk post as soon as a moderator said "boo" (rather than letting another user start it as generally happens if an issue is that big of a deal to the userbase), and this seems less like a legitimate attempt at inquiry and more that you're feeling bored and want to stir some shit up.
posted by schroedinger at 9:50 AM on October 23, 2008


Is it unethical for me to do the work or for the person to ask me to do the work?

Both. What makes you think you'd have any sort of moral high ground here?

A few of my elderly neighbors think it's appropriate to try to pay me ridiculous amounts of money when I swing by, delete their temp files and start a defrag of their hard drives. I don't actually let them give me a hundred dollars for 5 minutes work, because that's not the Right Thing to Do™.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


What this thread should be about, really, is whether this sort of question belongs in AskMe ... To me, asking for people to help you do something unethical should be over the line as well.

I agree that's a valid question to ask. In my opinion, AskMe needs to continue to be about helping people without judging them. I like that AskMe doesn't have a moral agenda, and I wouldn't support adopting one even if those morals happened to line up with my own.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


If someone asked MeFi if they should jump under a bus would you flag it too?
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on October 23, 2008


Mind you, I agree that the question is fine because I agree that it's not for us to play morality police, but you asked for unvarnished opinions here.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:54 AM on October 23, 2008


You said that you have an English degree. In my opinion, this contributes to a mindset that decreases the perceived value of your profession, and the subsequent ability of others to enjoy it. I need to trust that when someone writes something that I read, and sells it as being their own, that this is actually the case. Having to wonder whether a writer is lying to me when I pick up something new to read, because so many college educated people do, hurts your profession.

When authors are found out for plagiarism, it hurts sales. And this isn't because the writing suddenly becomes bad; it's because people hate being lied to. If you value your profession, I can't see how this kind of thing doesn't produce some cognitive dissonance, knowing that it encourages academic dishonesty on a large scale, and makes people second guess the value of the written word. Not the inherent value of what is written necessarily (as the source doesn't necessarily matter), but in being able to trust the author to present that information to me in the first place.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:54 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I like how half the answers are "you'll get caught". What do you care if you're the person selling it and it's not illegal? Oh, no, a professor will get mad at me!
posted by smackfu at 9:55 AM on October 23, 2008


Oh, no, a professor will get mad at me!

They've got red pens! RED PENS!!!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:59 AM on October 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


We know what is and is not legal (generally). We may sometimes find that there is a consensus about what is and is not ethical, but there is rarely universal agreement in any community as to what is never permissible. So if anyone is seriously proposing that "unethical" questions be barred from AskMe, I object strongly. I think that would marginalize minority ethical positions. Moreover, ethics is a subject for debate and discussion. To the extent that we reify ethical norms, we do it by creating laws. And we already disallow illegal questions.

However, I have no sense that the mods want to bar "unethical" questions. So no big deal. But you know, y'all are wrong to even hint at such a thing!
posted by prefpara at 10:00 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


It would be more ethical (and politic) to advertise yourself as a professional editor, rather than a ghostwriter. You'd be able to throw it on your resume, and the experience would serve you better should you wish to transition from copy to some other sector of the industry. Finally, you might even be able to teach the kids a thing or two about the craft.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:01 AM on October 23, 2008


mathowie: I liken it to similar questions in the past where someone wanted to know what it's like to be a call girl or a phone sex operator to make a bit of extra cash. It's dodgy, but it isn't illegal and we can talk about it, right?

This is totally different. No one is getting an unearned diploma at the other end of a phone sex call. This question is a milder version of asking about getting into the business of selling guns in poor neighborhoods because it's steady cash.

It sucked not because of the content, but because the OP has the gall to not only act surprised that people reacted so negatively, but to back away from this:

I wrote some term papers in the past because I genuinely enjoyed having a little writing exercise. However, that was between friends. I'd like to pursue it somewhat more "seriously", as a freelance dude.

with this:

I considered submitting the question anon, but as this is more of a general query about the practices and experiences of folks involved, I hardly thought that it was worthwhile.

I agree with you that plagiarism is an awful, horrible thing and I support your quest.


THEN, you've got this ridiculous Metatalk post wherein the OP actually invites others to judge him.

GilloD, you've wrapped a filet of suck in a sandwich of fail. Every bit of negativity thrown at you is well-deserved.
posted by mkultra at 10:01 AM on October 23, 2008 [13 favorites]


If you're expecting higher wages as a result of your college education, one might argue that you're already writing term papers for money, even if they're your own.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:01 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to step back here a bit, but I think the reason I'm being overly hands-on about this is because I'm looking to push on my own understanding of the situation. Am I wrong? I could be.

So this came up: "That's what I'm sayin'. You seem like an intelligent enough guy to be able to get a bead on the social norms and mores of online communities you've joined, and you've been on Metafilter for three years. I find it difficult to believe that you had no idea that you'd stir up a "hornet's nest" asking this question. Why not post to Ask Yahoo or Answerbag or any of the other numerous question-and-answer sites that might have different community standards?"

I figured it'd be a controversial question, but I also trusted the good judgement of Mefi-ites to either say "Well, I have X to offer, but find the situation distasteful, so I'll refrain" or "Well I did x and y happened". Ask MeFi is a pretty simple concept- Ask a question, get an answer. I figured if other Mefi-ites had been involved in this, they might have had an answer for me.

As for opening my own MetaTalk, I didn't realize it was bad form to do so. It just seemed like there was more going on here and that a large chunk of the potential discussion didn't belong on AskMefi.
posted by GilloD at 10:02 AM on October 23, 2008


My education plan will provide the necessary funds to allow students to be paid for doing their own homework.
posted by Barack Obama at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


No one is getting an unearned diploma at the other end of a phone sex call.

"Cum laude for me, baby."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2008 [25 favorites]


...not an especially valid defense

Why do you feel your activity needs a defense? Because you know it's wrong? Why are you doing something you know is wrong?
posted by DU at 10:07 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh and be sure to save verifiable proof of identity for all your clients. The citizens of President George Q. Bush's (elected 2040) America will thank you.
posted by DU at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2008


Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?
posted by miss lynnster at 10:16 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just cannot get the sort of attitude that can let someone say, "I know this is morally bankrupt and wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway." Are you self-loathing enough to think you deserve the moral bankruptcy of your actions? Are you conceited enough to think that your worth as a person is unrelated to your actions? Are you cynical enough to think that morality has no importance? I just don't get you.

I guess what I understand doesn't really matter much.

This question doesn't really remind me much of sex call operator questions. It reminds me a whole lot more of the question where the guy wanted to successfully attend his classes while drunk. Same sort of deal.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:16 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


"I know this is morally bankrupt and wrong, but I'm going to do it anyway."

I think the much more common case is "I know a lot of people will say this is morally bankrupt and wrong, but I personally don't really care, so I'm going to do it anyway."
posted by smackfu at 10:24 AM on October 23, 2008


I knew a guy who wrote for one of the online sites for a while. He was desperate for cash and did this only after he wasn't allowed to sell more blood plasma. But he had fun with the ethics of it as well, and so every paper he wrote would have the beginning letters for each sentence spelling out a message such as "T-H-I-S-P-A-P-E-R-W-A-S-B-O-U-G-H-T-F-R-O-M-X-Y-Z-C-O-M. A year later he stopped writing for them, but not once had anyone complained. Sad but true.
posted by zeugitai_guy at 10:24 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It reminds me a whole lot more of the question where the guy wanted to successfully attend his classes while drunkKarl Rove.
posted by DU at 10:24 AM on October 23, 2008


I would argue that by publishing his/her email address in the question, the OP is violating MetaTalk posting guidelines, because it seems quite likely the point of the AskMe question is to promote his/her termpaper writing service. Why not delete the question, and enforce a timeout (rather than a ban)?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


You said that you have an English degree. In my opinion, this contributes to a mindset that decreases the perceived value of your profession, and the subsequent ability of others to enjoy it.

Bwuh?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:25 AM on October 23, 2008


A year later he stopped writing for them, but not once had anyone complained.

See, you'll never get caught.
posted by smackfu at 10:29 AM on October 23, 2008


Ms. Saint- It's a good question. How can I feel this way? I think there are a couple of layers to that answer. The first is obvious and oblivious and it doesn't really clear the air as much as it shrugs it's shoulders and says, "Who, me?": It's going on. And it will go on without me. But so long as it goes on, I could make some scratch. That's a simple equation and unlike some other posters, I don't think America WILL BLOW UP! because I wrote a few papers. In my mind this is certainly more ethical than a desk job at a PMC.

Moving on, the second answer is because I'm comfortable with the dissonance here. I abhor plagiarists. I abhor the people who buy papers. But I'd be comfortable writing them.

When I look at the question I have to respect the moral autonomy of people who decide, "I need to buy a paper". I provide the service. Now, the magic of analogy will let someone else come along and say, "Well, then why don't you build bombs to kill civilians because someone will pay you to do so?". And the answer is that building BOMBS is about four-hundred-million degrees of severity away from writing term papers.

There's a constant thread here that somehow allowing morally bankrupt students to cheat their way to a degree will rot the foundations of this country, nay, world. I have to refute that. Smart people do smart things, dumb people do dumb things, sometimes the order gets jumbled, but by and large you succeed by your own wits. A degree is just the cost of admission nowadays. I think if you still admire a college degree as some incredibly shining achievement, you're not paying attention. It's just the cost of getting into the mix.
posted by GilloD at 10:29 AM on October 23, 2008


prefpara: Moreover, ethics is a subject for debate and discussion. To the extent that we reify ethical norms, we do it by creating laws. And we already disallow illegal questions.

Plagiarism is universally prohibited in academics. Just about every school has stated rules against it. Laws on the books would be overkill and an overreaching of the state's responsibilities. But if our test is "is it illegal?" then yes, plagiarism is illegal in the broader sense of the word.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:29 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Koko- I don't have a service. The e-mail is a dummy account for people who'd like to write to me and say "I did this and x happened" without having to post to Ask.
posted by GilloD at 10:30 AM on October 23, 2008


Yeah, this is blatant abuse of AskMe for advertising. This question should be deleted for that reason alone.
posted by grouse at 10:30 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


True story.

A few weeks ago I'm sitting at the bar at the yacht club that my brother works at. He's the marina manager there and in good with the guy who owns the whole operation so we spend a lot of time at the bar gambling and drinking with the old timers there.

It was early Sunday afternoon and our sister had been married the previous day, so we were waking up with pizza and whiskey, and I had my laptop in the corner to watch my fantasy football stats. The conversation turned to my brother's homework assignments that he was avoiding that weekend (he's finishing up at a merchant marine academy). One in particular was his 1-2 page ethics essay - he was tasked with writing a paper about an ethical decision he recently was faced with, what he did, and what the outcome was.

I remarked that I could write that paper in under 5 minutes. This quickly devolved into a bet over the next round of drinks that it could or could not be done.

So they timed me while I wrote the following:

An ethical dilemma that I recently experienced. By David K. (Peter K.'s brother)

An ethical dilemma that I recently experienced was whether or not to outsource the writing of this paper, in and of itself. It is certainly an ethical question as to whether or not to submit work that one has not done on one’s own behalf, and I was faced with this challenge this weekend. It was my sister’s wedding, and with my brother in town for the weekend, my time was stretched and my ability to spend much of that time studying and / or writing was severely limited.

The question at hand was, “What did I do to deal with the dilemma, and what were the outcome(s) of my actions?” In fact, I failed to react ethically to this dilemma. Instead, I chose to have my smarter and much more astute older brother write this essay for me. I bet him that he could not write an adequate response in under 5 minutes. In fact, he did write this paper itself in that time frame, and as such I was required to recompense him with exactly one Jack Daniels and Coke.

What actions did I take? The actions that I took were to bribe my brother into writing this paper. I did this through the use of the temptations of both gambling and drinking, both of which I know my brother to have a particular penchant for. I lost the bet, but gained a paper, and therefore my final action was to buy the next round of drinks.

Who was involved? My brother and I, and the other participants at the bar.

Who did my decision effect? Really only myself and my brother (specifically, his level of inebriation). That said, upon finishing this paper and reading it to the others at the bar, their level of entertainment was significantly affected.

What was the final outcome of my actions? The final outcomes of my actions were this paper, and my brother’s extended binge of Sunday afternoon drinking. There may be as of yet further outcomes to be determined, such as my grade on this assignment. However, to date, these are the only truly known outcomes.


He turned it in. We're waiting to hear the results.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:30 AM on October 23, 2008 [58 favorites]


do I understand correctly that the official policy here is that there's no problem with people using askmefi as a resource to help them become better enablers of fraud within education?

this is because no one will sue mefi over this, right? as in, the stolen education will not get us sued the way stolen music would, yeah?

out of curiosity, what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to seduce a teacher for a higher grade? you know, success stories, horror stories, references. what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to give a student a higher grade in return for sex? success stories, etc...
posted by shmegegge at 10:32 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was once asked to write an essay by a girl in my philosophy class because, "she ran out of time". I declined and the money offered doubled and then trebled. I stood fast because it didn't sit well with me, and I "didn't have the time." The kicker was that the subject was Ethics. A few weeks later there was some event on, we both had a few drinks and there was some fooling around. So, she obviously didn't hold it against me. Saying that neither of us spoke to each other after that night, so there you go. Ethics are confusing and complex, but can pay well.
posted by Elmore at 10:33 AM on October 23, 2008


So if someone found that thread (now one of the top five Google hits for ["term papers for money"]) and sent an e-mail to the address offering you money to write a term paper, you'd turn them down? Why? It's not illegal.
posted by grouse at 10:33 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


out of curiosity, what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to seduce a teacher for a higher grade?

I think that would be a great question, and I would like to read the answers.
posted by smackfu at 10:35 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, from a previous question of yours, you're thinking of teaching at a university someday.

I guess you'd be fine with one of your future students buying a paper and using it in one of your classes? Or, perhaps, since it would be against the university's rules - but not illegal - you'd turn them into the dean, yes?

Hmmm.

Or, since you're so interested in making some extra cash, you could just cut out the middleman and offer your students the opportunity to earn an easy A in your classes by paying you, and not even have to turn in any work! Stellar!
posted by rtha at 10:37 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: a filet of suck in a sandwich of fail.

Come on people, try to pay some attention.
posted by ghost of a past number at 10:40 AM on October 23, 2008


Grouse- Because, again, I do not have a term paper writing business. This was not a solicitation, it was an an opportunity to allow someone to confide anonymously. Also, with all of the advice to go anon in that thread, well, that address is compromised isn't it?

On the idea of "stolen education"- This is the opposite of theft. No one "owns" education. You and I could sit in the same class, in seats right next to each other, and have completely different experiences. Maybe you'd learn more than me- Who could I sue for "stealing" my education? You get in what you put out.

I realize I'm being heavy handed again, apologies! I just wanted to clear up Grouse's concern. And I'm interested in what's going on here.
posted by GilloD at 10:42 AM on October 23, 2008


it will go on without me

I don't understand this as a defense. The question isn't (just) "how are you hurting the system". It's (also) "how are you hurting yourself". If you aren't writing papers, you aren't feeling guilty about writing papers or wearing down your conscience to the point where you'll do something worse. If you are writing paper, you are doing those things.
posted by DU at 10:43 AM on October 23, 2008


The answer I found that had the most irony:

vincele: "You said to spare you lectures about what you're doing. So here's more advice: maintain discretion and anonymity at all costs. Stick with honors students and work by word of mouth."

Hopefully, wouldn't an honors student be the kind most likely to do his own work?

And some where, there's an honor joke to be made.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:45 AM on October 23, 2008


You know the old saying "pride goeth before a fall"?

You are overflowing with such pride, GilloD-- in fact, you are fairly up to your neck in the slops.

I hope we'll get to see how it all turns out for you. It should make for a splendid cautionary tale.
posted by jamjam at 10:46 AM on October 23, 2008


Rtha- Again, you miss the point. I realize I have introduced two very opposing objects here. If I were a teacher and I caught a student cheating I would turn them in. Why? That's my job. Hypothetically, if I chose to write term papers, I would do so. Because that's my job and because I think it's wrong.

Paying taxes supports the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Are we to not pay our taxes? I realize that's a flimsy argument but my point is that we are regularly confronted with dissonant activities. Just saying, "Well X is the right thing" isn't an answer.
posted by GilloD at 10:46 AM on October 23, 2008


A degree is just the cost of admission nowadays.

But it shouldn't be, and I deplore people who contribute to it as much as you say you abhor plagiarists.

And yes, contributing to the the mindset that it's okay to lie to get ahead does hurt the foundations of culture. If you don't think so, I suspect this is why you don't see that something is seriously disconnected here:

Moving on, the second answer is because I'm comfortable with the dissonance here. I abhor plagiarists. I abhor the people who buy papers. But I'd be comfortable writing them.

To be blunt, that shouldn't be comfortable for you. You just claim that it is comfortable, not that it should be, as if that makes it okay.

by and large you succeed by your own wits.

Or the cooperative good graces of other people in culture who have agreed not to screw you over, by, say, condoning lying to get ahead at your expense.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:47 AM on October 23, 2008


Oh, no, a professor will get mad at me!

Classics professors understand revenge, okay? It's the one technology which has actually regressed in the last few millennia.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:48 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I abhor plagiarists. I abhor the people who buy papers. But I'd be comfortable writing them.

We only sell drugs to the coloreds. - Don Corleone.
posted by fixedgear at 10:48 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the idea of "stolen education"- This is the opposite of theft. No one "owns" education. You and I could sit in the same class, in seats right next to each other, and have completely different experiences. Maybe you'd learn more than me- Who could I sue for "stealing" my education? You get in what you put out.

unless you pay someone to do your work for you, in which case you get significantly more than you put in. also: the opposite of theft? are you returning stolen merchandise here? no, what you're doing is acquiring a grade for a student who didn't earn it. you are enabling that student to steal the academic rewards they would not earn for themselves. it's enabling theft, but if you're really not comfortable with that word, fine. we'll just call it fraud, then.
posted by shmegegge at 10:50 AM on October 23, 2008


So if someone found that thread (now one of the top five Google hits for ["term papers for money"]) and sent an e-mail to the address offering you money to write a term paper, you'd turn them down? Why? It's not illegal.

He'd turn them down because it could so easily be a blackmailer, if he had any sense.
posted by jamjam at 10:51 AM on October 23, 2008


A degree is just the cost of admission nowadays

I worked hard for my degrees, in the classroom and outside, in jobs to pay for them. If you were in front of me, I'd smack you upside the head for debasing my education in this way. What an asshole.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 AM on October 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


The real issue here is that GilloD is a scam artist. Lots of universities submit papers through systems which detect if they are bought from a paid service. Unless all his clients get 100% original papers (and they wont) then they will most likely be expelled. Promoting this service as not being illegal is misleading as the true authority here is the university, not the police.

On top of this, GilloD's real name and email address are in his profile and has been cached by thousands of web browsers and spiders. Admiting to falsely writing term papers on the internet is not good for him too. A mefite vigilante could take it upon himself to expose him to his employer, especially if his employer is a university.

Askme shouldnt be promoting harmful scams and this question should be deleted.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:54 AM on October 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


I get by pretty well, but I'd like to have a few extra dimes to take a pottery class or buy an instument I don't know how to play. Taking money from immoral undergrads seems like a fine way to fund that ambition.

So, open floor. Thoughts?


You're a stupid, lazy, boring, self absorbed jackass and your question should be exterminated with extreme prejudice for bringing those elements to the community.

Your name and a educational email address is still in your profile. Any half decent professor who has read and responded to your question has already made a note of that or taken a screenshot or added you to some list. Congratulations!

You would be helping someone cheat and you'd be taking money to do it. No, you're not killing anyone, or pimping, or a thousand other things that would be worst. But if your only justifications are "hey somebody's gonna do it and at least it's not murder" then maybe that should be a hint to aim a little higher.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:58 AM on October 23, 2008 [10 favorites]


If I were a teacher and I caught a student cheating I would turn them in. Why? That's my job. Hypothetically, if I chose to write term papers, I would do so. Because that's my job and because I think it's wrong. should there have been a "not" before "wrong"?

The cognitive dissonance is strong in this one.

Look, I don't support a bunch of my tax dollars going to pay for stuff that I don't like. But a bunch of it pays for stuff I do like. Legally, I have no say in what goes where - I mean, I can call my congresscritter and such, but it's not like I can send the IRS a check at tax time and say "Please don't use any of this for X, Y, or Z." Also, I don't really want to go to jail as a tax protester.

You'd be choosing to do something unethical and immoral. No one's got a gun or a prison term to your head, saying "Write the paper or else...." It's a choice you are free to not make.

After your comments here, I really hope you've changed your mind about going into academia. Because honestly, the world does not need professors who turn in plagiarists only because "it's their job." Ick.
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on October 23, 2008


Good lord, I forgot how much the internet loves a Crusade. I'm going to tackle the last few comments and then fade quietly (Ha!) back into MeFi-anonymity.

Dirty Ape- I'd remind you that I haven't actually done anything wrong. Is it wrong to ask about how to do something dubious? If so, let's bar research into crimes. After all, any crime author could be masquerading. They might be plotting a murder! I've expressed an interest in providing this kind of service, but I haven't done it. And more over- "Scam artist"? How? Now your impugning a service that doesn't even exist, commenting on non-work I haven't done.

Fixed Gear- "We only sell drugs to the coloreds. - Don Corleone."

Again, you're about a million degrees of severity away from this.
posted by GilloD at 11:01 AM on October 23, 2008


out of curiosity, what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to seduce a teacher for a higher grade? you know, success stories, horror stories, references. what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to give a student a higher grade in return for sex? success stories, etc...

I think you would get a mix of best practices and finger wagging.
posted by Pax at 11:04 AM on October 23, 2008


From a revenue generation perspective, writing term papers for money is kind of dumb. For one thing, if you're self-employed, you really should be shooting to make *at least* 30 dollars an hour to cover expenses. It's hard to say how much time it takes for a "professional" (cheater) to write the average term paper, but it's going to take at least eight hours. Add to that the marketing/business development work you have to do each day - tack on another hour, for nine total. So, just to cover expenses and put food on the table (never mind setting aside capital to grow your business or set the stage to transition into a more lucrative and, let's face it, more ethical line of work), you are going to have to charge at least $270 per term paper, assuming it takes about 8 hrs to write a 3000 word annotated English essay, and cover the one hour where you market yourself by creating dodgy AskMe questions and then setting up a Meta callout.

If you crank out five essays a week, you might make 1350 a week, or $5400 a month. That's not a bad living, and you could probably get by on half of that.

However, generating $5400 a month by writing term papers for nitwits and future YouTube commenters is going to be challenging. Some issues:

- Can students, who generally prefer to spend their money on booze, afford $270 for a 3000 word paper?
- Assuming that there are enough rich kids (and I guess if your email address is now, as grouse pointed out, fairly high in the Google rankings for you to get business anywhere in the world), can you actually crank out that many term papers on metaphor, simile and phallic images in 'Moby Dick'?

Probably not - it's a real grind. Professional services are generally not scalable, unless you can somehow homogenize your product, which is what most term paper writing outfits do.

Do you have the skills to a) create a ready-made product you can ship out the door? b) manage the process so that you can actually make a living wage without burning yourself out?

Because it's idiotic to write term papers for money without trying to scale up the process. People can't pay, and why be another writer/hack content to work for $5 an hour, because it takes so goddamn long to research and write the papers, plus take the time to make sure you're paid, plus somehow generate more business.

Aren't there better and perhaps more lucrative things to do with your time?

Plus, you're going to need a proofreader - you got my name wrong, and instructors take off marks for spelling and grammatical mistakes, thus devaluing your product.

your target market doesn't have a lot of money, and
posted by KokuRyu at 11:05 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can someone please explain to me why we have two open threads where GilloD gets to become the center of the conversation, thereby making the discussion of the actual topic completely moot?

I've clearly made my "ethical" stance painfully known around here, but this question really breaks more than one guideline, which is why I'm surprised to see it still up. It's chatfilter, since the entire concept is hypothetical, and based on the OP's own moderation, it's clear that the only "problem being solved" is GilloD's fascination with his own voice.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:06 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


When all this is uncovered as an elaborate yet unamusing troll, remember to come back and favorite this comment.

WILL WRITE TERM PAPERS FOR FAVORITES.
posted by ghost of a past number at 11:07 AM on October 23, 2008


Troll.
posted by desuetude at 11:07 AM on October 23, 2008


GilloD, I appreciate your argument. I think that you may even be right: your actions are not morally reprehensible. You're providing a service to morally reprehensible people who make their own choices to be that way. You're only a cog in a system that's flawed. The market for your product shouldn't exist but it does and you're not to be blamed for it.

You're also a quality writer and someone who would provide a really great paper to a flunkie, or someone without the time to put into their own paper. I'll agree with that too. You'll most definitely be writing better papers than the majority of students would be issuing themselves. Your service has great value. You're probably a better writer than most people who sell term-papers are too.

You're making it easier and more lucrative for reprehensible people to make bad decisions. If a student is only going to get 70% on a bought essay, they might think twice about it. If you write it and they get 90%, there's a lot more benefit to them to make a bad choice. Is this something you want to be a part of? Again, that's not your fault (your writing abilities are wonderful), but your abilities in this regard make bad choices more attractive. Mediocre term-paper writers keep a lot of people from choosing to buy because they're mediocre. Great term-paper writers give a bigger reward and make bad choices more attractive. It's the whole "what would you do for $1000 vs. what would you do for $1000000 dollars thing: people can be bought at the right price). Your abilities give you more currency to corrupt.

Again, that's not your fault, nor does it make your actions wrong. If you hate the plagiarism and the plagiarists, though, you have to accept the fact that your skills are going to make plagiarism a little more attractive. Your morally neutral decision will have a negative impact on the world around you. Are you okay with that?
posted by scabrous at 11:08 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Good lord, I forgot how much the internet loves a Crusade.

Also, not a great liar.
posted by desuetude at 11:09 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is your best bet for "extra scratch"? For an English major, you really lack imagination. And yet you come across as quite smug and self-satisfied. My advice is to skip the nickel-and-dimes of term papers and go straight into marketing.
posted by headnsouth at 11:09 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Son, you need a lecture."

If you refer to anyone who is not actually your son, nephew, grandson, or a person that could be construed as such through non-genetic but still quasi-familial relationships, then it is you who needs the lecture.

I was once asked to write an essay by a girl in my philosophy class because, "she ran out of time". I declined and the money offered doubled and then trebled. I stood fast because it didn't sit well with me, and I "didn't have the time." The kicker was that the subject was Ethics. A few weeks later there was some event on, we both had a few drinks and there was some fooling around. So, she obviously didn't hold it against me. Saying that neither of us spoke to each other after that night, so there you go. Ethics are confusing and complex, but can pay well.

"One time I didn't write a term paper and then later I got laid. Here's the kicker: it was by the same person I refused to write the paper for! That's Ethics for ya'."
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:10 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd like to have a few extra dimes to take a pottery class or buy an instument I don't know how to play.

For less than the cost of either of those, I'll make a beginner-level piece of pottery for you and sent you an mp3 of me imitating the sound of an angry cat being killed by whatever exotic instrument you have in mind.
posted by CKmtl at 11:10 AM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Whenever someone gets caught cheating in one of my girlfriend's classes (she's a university professor), it is very stressful for her & her dept., creates extra work for her, and demoralizes the other students.

Of course, I'm sure it will take you but a moment to come up with a moral justification for all of that having nothing to do with you.

But since you asked, I think it makes you a scumbag.
posted by the bricabrac man at 11:11 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I'd remind you that I haven't actually done anything wrong."

O RLY?

"I wrote some term papers in the past because I genuinely enjoyed having a little writing exercise. However, that was between friends."

...

Or are you just having a hard time keeping track of all of the things you've said? I'd recommend building up to it... you can't just start with weapons-grade attention whoring.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:11 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]




I'd remind you that I haven't actually done anything wrong.

well, you did write those papers for your friends, right?

Is it wrong to ask about how to do something dubious?

I can't speak for anyone else about this, but my dog in this fight is that whether it's wrong or not I don't think it belongs here on this site.

also, you've got this really really terrible rhetorical technique going on. I don't know if this is something someone taught you to do, but it's really bad. When you first posted your question, the attitude was "I know people think it's wrong, but i'm doing it anyway, so nyah." Then your attitude was "What's so wrong about it? It's actually GOOD!" now you're saying "hey, i haven't done anything wrong... yet," followed up by comparisons between what you have admitted you fully intend to do and crime, but couched in terms of research as if you never intended to actually commit fraud.

there is virtually no consistency in what you've been saying, outside of the single consistent strand of "i'm totally justified in doing whatever i want." this is a thing I remember being taught in high school debate. it's the whole "never yield, only misdirect and insist you're being misinterpreted" thing. it's basically how, in a lincoln-douglas debate where you have to argue both sides at some point, you get around the cognitive dissonance of having to argue for a side you don't believe in. it's what ruthlessly ambitious people do, as well as low rent con men. the weird thing about it is how effective it is while simultaneously easy to detect. if you know when you see it, it looks like a little kid caught doing something bad. "no mom! i didn't hit my sister! actually... um... actually i was HELPING her! yeah! i was HELPING her! it just LOOKED like i was hitting her. yeah, so, um, that's why i didn't do nothin'."
posted by shmegegge at 11:14 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


You're really not very good at this.

Well, you're not bad at the trolling. But the other stuff, like the lying and the planning and the arguing...not so much.
posted by desuetude at 11:16 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


GilloD, you are one dumb fuck. Go ahead and write papers for people. You can't think logically. You can't punctuate and you misuse words. You won't be in business long, and your products certainly won't be blowing the curve for the honest students.

As far as I'm concerned, this thread isn't about GilloD, in spite of what he seems to think. It's about whether AskMe has a standard in this area. Is the only standard for this sort of question that of legality? Yes, moral decisions are things we have to work out for ourselves. On the other hand, I think (I hope) we are all agreed that drop-kicking puppies, even in jurisdictions where it is not proscribed by law, is immoral. What about a question in which the poster asks, from such a jurisdiction, about the best way to cause the most pain to the puppies as they're booted? Should that question be allowed to stand? If not, why not?

I would really like to see a moderator weigh in here again.
posted by bricoleur at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've just started grading papers at a well-known private university, and I can tell you, the mandated grade inflation relative to public universities in and of itself horribly unethical by my way of thinking, but I comply with it. My grading spectrum is, by fiat, A to C+ on essays. So, I don't really know which if any ethical leg I have to stand on. If I were you, rationalizing as passionately as you are, I might be tempted to work only within Private Universities, since I'm cycnical enough in this moment to consider that they may all be inherently lost causes vis a vis academic integrity. That would be the equivalent pseudoethical sensemaking approach to the one I took when I was a lawbreaker. I would only shoplift from megacorps, so that nobody's bottom line was directly impacted.

Just make sure your papers all have a clear thesis, for the love of God, graders, and all that is holy.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:34 AM on October 23, 2008


I would really like to see a moderator weigh in here again.

Seconded.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 AM on October 23, 2008


thirded. their position on this is incomprehensible to me.
posted by shmegegge at 11:41 AM on October 23, 2008


My grading spectrum is, by fiat, A to C+ on essays.

That is so depressing to hear. Not that you do it, but that you are expected to do it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2008


bricoleur: I would really like to see a moderator weigh in here again.

I'D LIKE TO SEE PITCHFORKS AND TORCHES! WHO'S WITH ME?
posted by mkultra at 11:52 AM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Compared to other interesting questions ("How do I dispose of a body?"), this is weak tea. I don't see any problem with it staying.

That being said, I also agree that a bunch of people telling you that this is ethically wrong and you shouldn't do it is a totally valid response to your question - and I agree with them. You want to use your English degree for some extra scratch? Start a blog and sell ads.

I would equate selling term papers to war profiteering or selling state secrets. It looks harmless at the face of it - who's going to get hurt if I sell classified information to the enemy of the day? - but the fact is that there's a good reason why it's frowned on and considered, you know, treason.

There's really a level of intellectual treason going on here. I hate drug abuse, but I'll sell you the vicodin I got after my back surgery. Nuclear proliferation is wrong wrong wrong, but for the right price I can get you plans for atomic weaponry. It's really the same thing, a lack of not only honesty but integrity, as well.

By selling your words like this, you will have become a traitor to your own cause. It's wrong to take others' words as your own, but it's equally wrong to pass off your words as others'. How can you "abhor" plagiarism and yet actively abet it by offering those same services? Sure, no one's forcing students to buy papers you may write. However, it seems much more useful to help your cause - your abhorrence of plagiarism - by doing the exact opposite, namely not offering those services.

And, yes, your "everyone else is doing it!" argument is trite and stupid. In fact, I think I'll stop by the Charles and dump some mercury in it after work - after all, everyone else is doing it, and one battery is hardly going to make a difference.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:56 AM on October 23, 2008


On the other hand, I think (I hope) we are all agreed that drop-kicking puppies, even in jurisdictions where it is not proscribed by law, is immoral.

Well that seems like a good rule. Anything that we all agree is immoral is not allowed.

Now you just have to get us to agree on something.
posted by smackfu at 11:56 AM on October 23, 2008


I would really like to see a moderator weigh in here again.

I don't doubt that they will, but it's worth remembering that they do carry an onus to put a little more thought and consideration into their responses than 'You are a bad man doing a bad thing, and you should feel bad.'

their position on this is incomprehensible to me.

Keep your pants on, unruly mob.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would equate selling term papers to war profiteering or selling state secrets.

We may just have to agree to disagree here, but I would not equate those.
posted by smackfu at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2008


Keep your pants on, unruly mob.

you do realize that they've already weighed in, here, right? that what I was saying was incomprehensible to me was, in fact, what they'd already said?
posted by shmegegge at 12:02 PM on October 23, 2008


In my mind people are free to exercise their moral and ethical authority as they see fit. If they decide they'd rather pay someone to write a paper than write it themselves, that's their business. I'm more than happy to do the labor.

I realize that by withholding my labor I could make a proud stand against the dull many who would dilute the pure potion of academia.


Here you assert that your actions take place in a vaccuum.

They don't.

Your plagarism-for-hire gives an unfair advantage to students who can pay for your services vis-a-vis workingclass kids who have to pay their own way through school. You describe what you do as "labor" which is kind of like describing strikebreaking as your "day job"; what you're really doing is aiding and abetting another a bunch of wealthy dullards who are gaming the system and getting over on the rest of us.

We have enough of that shit in America and we definitely don't need any more of it from the likes of you.

If you need to take a pottery class, why don't you take a weekend job waiting tables or save up your money for a few months? delay gratification?
posted by jason's_planet at 12:02 PM on October 23, 2008 [11 favorites]


On the other hand, I think (I hope) we are all agreed that drop-kicking puppies, even in jurisdictions where it is not proscribed by law, is immoral.

A rottweiler puppy can weigh up to 50 pounds before it's a year old. Granted, the drop-kick may not be the best strategy if a rabid one gets an hankering for your face, but I'm pretty sure moral jurisdictions wouldn't be the on the top of your priority list if it came to that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:04 PM on October 23, 2008


I really wish you wouldn't do this.

I teach finance part time at a University in London, and just picked up another part time post with a second Business School.

I've been with the first University since 2003 and I'm not the kind of lecturer who just reads PowerPoint slides to my class; I interact heavily with the students about the material, about the problems and especially the markets. At the end of our twelve week term, I just know when someone hasn't written their own paper.

While it I tears me up inside I never hesitate to refer them to Academic Affairs. The viva voce or other inquiries following have 100% of the time supported my hunch. While a depressingly large number of students have chosen to walk this path, I'm sure there are some that I haven't caught.

But the ones I do? Almost always they are expelled from the program and the University. As we've got a student body that is about 80% foreign (London is like that), they return to their home country to what often perhaps isn't the best of welcomes. Or future prospects.

I'm waiting to see if the kids at this other University are better cheaters than the first. As people seem to be getting dumber and dumber all the time, I'm not hopeful.
posted by Mutant at 12:10 PM on October 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


If you need to take a pottery class, why don't you take a weekend job waiting tables or save up your money for a few months? delay gratification?

Here I am, in these uncertain times, offering my labour to provide the man with a lumpy, lopsided, and poorly glazed ashtray that will enable him to show his friends how artistic he can be. And you're telling him to actually take the class rather than letting me make a small profit by helping him fake it?

I never expected you to side with those fat-cat strip-mall art-instructing wheel-kickers.
posted by CKmtl at 12:15 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


smackfu: I take it you don't agree that drop-kicking puppies is bad? My point is that in spite of all the good arguments for moral relativism and Sartrean choice and all that, there are actually a lot of things that are pretty generally agreed to be bad. We have to make allowances for different viewpoints, but we also have to draw a line. Downloading pirated music? Probably bad, but arguable. Raping children? Definitely bad.

Obviously, selling term papers is not on a par with child rape. On the other hand, it seems pretty clearly bad to me from the perspective of any ethical theory other than "I do what I want regardless of who gets hurt."
posted by bricoleur at 12:16 PM on October 23, 2008


For those who think this is not a victimless 'crime', how valuable is your education versus your GPA?

I can't imagine anybody losing a Degree over a classmate's cheating, but I suppose it could happen, so I guess I could be asking how valuable your education is as opposed to your degree.

Also, is this more unethical than cheating in baseball?

I never took college seriously enough to care what my classmates were doing, but then again, it took me 11 years to get a BS.
posted by stubby phillips at 12:16 PM on October 23, 2008


you do realize that they've already weighed in, here, right? that what I was saying was incomprehensible to me was, in fact, what they'd already said?

And you do realize your pronouncement of incomprehension was preceded by a desire to hear from the mods again, right? And if you - and presumably others - didn't get their position the first time and would appreciate a more thorough explanation, I don't see how doing the MeTa equivalent of banging your fist on the counter and demanding to speak to the manager, now, would be conducive to the constructive discussion you desire. I don't doubt they'll respond again but like I said before, they have more to consider than just registering their personal distaste or indifference to the issue. Obviously you weren't satisfied with their initial responses - which is completely fair - so give them a chance to formulate a response that you might find more comprehensible.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:19 PM on October 23, 2008


I think the question is a certain flavor of bullshit. It's asking about something that I find personally pretty reprehensible, and I find GilloD's attempts to defend it wildly unconvincing besides. That's my personal reaction to the question.

That said, trying to find more information about ethically or morally or legally problematic or contentious things is not and has not ever been against the rules on AskMe in and of itself. And while I think GilloD has been (and I can think of no kinder way to put this, so please understand that I'm not just being gratuitously mean here) making a jackass of himself in his reaction to the reception of his question, that's not exactly against the rules either. There have been a lot of arguments in the past specifically toward the merits of allowing people to be jackasses on the record, that it's a benefit to the community and to keeping folks honest.

I think the question, sans the "I don't need a lecture" vibe or any of GilloD's responses in the green or here, would be easier to defend than the kind of convoluted clusterfuck this has turned into, but the clusterfuck isn't the question and the initial call to let the thing stand pretty much remains because of that. We have this thread for most of the clustering, anyway, which is pretty much how the system is supposed to work.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on October 23, 2008


ME: Looking at this thread, I fear that no good will come of this discussion.

DEVIL ON MY SHOULDER: Tell him to cut off his hand!

EVEN BIGGER DEVIL ON OTHER SHOULDER: Tell him to cut off both hands, pussy!

What to do?
posted by Mister_A at 12:20 PM on October 23, 2008


Having written a term paper or two for hire when I was a student, I can tell you two things: 1) tending bar or waiting tables will pay you more for your effort and 2) dealing with the sort of yahoo who wants to buy a term paper isn't fun at all.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:31 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And if you - and presumably others - didn't get their position the first time and would appreciate a more thorough explanation, I don't see how doing the MeTa equivalent of banging your fist on the counter and demanding to speak to the manager, now, would be conducive to the constructive discussion you desire.

I didn't realize that saying "I would really like to see a moderator weigh in here again" was banging a fist on the counter and demanding anything. isn't it possible that we're all just literally hoping a moderator would come in and give us some more input? isn't it possible that not everyone shared your absolute certainty that they intended to come back at all, and simply wanted to register the hope that they would?

but cortex has arrived, so off we go.

cortex: That said, trying to find more information about ethically or morally or legally problematic or contentious things is not and has not ever been against the rules on AskMe in and of itself.

this is understandable, and as a position to take seems perfectly reasonable. but can't you guys think of a bunch of times you've deleted reprehensible material with a comment like "this really isn't what askme is for?" I mean, this isn't a call for information alone. This is him saying "I intend to violate the rules of the educational institutions I'll be writing for, and commit some form of fraud depending on where the institution is located. how can i best do this?" further:

I think the question, sans the "I don't need a lecture" vibe

well, but it's not sans anything, you know? the "I don't need a lecture" vibe is there. It seems to me that you guys are defending it as something it's not. It's a call for help committing fraud that is extremely contentiously worded. you've deleted better for less.

and that's my piece on the matter, i suppose.
posted by shmegegge at 12:32 PM on October 23, 2008


ethically or morally or legally problematic or contentious things

This is the part I don't get. I don't see how the moral status of this particular act is problematic. Innocent people are harmed by it. Is it that it's not that harmful to them? I mean, wtf?
posted by bricoleur at 12:38 PM on October 23, 2008


Your plagarism-for-hire gives an unfair advantage to students who can pay for your services vis-a-vis workingclass kids who have to pay their own way through school. You describe what you do as "labor" which is kind of like describing strikebreaking as your "day job"; what you're really doing is aiding and abetting another a bunch of wealthy dullards who are gaming the system and getting over on the rest of us.

Actually, and I'm about to channel my mom here, I think, but I don't think it advantages the cheater, either, unltimately. He gets to grad school or his first job not having the same skills he would have had he done the work himself. Maybe I put too much stock in learning how to write a good paper, or learning as an end in itself, but I, for one, worked hard in college, learned a lot and think it shows.

But for those that look at college as the price of admission to the real world, maybe you don't see it this way (not that you see it this way, Jason's Planet). Someone mentioned it upthread, but this attitude, along with the ultracompetitive attitude to be at the top of the class (or the office, or whatever) at all costs, depresses me.

Also, I'm having, comma, issues, today. Dunnowhy.
posted by Pax at 12:39 PM on October 23, 2008


I abhor plagiarists. I abhor the people who buy papers. But I'd be comfortable writing them.

One day GilloD, you will reread that comment and (hopefully) be embarrassed by the hubris it reveals.
posted by Neiltupper at 12:44 PM on October 23, 2008


Neil- I stepped away from this thread for awhile for my own good, but your point has come up more than once. I'm just interested in how that statement reveals some unknowable quantity of hubris.
posted by GilloD at 12:51 PM on October 23, 2008


well, but it's not sans anything, you know? the "I don't need a lecture" vibe is there.

And we'd delete two or five or ten times as many questions as we normally do if we came down hard on imperfect presentation every time. Like I said, I think the question is on the skeezy side, but I don't think it's a slam dunk deletion for all that and when I checked with Matt and Jess this morning they didn't think it needed to go either. The poster has been doing himself no favors so far, but that strikes me more as tonedeafness than anything more sinister as well.

Now, they're both on the road in some capacity or other this afternoon, so I have no idea what there availability is going to be and whether or not they'll be able to get back to this thread any time soon. I'm not going to reverse on the question and nix it all of a sudden myself; I've tried to make clear where I'm coming from at least on this, and I'm not going to try and speak for either of them, so I may just not have a whole lot more to offer here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:12 PM on October 23, 2008


Okay, can we at least agree that it's wrong to dropkick puppies unless they are a) rabid, b) Rottweiler, c) fifty pounds or heavier and d) trying to eat your face?
posted by timeistight at 1:12 PM on October 23, 2008


what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to give a student a higher grade in return for sex?

You can get around this by only having sex with those students you would give high grades to regardless. What self-respecting teacher wants to sleep with stupid people?
posted by Meatbomb at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


I don't think the weight of the puppy should enter into it. It's not a right/wrong thing. It's a practicality thing.
posted by stubby phillips at 1:20 PM on October 23, 2008


Now, they're both on the road in some capacity or other this afternoon

They left you home alone again, huh?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:22 PM on October 23, 2008


I can eat as many cookies as I want and watch my He-Man DVD, yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:24 PM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Get this man a fedora, stat!

[ineluctably fedora-ist]
posted by Mister_A at 1:26 PM on October 23, 2008


I usually have a pretty good sense of when a gap is unbridgeable, of when to smile and nod and think, "We may as well be from Mars and Venus". Somewhere along the line today that good sense abandoned me and I became unfortunately aggressive.

The fundamental problem is one of understanding- I understand I'm making a transgression, I just don't think it's that severe. The majority disagrees and we're going back and forth and not making any headway because, ultimately, we're coming from totally separate directions.

Backing away from the fruitless end of the discussion, I think the question should remain. At the end of the day you may think it's terrible and I may find it okay, but the question in and of itself is harmless. Barring a federal legal statute that says, "Doing X is punishable by whatever!", the use of that information is up to the reader.

I can understand axing questions about "How do I make LSD in my bathtub?" or "How can I get drunk drive and get away with it?" or "I'm looking to launder some money I made in killing some guys for the Mafia". These are questions which clearly violate a legal standard.

Starting to impose moral standards is a slippery slope.

And for the record, kicking puppies is bad news. I love dogs.
posted by GilloD at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2008


I don't think the weight of the puppy should enter into it.

So you think it's okay to kick this puppy (you monster)?
posted by timeistight at 1:31 PM on October 23, 2008


"I'm looking to launder some money I made in killing some guys for the Mafia".

The dictionary, I guess, is no help here.
posted by stubby phillips at 1:31 PM on October 23, 2008


Raping children? Definitely bad.

Wait, what if they're evil children?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:36 PM on October 23, 2008


Depends.... Is he rabid? He's clearly trying to eat my face.
posted by stubby phillips at 1:38 PM on October 23, 2008


Hacks are from Mars, plagiarists are from Venus.
posted by Mister_A at 1:39 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


. The majority disagrees and we're going back and forth and not making any headway because, ultimately, we're coming from totally separate directions.

It also worth mentioning that at the end of the day askmefi is no different than asking a stranger a favor. I like answering technical questions because it makes me feel good about helping others. Who exactly in this community is going to help you with yours? What are their motives? if anything the nature of your question provokes hostility. Perhaps you should be looking at asking in other forums. Ask yahoo or some kind of get rich quick forum perhaps. Writing terms papers falls into the category of selling cell phone antenna boosters and herbal "cures" to serious diseases whether you like it or not.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:40 PM on October 23, 2008


I can understand axing questions about "How do I make LSD in my bathtub?" or "How can I get drunk drive and get away with it?" or "I'm looking to launder some money I made in killing some guys for the Mafia". These are questions which clearly violate a legal standard.

There is a legal standard crossed for selling term papers. It is illegal to sell term papers in 17 states. Your question should be deleted on that basis.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can understand axing questions about "How do I make LSD in my bathtub?" or "How can I get drunk drive and get away with it?" or "I'm looking to launder some money I made in killing some guys for the Mafia". These are questions which clearly violate a legal standard.

So, if clearly violating a legal standard were enough to get a question axed, and someone should answer your question by telling you that your proposed business violates the laws of seventeen states, would you then argue for your question's deletion?
posted by jason's_planet at 1:43 PM on October 23, 2008


Depends.... Is he rabid? He's clearly trying to eat my face.

Of course he's trying to eat your face. He's a puppy; he'll try to eat anything within reach.
posted by timeistight at 1:43 PM on October 23, 2008


I just want to weigh in one more time.

First, I guess I'm a little late to the party on this, but GilloD, perhaps you should google "collective action problem." I mean, it seems obvious to me, but if you really have a hard time intuiting why contributing one unit of wrong to a large pile of wrong, try to think of it this way:

often, we see wrong actions as context-dependent. It's wrong for me to lie to you, but it's not absolutely wrong to lie to anyone ever, because sometimes a Nazi comes to your door and asks if you have a Jew in your attic, and you do, and you should definitely lie. However, some wrong actions are wrong in every context. For example, it's always wrong to beat a child.

Now, imagine that you come to a village where a crowd of yokels has gathered around some kids and are kicking them gleefully. Every time they land a really solid kick, Scrooge McDuck throws gold coins at them. You like gold coins. You can see that the crowd is thick with eager people who are trying to get to the center so that they can get some of the coins. If you don't kick one of the children square in the stomach, someone else will. I will bang my head against the table if you tell me that in this situation, you would kick a helpless, bleeding child.

You see, I don't think you're retarded. I think you understand perfectly well why it is that you don't do something that is unethical merely because you stand to profit from the act. The hypothetical (or real) existence of evil people who are willing to break the rules does not justify your immoral actions, especially because the idea that you're replacing them (rather than simply adding to the total number of bad acts) is dubious at best.

I suspect that the real issue is that you just don't see THIS action as particularly wrong. That would explain why your comments have been so inconsistent (as others have pointed out).


Second, I want to respond to the example shmegegge gave of a question that ought to be impermissible:

"I intend to violate the rules of the educational institutions I'll be writing for, and commit some form of fraud depending on where the institution is located. how can i best do this?"

What if you don't think the institution is legitimate? Or that the rule is legitimate? Or what if you do think they have some authority, but you have some need or ethical consideration that outweighs that rule? What if you're merely curious about the mechanism? What if you just don't agree with the moral and ethical consensus?

I understand that it's upsetting when people want to do something that we think is wrong and I understand that you don't want them to be helped in that endeavor, but my personal sense is that the default rule should be to permit every kind of question, and then chip away at what is allowed in a very limited and considered manner, doing only what is absolutely necessary for the functioning of the site. It comes down to weighing open speech against moral concerns, and speech tends to win for me, so I am happy to see that "immoral" questions continue to be allowed.
posted by prefpara at 1:47 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


No. I think a stern scratch between the ears would probably suffice.
posted by stubby phillips at 1:48 PM on October 23, 2008


The fundamental problem is one of understanding- I understand I'm making a transgression, I just don't think it's that severe. The majority disagrees

You know what I was thinking about the other day? That movie Unfaithful - you know, with Diane Lane and Richard Gere? **SPOILER** I mean, if you're talking about the more severe transgression, shouldn't the title of that movie be, like, "Impulse Rage Kill" or something? Sure, Diane Lane gets crazy with the ethnic artist type behind her husband's back, very immoral behavior, very hurtful, such things cause all sorts of grief and heartbreak in the world every day. But come on. Richard Gere KILLS the guy and the movie gets named for her screw-up? Yeah, I know, but Richard Gere was all distraught! She gave her spicy lover one of his special presents! He felt all sick and dizzy! Bull. Shit. He smashed the guy's head in with a snow globe! He's the fucking villain of the movie. That title is fucked up. And sexist.

Anyway. So, what's this about term papers?
posted by nanojath at 1:50 PM on October 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


Every time they land a really solid kick, Scrooge McDuck throws gold coins at them.

Hey! Scrooge may be many things, but he's not that evil. That sounds more like something Flintheart Glomgold would do.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 1:54 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And for the record, kicking puppies is bad news. I love dogs.

Yeah, but it's not as bad as "building BOMBS."

If you're okay participating in academic dishonesty because it's not as bad as BOMBS, then you're there with the puppy-kickers.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:55 PM on October 23, 2008


prefpara, why do you cast your pearls before swine?

/Jesus
posted by Mister_A at 1:56 PM on October 23, 2008


Unethical? Whose ethics are we using? I'd like to know if we're using that as a "should this be posted to AskMe" criterion.

I'll make a ridiculous example: Let's just bring back konolia, but this time as a mod, so jessamyn can take a well-deserved vacation; I'm sure konolia would have great reactions to the questions about homosexual dating and/or sex. To her, it wouldn't be ethical, seeing as how it is Hell-worthy.

We don't have an ethic-o-meter that we can press up against a question and get a reading. Not even Star Trek's tricorders feature such an ability.

Unless specifically instructed by the Asker (who, in this case, said that he could be spared the lecture), leave the ethics out of an AskMe. Okay, I could make an exception for someone who clearly hasn't considered the implications, but this user has.

People typically come to AskMe is about who, what, when, where, and how; not why and "Should I?" I don't care if it is "how best to dispose of the hitch-hikers I have lining my crawlspace like pink insulation" (pro-tip: Will It Blend? is a great instructional video if you're patient) ... just answer the question, take it to MeTa, or write a nasty MeMail.
posted by adipocere at 1:59 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


That link in the Q points to an article about a case IN PROGRESS ten years ago, not a law on the books. As far as I was able to find, there are no laws regarding the writing of term papers for money. Additionally, the lawsuit that user linked to was filed on all kinds of wire fraud grounds and not on the nasty ethics of paper writing. It's like catching the Mob for back taxes instead of the actual Mob problems.
posted by GilloD at 2:05 PM on October 23, 2008


Like organ-theft, or vicarious-murder: it's a victimless crime.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:05 PM on October 23, 2008


From an ethical perspective, if we look at this issue on the basis of Kant's Categorical Imperative, then it would follow that all students should be required to pay someone to write their term papers. This would create a lot of jobs, so I think it's okay.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:09 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's like catching the Mob for back taxes instead of the actual Mob problems.

So, given it's illegal, and given that you have no problem with questions about breaking the law getting axed, you'll request to have your question deleted?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:13 PM on October 23, 2008


Kant, yes, blah blah, but consider the counter-arguments of John Stuart Thesis Mill.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:13 PM on October 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Unless specifically instructed by the Asker (who, in this case, said that he could be spared the lecture), leave the ethics out of an AskMe.

The thing is, community ethical standards HAVE been applied to AskMefi. If someone posts a question "How do I kill myself," the mods delete it. Less than a week ago a question along the lines of "My friend went suddenly blind, what should I do?" was posted, and the mods deleted it because the answer was "GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM." When someone asked "How should I carry alcohol to class without getting caught?" that one was deleted too. So have the "How can I become a prostitute?" and "How do I get revenge?" questions. In the past, when a question has violated community ethical standards, whether because the person is going to harm themselves, others, because it's just distasteful, or because it's obviously troll-baiting, it gets deleted.

In this case, the mods have decided they don't believe this question violates those standards. It's their website, whatever, though I disagree. But that's a lot different than them not deleting the question because questions of all types are allowed on Ask.
posted by schroedinger at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blazecock- If that turns out to be the case, then yes. I'd be fine with that. I have no problems with the question being deleted if it is illegal or against MeFi policy. What I have a problem with is ANY question being axed because it is "offensive" or "unethical".

More, I have yet to see any proof that it is illegal. Again, that link points to a ten year old article about a case in progress, citing 16 similar in progress cases. I can't seem to find a law. But if and when we do, then the Q breaks the standard and should be deleted.
posted by GilloD at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2008


"Dirty Ape- I'd remind you that I haven't actually done anything wrong. Is it wrong to ask about how to do something dubious? If so, let's bar research into crimes. After all, any crime author could be masquerading. They might be plotting a murder! I've expressed an interest in providing this kind of service, but I haven't done it. And more over- "Scam artist"? How? Now your impugning a service that doesn't even exist, commenting on non-work I haven't done. "

Are you familiar with the idea of the "appearance of impropriety"? For an amatuer writer whose day job is as a computer programmer and has never had any legal problems to ask about how jurors are bribed would be one thing. For a lawyer write in and ask "Any advice or tips on bribing jurors? Just curious." Would be different.

Similarly, for you as a member of the academic community and responsible for holding up its standards to make such public inquiries appears to undercut the system, even if you don't actually do the unethical act.
posted by Jahaza at 2:23 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I did this a couple of times in high school for rich acquaintances who were having trouble getting unstoned long enough to finish a make-up class. Unfortunately, none of them have gone into national politics so my retirement plans will not be able to depend on blackmail. It was easy work, but there's no way to fool yourself that it is ethical or good for your own self.

And that last part is what I would suggest really thinking about before starting this kind of business. Legality aside (and isn't that why these are always sold "for research purposes only"?), I can't see any way to do this without taking on some sort of moral taint in yourself.

You end up despising the people who are paying you (because they are lazy and dishonest), the academic system that allows them to easily turn in fraudulent papers without getting caught, and the sleazeball who is the enabler making this happen. Oh wait... that's you.

I don't want to be all hippy-ish and blabber on about "karma" and all that, but life is made up of a lot of choices. Pretty often, we have to make small choices between a slightly more ethical path, or a slightly less ethical path. Each choice is not all that big a deal in itself (eg chase after the guy who dropped it and give back the wallet, or pocket the cash) but when you add them all together you have your life. That's it -- you don't get to go back and redo it, you don't get to say "well, yeah, that's my life, but if you ignore what I actually did then I'd have this other kind of life that I'd rather show you."

Nope, you just get the one. I don't think that sainthood or self-denial is the right choice, but neither is this sort of amorality where you just shrug and say "well shit, if other people are doing bad things than why should I care about my own choices?" At the end of the day, you make a bunch of choices and it's up to you if those choices add up to something you can be proud of or something that you aren't so proud of. Your choice.
posted by Forktine at 2:28 PM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, Gillo, you're OK with us asking the provost at Juniata for a statement, right? You did say you abhor your own actions when other people do them....
posted by nomisxid at 2:30 PM on October 23, 2008


More, I have yet to see any proof that it is illegal. Again, that link points to a ten year old article about a case in progress, citing 16 similar in progress cases. I can't seem to find a law. But if and when we do, then the Q breaks the standard and should be deleted.

Here's one example:

Section 2A: 170-77.16, New Jersey Criminal Code
"Sale of Term Paper, Thesis, Dissertation, or Other Writing Intended for Submission to an Academic Institution Under Student’s Name."


BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

a. No person shall, for any fee, or other remuneration, prepare, offer to prepare, cause to be prepared, sell or offer for sale any term paper, thesis, dissertation, essay, report or other written, recorded, pictorial, artistic or other assignment knowing, or under the circumstances having reason to know, that said assignment is intended for submission either in whole or substantial part under a student's name in fulfillment of the requirements for a degree, diploma, certificate, course or courses of study at any university, college, academy, school or other educational institution...

c. Anyone convicted of violating any provision of this act shall be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000.00 which shall be collected in a summary manner pursuant to "the penalty enforcement law" (N.J.S.2A:58-1 et seq.) in the Superior Court or any municipal court. The Superior Court may also grant further relief necessary to enforce the provisions of this section, including the issuance of an injunction.

d. Actions for injunction under the provisions of this act may be brought in the name of the people of this State upon their own complaint or upon the complaint of any person, or any public or private college, university, academy, school or other educational institution which is charted, incorporated, licensed, registered or supervised by this State, acting for the interest of itself, its students, or the general public.
(Source 2A:170-77.16; 2A:170-77.17; 2A:170-77.18).


So it's on the books in at least one of 17 states. Will you will honor your word and request that your question be deleted?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have never before felt any emotion whatsoever when hearing the term "square with the facts", but now I fucking hate it!
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:56 PM on October 23, 2008


More, I have yet to see any proof that it is illegal.

"The lawsuit comes 25 years after the university sued a group of pre-Internet-era term-paper mills, winning an injunction against them and spurring the Massachusetts Legislature to ban the sale of term papers in the state."

Is there something confusing about "illegal in Massachusetts"? That law was passed in 1973.

On preview, what BP said, too.
posted by rtha at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2008


Non-academics are just generally not going to view this as the One Unforgivable Sin that many people in this thread see it.

A kid facing a poor grade is generally not going to care more about the abstract and (somewhat self-important) ethical code on display here than their well-being. A non-professor looking to make some extra cash off their degree probably won't either.
posted by spaltavian at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2008


Blazecock, how do we know the state of New Jersey did not pay you to write that criminal code for them?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:13 PM on October 23, 2008


my personal sense is that the default rule should be to permit every kind of question, and then chip away at what is allowed in a very limited and considered manner, doing only what is absolutely necessary for the functioning of the site.

which is certainly a valid way to do things, and certainly shares a lot with the mefi way of doing things. for what it's worth, i've always seen this place as being sort of "we moderate as little as we can, for the sake of open speech, but the fact is that some things don't go well or we simply don't want, so we axe them. it's subjective and a judgement call, but we're making it." hence, the problems with cat declawing, fat, religion, stormfront.com, etc...

honestly, if the mods don't see a problem, i'm not going to assume they're wrong. If it were my site, I'd happily be like "nope! not gonna help you break the law. have a nice day!" but it's not my site. i said my peace, and that's about as much as I intend to do.
posted by shmegegge at 3:13 PM on October 23, 2008


Blazecock, how do we know the state of New Jersey did not pay you to write that criminal code for them?

That sounds like a question for Ask Metafilter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:25 PM on October 23, 2008


Moving on, the second answer is because I'm comfortable with the dissonance here. I abhor plagiarists. I abhor the people who buy papers. But I'd be comfortable writing them.

Are you comfortable with knowing a bunch of people abhor you?

Here's a reason not to write term papers for students: it's going to close doors for you. If I found out an acquaintance did what you are suggesting, I would not want to associate with them. I definitely would not hire them. It would indicate to me that they lacked an ethical and moral code that I find important. I would ask myself, "What else is acceptable to them that isn't to me?" Why give people one more reason to not want to be around you?

And why the heck if you're so smart and well-educated are you making extra bucks suckering students? Get a real job, and stop getting off on doing something "bad." It just looks lame.

So maybe there's no legal reason (at least in your state) not to do this, but do you seriously want to be that guy?
posted by Mouse Army at 3:34 PM on October 23, 2008


Common reasons for thread removal are chatfilter questions, open-ended hypothetical questions, rants posing as questions, questions asking how to do things that are illegal or borderline illegal, questions asking for detailed personal/private information, "why does X suck/not suck?" questions, and nonsense questions. Please do not Ask MetaFilter to do your homework for you. It's okay to ask for help with specific issues, but we can not help you show your work.

Since it has been shown this activity is illegal in some states, when will the question be removed?

Thanks.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:36 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't seem to find a law. But if and when we do, then the Q breaks the standard and should be deleted.

Mods, since we've helped GilloD establish that the question breaks the standards, can we help honor his request for deletion?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Welcome to Metafilter, Mouse Army. I fear for your future.

I hate war so. When will the mice and kittens stop this uncute bloodshed?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2008


Mods, since we've helped GilloD establish that the question breaks the standards, can we help honor his request for deletion?

It'd be great if we could not be shoehorned into snarky negotiations, actually. GilloD, if you decided you want the question to come down, say so; BP, I'm largely in agreement with you on the ideological front here, but please don't try to hold our mod powers hostage.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:42 PM on October 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Mister_A: awwww.
posted by prefpara at 3:44 PM on October 23, 2008


Sorry, my point was; all people are assholes.
posted by Elmore at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2008


what if i were to post a question asking what it's like to give a student a higher grade in return for sex? success stories, etc...

OK: The secret to swapping sex for grades is to have the sex, then fail the student anyway to cover your tracks. I have 700 billion success stories.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:47 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


BP, I'm largely in agreement with you on the ideological front here, but please don't try to hold our mod powers hostage.

Well, I'm genuinely sorry if you think you're being held hostage, but, respectfully, in the end, it's down to how evenly or unevenly the rules are applied. This question is clearly crossing the threshold of unethical and is into breaking-the-law territory.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:51 PM on October 23, 2008


...and disposing of a body wasn't?
posted by timeistight at 3:55 PM on October 23, 2008


More, I have yet to see any proof that it is illegal. Again, that link points to a ten year old article about a case in progress, citing 16 similar in progress cases. I can't seem to find a law. But if and when we do, then the Q breaks the standard and should be deleted.

Education Law: An Essential Guide lists the following ten statutes, at least, making sale of term papers illegal:

CA: Cal. Education Code § 66400
CT: CGSA § 53-392b
FL: FSA § 877.17
MA: MGLA 271 § 50
NV: NRS § 207.320
NJ: NJSA § 18A:2-3
NY: NY Education Law § 213-b
PA: 18 Pa. CSA § 7324
VA: Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-505
WA: RCW 28B.10.580

Note that from a legal perspective, it is the seller of the term paper who engages in unlawful behavior, not the buyer.

So now that we've found at least ten laws, will you stand by your original statement that the question should be deleted?
posted by grouse at 3:57 PM on October 23, 2008


I'd have to jump on the Pileon in this case and ask what more do you need for that question to be removed? If the shoe fits, then you don't need a shoehorn. But I do have a pair of those socks you can use to try on the shoes.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:58 PM on October 23, 2008


And a careful reading of prior discussions about problematic askme stuff will make it really, really clear that we've never had a firm "illegal = deleted" principle in place. I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm not a big fan of the question, but there is no such clear threshold of deletion here that makes demanding one like you did a reasonable move, and I'm inclined to stay put on it barring a straightforward request from the poster.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:58 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about the breaking the law total slapdown. Consider a few questions:

How can I get my [protected media format] to work with my linux machine?
How can I get past the Great Firewall of China?
How can I, as a gay man living in Iran, have a relationship with [totally hot guy who's into me] and not get caught?

If I were to kill someone, what would be the best way to dispose of the corpse?


All of these are illegal/borderline illegal in the user's location. I doubt any of these would, or should, be deleted. Not to say that we should allow any illegal question to stand, but really would anyone answer a DRM-circumvention question with "that's illegal. Stop it."?

(Other than my sockpuppet, username: RIAA, of course)
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:07 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


but there is no such clear threshold of deletion here that makes demanding one like you did a reasonable move

If the question stays because I asked you to honor GilloD's request, in lieu of his newfound silence, that's really unfortunate and shame on me.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:08 PM on October 23, 2008


GilloD, if you want to do something you know is wrong, don't couch that in a load of bullshit rationalization and rhetorical questions about "oh, but whose moral standards must we use?" and "sure it's wrong but not as wrong as killing someone" etc.

I want to steal some gum from the store for kicks. How should I do it?
I want to cheat on my girlfriend. How should I do it?
I want to be gratuitously mean to a child. How should I do it?
I want to present someone else's work as my own, to get a promotion. How should I do it?

If you know it's wrong, don't do it. Jackass.

If you know it's wrong but decide to do it anyway, don't make us watch you wave your fucking hands around in a "oh I'm just interested in discussing my fascinating situation" way. Just slink away and do it and recognize your own shamelessness. Jackass.

Doing things that are obviously wrong is not a mark of moral sophistication. It's not fascinating. It's as old as the hills, we've all seen it, it's boring and dull and petty and every drop of it contributes more to the the tide of stupid small thinking that good and reasonable people fight against all day long.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:09 PM on October 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


The question remains because, entertainment value aside, the outcome of Errol Flynn-esque rhetorical fencing matches is not the basis on which we decide that a poster wants to have a thread deleted.

I'd sure as heck like some clarification from GilloD, one way or the other, at this point, but you asking has nothing to do with it being deleted or not.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:11 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


but please don't try to hold our mod powers hostage

Then get back on the damn table so we can extract the the super solider serum!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2008


But if and when we do [find it breaks a law], then the Q breaks the standard and should be deleted.

Original poster says that if a case is found where the writing of term papers for someone else breaks a law, then the question should be deleted. BP found and documented a case, followed by others who found more laws against the same.

What would be the next necessary step for the question to be deleted? Other than photos of kicked puppies?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2008


I'd sure as heck like some clarification from GilloD, one way or the other

I'd kind of like a final say (we give people benefits of doubt, 2nd, and 3rd chances), but he did admit it should be deleted if deemed illegal. I'm gonna go ahead and do that since it's shown to be in at least two states.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:20 PM on October 23, 2008


What would be the next necessary step for the question to be deleted?

I was mostly holding out for "poster coming out to establish that he wasn't just talking shit", basically. I'm comfortable with Matt making the call here, so the point may be moot now, but I'd like an actual clarification from GilloD at this point as much as anyone.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:24 PM on October 23, 2008


Thanks, Matt.
posted by fixedgear at 4:28 PM on October 23, 2008


Thanks for the clarification. Because the poster said, within the thread, to delete the question if it was found to be illegal, along with the wording of the original question, it seemed an open and shut case.

It's one thing to ask about something illegal out of curiosity and another to say you're looking to get involved in an illegal activity.

I just like to be square with the facts.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:31 PM on October 23, 2008


I don't really have an opinion on whether the question should be closed or not, but I do have an opinion on two things:
1) Knowingly enabling someone to do something shitty is, in and of itself, shitty.
2) Being able to name something worse than the shittyness you're trying to justify does not change the shitty nature of the nonsense you're about to do.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:49 PM on October 23, 2008


I find legal reasons less than compelling as standards for ethics. Call me when all of the sodomy laws, blue laws, etc., are off the books.

An ethical case could be made for writing term papers for others for various reasons:

1) It's a free market. If you're into that whole thing.

2) It could legitimately help someone who, for whatever reasons, was in a tight spot and had cash, but not time and might otherwise miss out on legitimate opportunities. If you're going to bring up all of the potentially negative effects on society as a reason not to do so, the other side gets to play. Constructing elaborate scenarios in which farming out the creation of a document somehow erodes the underpinnings of American society reminds me a little too much of the whole " ... and the moment two guys in San Francisco can exchange rings is the precise instant that Western civilization itself began to crumble!" deal.

3) It's training for the real world. In the real world, people pay other people to do research and write down their conclusions, and then pass it off to others who will evaluate it. They're called managers. I'm joking a little bit, and I'm sort of not at the same time. Subcontracting happens. People say all the time, "I'll have someone to do this for me." It's why we aren't all doctors and lawyers and computer scientists and ...

If it is really such a great harm to the student in question, then the truth will out later. Then maybe they can't hold a job, or maybe they get a management position. If the position is that the student must do the term paper themselves because ... uh ... good work habits are developed? the term paper is a standard of measurement so we can figure your starting position in the NASCAR of life? the provost will be unhappy? None of these ideals are setting me on fire with righteous indignation at the prospect of someone violating them.

And the idea that someone is going to track GilloD down decades later as he claws his way towards tenure, only to reveal his ghastly secret as one of his vile henchmen betrays him on the stand of some judicial council for the university:

I have never known him to do anything immoral ... except maybe start an organization based on defrauding an institution (which continually jacks up tuition) out of precisely no money at all ...

*stammering* And he has never done anything illegal ... unless you count all the times he sold term papers disguised in a graduation gown and tasseled hat!

He has always been a good, law-abiding associate professor ... Aww, give me a break! ... of the University ... Shut up! Shut up!

Uhhh ... a community-conscious individual. GilloD!?! He's nothin' but a low-down, double-dealing, backstabbing, larcenous, perverted worm! Hangin's too good for him! Burnin's too good for him! He should be torn into little bitty pieces and buried alive!
posted by adipocere at 5:19 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


So exactly how is this not equivalent to cheating in baseball?
posted by stubby phillips at 5:30 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm confused by ethics, especially in a contrived environment like college or sports. I see a lot of similarites to the Barry Bonds thing, which I still do not understand.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:33 PM on October 23, 2008


mkultra writes "This question is a milder version of asking about getting into the business of selling guns in poor neighborhoods because it's steady cash."

What? Poor people shouldn't buy guns?
posted by Mitheral at 5:34 PM on October 23, 2008


So exactly how is this not equivalent to cheating in baseball?

It's more like cheating in pro cycling, in that fewer people care.
posted by fixedgear at 5:36 PM on October 23, 2008


Lotsa folks here seem to care. I don't understand why.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:37 PM on October 23, 2008


I read once that Dr. MLK Jr. plaigerized much of his dissertation.

1) is that true?
2) does it matter?
posted by stubby phillips at 5:40 PM on October 23, 2008


"plagiarized", even.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:42 PM on October 23, 2008


Sorry, I try to stay away from the computer when I'm not at work.

As I said, if it breaks the guidelines, down it comes. That's the mod's call. I'm okay either way.
posted by GilloD at 6:08 PM on October 23, 2008


I'm confused by ethics, especially in a contrived environment like college

No-one forces you to go to university, but if you want the cachet associated with the degree, you can at least have the decency to have actually gained the expertise it represents.
posted by rodgerd at 6:23 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


One last comment and then I'm outs for good:

Part of why I felt comfortable posting this here is because, by and large, Metafilter is a thoughtful, balanced and generally intelligent community of users. I figured some of you find the question distasteful, but have the discretion to either answer or move on.

In opening the Talk thread I figured we could have a discussion about the larger implications of the question. And we did that. So, great.

What I didn't like was the vague threats to play INTERNET SUPERHERO and e-mail my employer or school. For what it's worth, I'm no longer a student at the .edu address and haven't been for some time. Frankly, that kind of "I'mma make you pay in real life!" talk is creepy and unbecoming. If that was what I wanted I could hit up 4chan or Something Awful or any other forum filled with 15 year old kids who love nothing more than to rake the shit until it stinks.

Part of what makes Metafilter tick is the safety we can feel sort of throwing ourselves in front of the community. Yes, I know it's indexed, yes, I know there are anon Q's, but none of that works without a trust in the community. The idea that the community can spin on it's heels and eat a member it suddenly deems unworthy is damaging to the community and just sort of weird. Let's try and be a little more measured. There are just too many corners of the internet gone bad to let this one rot.
posted by GilloD at 6:30 PM on October 23, 2008


Oh shut up.
posted by stubby phillips at 6:33 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


GilloD as moralist. I can go to bed now I think.
posted by bricoleur at 6:42 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I didn't like was the vague threats to play INTERNET SUPERHERO and e-mail my employer or school.

First you reject appeals to ethics and morality in favor of strict legality, and then you whine that other people are going beyond the bounds of community norms by threatening to engage in legal behavior? Not that I agree with those who transgress the community norms either, but still: cry me a river.
posted by grouse at 6:45 PM on October 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


3) It's training for the real world. In the real world, people pay other people to do research and write down their conclusions, and then pass it off to others who will evaluate it. They're called managers.

So, why not start that 'training' earlier?

Going backwards, at what point does doing the student's work for them become unethical? High school? Junior high? Elementary?

If there is such an ethical tipping-point, what makes it so different than college/university?
posted by CKmtl at 6:47 PM on October 23, 2008


What I didn't like was the vague threats to play INTERNET SUPERHERO and e-mail my employer or school. For what it's worth, I'm no longer a student at the .edu address and haven't been for some time. Frankly, that kind of "I'mma make you pay in real life!" talk is creepy and unbecoming.tangible benefits, including the good opinion of my professors and the degree itself. Every time somebody in my class cheats, they are, in at least a small way, defrauding me of my hard work, my time, and my tuition money. Because of this, I really fucking hate cheaters. So, while I am not going to track down your academic superiors and reveal that you have committed plagiarism and are completely unrepentant about it, I won't pretend it didn't cross my mind.

I'll add that if you don't want to be tattled on, don't commit the crime in the first place, and especially don't go bragging about it afterwards. Just because we're on the internet doesn't mean we don't have any sense of responsibility to the real world.

There are just too many corners of the internet gone bad to let this one rot.

To let people ask for advice on how to engage in illegal and clearly unethical activities would, I think, be a long step towards rottenness. The behavior of the users of the site are a reflection on the community at large, for better or worse. The way I see it, allowing a question of such obvious moral bankruptcy is tantamount to condoning such moral bankruptcy. Condoning criminal and unethical behavior is a sure sign of a rotten society.

In summary: Get your head out of your ass and realize that your actions have consequences.
posted by Commander Rachek at 7:03 PM on October 23, 2008


Oh, fuck, I cut off the first half of the first paragraph. Let's try this again:

I'm a college student, and I work pretty damn hard at my studies. While the intangible benefits of this work are the most important to me, the plagiarism of my peers devalues the various tangible benefits, including the good opinion of my professors and the degree itself. Every time somebody in my class cheats, they are, in at least a small way, defrauding me of my hard work, my time, and my tuition money. Because of this, I really fucking hate cheaters. So, while I am not going to track down your academic superiors and reveal that you have committed plagiarism and are completely unrepentant about it, I won't pretend it didn't cross my mind.

I'll add that if you don't want to be tattled on, don't commit the crime in the first place, and especially don't go bragging about it afterwards. Just because we're on the internet doesn't mean we don't have any sense of responsibility to the real world.

There are just too many corners of the internet gone bad to let this one rot.

To let people ask for advice on how to engage in illegal and clearly unethical activities would, I think, be a long step towards rottenness. The behavior of the users of the site are a reflection on the community at large, for better or worse. The way I see it, allowing a question of such obvious moral bankruptcy is tantamount to condoning such moral bankruptcy. Condoning criminal and unethical behavior is a sure sign of a rotten society.

In summary: Get your head out of your ass and realize that your actions have consequences.
posted by Commander Rachek at 7:07 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are just too many corners of the internet gone bad to let this one rot.

Exactly, and that is why community standards and even handed moderation worked. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by fixedgear at 7:11 PM on October 23, 2008


I think the word "ethics" tripped a few people up. GilloD wants to be a cheat, a professional confidence man in the business of defrauding professors. I've seen firsthand how people have gamed the system with the GilloD's of the world, in some cases getting and spending money they didn't deserve as a result. The fact that there are people who can't easily see the Very Bad Thing here is what compels me to add to the chorus. I hope it's clear this has nothing to do with groupthink...I'd say the same thing to your face, just as I've done at my own school before this, because it's made life difficult for me and those I care about, who are dependent on academic performance to stay in school.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:12 PM on October 23, 2008


Part of why I felt comfortable posting this here is because, by and large, Metafilter is a thoughtful, balanced and generally intelligent community of users. I figured some of you find the question distasteful, but have the discretion to either answer or move on.

Hey man, you're the one who made a MetaTalk thread and then asked for thoughts. Don't whine now 'cause things didn't go your way.

Part of what makes Metafilter tick is the safety we can feel sort of throwing ourselves in front of the community.

No, part of what makes Metafilter work is not fucking abusing it. If you want act like an ass and seek advice on immoral and illegal activities, fine, but please don't pretend the community is somehow wrong because they want to turn you in for doing illegal stuff. Seriously, what you've already done and are/were contemplating is morally repugnant to many and illegal in several states. What did you think was going to happen when you submitted your question to 50,000 people?

The idea that the community can spin on it's heels and eat a member it suddenly deems unworthy is damaging to the community and just sort of weird.

It's called civilization.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And the idea that someone is going to track GilloD down decades later as he claws his way towards tenure, only to reveal his ghastly secret as one of his vile henchmen betrays him on the stand of some judicial council for the university [is ridiculous]
-adipocere

adipocere, if it came out in a tenure case that the candidate had written term papers for hire, it would be grounds for not tenuring them. If it came out in a hiring dossier, it would be grounds for not hiring them.

If you think cheating and plagiarism are not serious, you are in a poor position to judge how academics will react to them, because we take them extremely seriously.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:34 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I guess I'm the only one here besides GilloD that doesn't think he is the root of all corruption in the world? I believe, like Gillo, that turning in a paper you didn't write would be unethical, but being the one who wrote the paper would not be unethical.

I didn't finish college. It's not because I'm not smart or I couldn't do the work. I just didn't like it, so I didn't apply myself. The last paper I turned in before I dropped out was one that I had bought and then tweaked to make it more my style. I look back on this now and I wish that I hadn't done it, because it was wrong. But I still can't bring myself to think that the guy on the other end of the computer screen who wrote the paper did anything abhorrent.

I feel like there's something else I should say here to make my point, but I really can't think of anything. So all I can really say is that I have been on the receiving end of one of these manufactured papers, and while I now feel my side was wrong, I did not, and still do not feel that the other person did anything wrong.
posted by joshrholloway at 9:17 PM on October 23, 2008


I believe, like Gillo, that turning in a paper you didn't write would be unethical, but being the one who wrote the paper would not be unethical.

Selling a fake ID would be unethical, but making a fake ID would not be unethical?

Marketing a worthless drug would be unethical, but producing a worthless drug would not be unethical?

Stabbing a baby with a specialized salted baby-stabbing device that has no function apart from baby-stabbing would be unethical, but manufacturing the device and salting it would not be unethical?

In other words, how is it ethical to, 1) create something which cannot by its nature be used otherwise than unethically, and 2) provide it to a person in order to enable them to put it to its unethical use?

Has the legal concept of "aiding and abetting" passed you by?
posted by prefpara at 9:36 PM on October 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


So I guess I'm the only one here besides GilloD that doesn't think he is the root of all corruption in the world?

I don't think anybody's going quite that far, but it does remind me of what GilloD wrote upthread:

A degree is just the cost of admission nowadays. I think if you still admire a college degree as some incredibly shining achievement, you're not paying attention. It's just the cost of getting into the mix.

If this is true (I think it's debatable), it is partly because of people like GilloD himself. Like I said before (in a somewhat botched fashion), cheating devalues the academic achievements of all involved, including the cheater's peers. Every time someone receives a degree through fraudulent means, everyone else's degrees become that much more suspect.

Those issues aside, that's still a pretty poor excuse. Even cheating on your third grade math homework is still wrong.

I believe, like Gillo, that turning in a paper you didn't write would be unethical, but being the one who wrote the paper would not be unethical.

That's a complete load. There are two parties to the act: the writer and the buyer. The action won't happen without both their participation. I might argue that the writer is in a worse moral position: the buyer is merely weak, lazy, and/or desperate, whereas the writer gleefully takes advantage of that. But no matter how the morality breaks down, they're both an active party to the fraud, so they're both guilty as sin.
posted by Commander Rachek at 9:58 PM on October 23, 2008


joshrholloway, if you consider a criminal action, there are aiding and abetting laws that discourage activities that benefit crimes, even though they are a step removed from actually doing it. The ethical point being made here is similar. If one performs an action to knowingly benefit from someone's immoral behavior, it doesn't exist in some moral neutral zone because the proximity to the act is slightly further away.

And actually, you can argue that in this case there's a collusion going on between two parties regarding the same end activity, where one simply stands a bit closer to the event, but both need to be present for the end result to be beneficial. A person who draws the map to rob a house isn't any less responsible than the person who actually goes out and does it from a legal (and ethical) standpoint.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:59 PM on October 23, 2008


Selling a fake ID would be unethical, but making a fake ID would not be unethical?

Your analogy is kind of off base here. I think it would be more accurate to say that by my standards making and selling a fake ID would not be unethical, but buying one and using it would be unethical. I happen to believe just that.

Marketing a worthless drug would be unethical, but producing a worthless drug would not be unethical?

I'm not really sure what you mean here, but again I think your analogy is off.

Stabbing a baby with a specialized salted baby-stabbing device that has no function apart from baby-stabbing would be unethical, but manufacturing the device and salting it would not be unethical?

Okay, now you're just getting weird.

In other words, how is it ethical to, 1) create something which cannot by its nature be used otherwise than unethically, and 2) provide it to a person in order to enable them to put it to its unethical use?

Has the legal concept of "aiding and abetting" passed you by?


I'm not talking about legality at all. There are lots of things that are illegal that I don't consider to be unethical.
posted by joshrholloway at 10:06 PM on October 23, 2008


shmegegge: I apologize for mischaracterizing the requests for Admin response; I had misread/projected their terse tone of the comments as choleric entitlement and provocative castigation and realized my error as soon as I hit Post. I wanted to retract it in a follow-up comment, but I had already missed my bus and was late for work and figured it would quickly be refuted as sloppy thinking on my part and so an apology could wait until I got home.

If it's any consolation, the bus I did catch broke down and I was even later for work than I already was, so the Universe saw to it that I got what I had coming to me.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 PM on October 23, 2008


Well, selling your labour often involves doing things that are inimical to the public good and were you doing this to feed a family I'd say shame but good luck to you. If the wolf's not at the door and your motivation is basically a bit of pocket money, best to find something else.
I think cortex was right in his initial assessment though; even the fact this is apparently illegal in certain U.S. jurisdictions doesn't sway me - partly because it's not all and partly because I agree with the argument presented above that questions on certain illegal acts should be allowed and thus illegality alone wouldn't be sufficient grounds for deletion. I do accept that the OP himself said it should go if it was shown to be illegal and it was, so here we are.
And to get into the spirit of the original motive for the question, I am available for similar pompous subjective pronouncements on all manner of thorny issues; just MeMail me for rates.
posted by Abiezer at 4:36 AM on October 24, 2008


The world where joshrholloway and GilloD live must be an interesting one. Has anyone seen the movie "Hostel"?

According to them, the people running the hostel and renting the torture rooms and killing rooms along with a victim aren't doing anything wrong, really. It's just the people who rent them to torture and kill the victims that are unethical. Setting it all up and enabling people to commit murder is not wrong at all, no siree. Why they barely do anything at all, they just take money in exchange for providing the means to commit an illegal act.

So dealers are snow-white pure while users are dirty rotten scoundrels. That godfather quote really gets to the heart of it, doesn't it?

What a load of unadulterated bullshit.
posted by splice at 5:58 AM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wrote all the term papers, class assignments and essays in college for my schizophrenic (actually, schizophreniform disorder, but he probably has the schizophrenia diagnosis by now, as his symptoms had not really receded within six months) roommate. Free of charge, even. Learned some stuff I wouldn't have learned otherwise, but mostly, I kept his professors, his colleagues, his family and the rest of our friends from noticing how nonfunctional he had become. Probably ruined my own GPA, too.

It's an outlier event and therefore, largely, irrelevant to the discussion of who really is harmed when everyone (going in) knows the transaction is unethical, with relatively serious consequences for the student who gets caught and the person who hopes to have a career in a profession that takes a very dim view of plagiarism. I just like telling the story.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:43 AM on October 24, 2008


It's going on. And it will go on without me.

"No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood."

(Yeah, I got it off a Demotivator. I still think there's a lot of wisdom in it.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:26 AM on October 24, 2008


The Term Paper Artist
posted by otio at 10:43 AM on October 24, 2008


According to them, the people running the hostel and renting the torture rooms and killing rooms along with a victim aren't doing anything wrong, really. It's just the people who rent them to torture and kill the victims that are unethical.

Jesus Christ, you people with the creepy pseudo-analogies are making me sympathetic to GilloD. It's term papers, for fuck's sake, not killing and stabbing and torturing and whatever other sick shit you're fantasizing about. No, I don't think it's a great way to make a living, either, but get serious, on the scale of Terrible Ways to Make Money this is way, way down below "sidewalk conman," which is way, way below "petty thug," which is way, way below the kind of shit you're talking about. Get a grip.

And he's right about "threats to play INTERNET SUPERHERO and e-mail my employer or school." For people to even be talking about that is disgusting. Go out and enjoy the autumn weather, you've been spending too much time on the internet. Sheesh.
posted by languagehat at 12:55 PM on October 24, 2008 [9 favorites]


shmegegge: I apologize for mischaracterizing the requests for Admin response;

awww. HUGS!

If it's any consolation, the bus I did catch broke down and I was even later for work than I already was, so the Universe saw to it that I got what I had coming to me.

The bastards got me, too. Just this morning, I missed the first bus I needed to take, and the bus that would have gotten me in only a little bit late never arrived. As I type this with one hand, my other one is shaking an angry fist at the sky.
posted by shmegegge at 1:00 PM on October 24, 2008


GilloD: You'd make more money jerking off in front a webcam, basically. Since you appear to like whoring of some kind, why wouldn't you do something that pays $3-$8 a minute?

I'm just wondering why you're doing it here, for us, for free. I guess that just makes you a slut.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


My God! It's full of sluts!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:37 PM on October 24, 2008


Jesus Christ, you people with the creepy pseudo-analogies are making me sympathetic to GilloD. It's term papers, for fuck's sake, not killing and stabbing and torturing and whatever other sick shit you're fantasizing about. No, I don't think it's a great way to make a living, either, but get serious, on the scale of Terrible Ways to Make Money this is way, way down below "sidewalk conman," which is way, way below "petty thug," which is way, way below the kind of shit you're talking about. Get a grip.

Language hat for the win.

Also, I hired somebody to write this comment for me.
posted by jonmc at 5:24 PM on October 24, 2008


and i have to say that I find the level of outrage in this thread hilarious. It just homework, for crying out loud.
posted by jonmc at 5:41 PM on October 24, 2008


I agree, it is only a college paper. Threats about involving provosts (who deal with faculty employment issues, not student discipline anyway) or the law seem silly.

I happen to care because as an overworked, underpaid professor, plagiarism eats up time I could spend on other things. From start to finish each case wastes four to five hours. That's ten episodes of South Park watched, one full lecture written, or two inner city students tutored. In other words, time spent doing something more interesting.

The silver lining to my vigilantism is that my university puts cheaters through summertime reeducation bootcamp. So in the end, we all have our time wasted.

My second response in the now-deleted thread was removed because it was off-topic. I suggested that if GilloD wanted to make money working on papers, he should seek legitimate ways to do so. The most lucrative way is to post around graduate school residential halls, engineering and science departments and offer editorial assistance for non-native speakers of English on theses, term papers, grant applications, etc. If GilloD targeted a set of departments at an area university known to be generous with funding, in no time he'd have a regular set of clients seeking out his services.

It's harder, more tedious work than one would imagine, but it's not unethical and for a recent grad, it pays really well. He could easily charge $20-30/hour starting, or even more if he could get away with it, and certainly more as he gains experience.
posted by vincele at 8:03 PM on October 24, 2008


Holy crap. I can't believe the insipid comments flying on both sides of this. Maybe metafilter needs to look into something like this.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 10:21 PM on October 24, 2008


It's Friday Wooooo

I love Metatalk Wooooooo
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:15 PM on October 24, 2008


Ok. A couple things, that will probably be lost this far down the thread.


I am working on my M.A. in English, I am a high achiever, I teach First-Year Composition, and I think what the poster wants to do is reprehensible, unethical, repugnant, and mercenary.

I don't want to be perceived as an internet stalker, but some really cursory googling about the poster (that, really, anyone could do given the name, university, and state the uni is in) pulled up an interesting article, and perhaps it has nothing at all to do with the poster at all, though if I am correct, the newspaper notice I found prompts me to ask you, GilloD:

What would your mother think about your potential paper-writing scheme?

Of course I admit that this is a rhetorically weak argument, but really, do we not receive moral grounding from our parents and then develop our own calculus from there? The reason I ask about "mom" is based upon this idea, but also because if I have correct information from my admittedly brief research, I think she might have something to say.

And really, it's just an excuse to say, in a really accusatory voice, WHAT WOULD YOUR MOTHER THINK IF SHE COULD SEE YOU NOW, ASKING ABOUT THESE TERRIBLE THINGS.

w/e, you're an adult. But your potential future actions (and even the advocacy of same) cheapen the value of my hard work, so I feel justified in taking this angle of attack.

How would you feel if you lost a promotion to a colleague who had a bought degree? Right.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:45 AM on October 25, 2008


Okay, maybe I jumped the gun, but my point stands. Unethical.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:52 AM on October 25, 2008


Wow, the assholery continues. Maybe this thread could be closed before someone starts a pitchfork mob?
posted by languagehat at 9:10 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apologies again. I don't usually act like this, and I'm sorry.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:21 PM on October 25, 2008


I'm still not sure I get the thrust of the people who are defending GilloD. So far I've seen three kinds of arguments:
1.It's not so bad because he's not the one making the choice to cheat.
2. It's not so bad because it's only school
3. It's not so bad because cheating in general isn't really a big deal.

I don't get any of the three, and welcome MeMail from anyone who cares.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:21 PM on October 25, 2008




I'd remind you that I haven't actually done anything wrong.

Bullshit. You said you wrote term papers for friends in the past, which is exactly as wrong as doing it for money.

In my mind people are free to exercise their moral and ethical authority as they see fit. If they decide they'd rather pay someone to write a paper than write it themselves, that's their business. I'm more than happy to do the labor.

It's not just "their business". The students who do their own work are competing with those who buy their papers for scholarships, internships, and places in graduate school. It's completely unfair for the cheating student to get any of these things in preference to the honest student, and by being someone who aids the cheating student you have contributed to that.

Constructing elaborate scenarios in which farming out the creation of a document somehow erodes the underpinnings of American society reminds me a little too much of the whole " ... and the moment two guys in San Francisco can exchange rings is the precise instant that Western civilization itself began to crumble!" deal.

That's a stupid comparison. Really, jawdroppingly, awesomely stupid. In the case of the hired term papers, as I have explained above, academic cheating can lead to cheating students being awarded material advantages over honest students. In the case of gay marriage, no one has yet demonstrated that gay marriage has an unfair effect on anyone in any kind of concrete, practical terms. And frankly, the comparison borders on the offensive. I am sure you didn't mean it this way, but think twice before you compare a civil rights issue like gay marriage to academic dishonesty again.

I'm glad this question was deleted. I don't think AskMe should be used to help people do unethical things. And I know we'll never all agree on what unethical means, but so far I've had very little quarrel with the mods calling them like they see them.
posted by orange swan at 6:47 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


so far I've had very little quarrel with the mods calling them like they see them.

Which mods, just so we're all clear, have long allowed questions about activities which are illegal.
posted by mediareport at 7:01 PM on October 25, 2008


I think this thread should stay. If for no other reason than to have a recorded example that yes, one can really be that stupid.
posted by c13 at 9:19 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no precedent for deleting questions about illegal or simply unethical activities on askme, so I don't really know where this is coming from. Why delete this but not the now-famous question about how best to dispose of a corpse?
posted by voltairemodern at 11:49 PM on October 25, 2008


But your potential future actions (and even the advocacy of same) cheapen the value of my hard work, so I feel justified in taking this angle of attack.

This seems to be the source of much of the displeasure on this thread. By assisting the less able or the less intelligent for money, you rob me of my rightfully earned place in the pecking order.

But of course, there are all manner of things that'll rob you of that rightful place. Rich kids whose parents bought them expensive private tuition. Good looking kids, who the teachers look favourably upon because they jerk off over them. Charismatic kids, who get the benefit of the doubt, simply because everybody loves them. None of these people 'earn' the advantage that they have. If you believe that the world works on meritocratic principles, you've got a lot of disappointment to come.

The thing that I find so interesting here is that, for all of the much vaunted ethical idealism expressed, there's been almost nobody expressing the view that, rather than a way to increase your status and income level, education is actually an investment in one's personal development and growth -- a very small proportion of creating the whole person -- and the person who is really being cheated by someone who buys a term paper is the buyer themselves. They're cheating themselves by paying for an education and not doing the actual work.

I once wrote a friend's final dissertation. He had struggled with it for months, and had no time left. I wrote it in a day and did it for free. Pleasingly, he got a distinction. Am I any more valuable as an employee or a human because of my ability to master the format and dash something off quickly, than he is, as someone who struggled with months of work, making no headway? I *know* that I'm not. The guy's worked as a designer for the last twenty years. He's never written another word since he graduated. It's possible that my assistance might have gotten him some interviews that he'd have otherwise been rejected for, but in my experience, talking to someone for more than five minutes will give you a better estimation of their abilities and their intelligence than their academic record will, and so I'm pretty sure that nobody was robbed of their rightful place in society as a consequence of my actions.

Of all the arguments against, I find mutant's most compelling. The main reason not to do this is because of the possible consequences it may have for the paper buyer. But languagehat for the win.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:16 AM on October 26, 2008


Which mods, just so we're all clear, have long allowed questions about activities which are illegal.

I'm okay with that. Morality and legality are not the same thing.
posted by orange swan at 6:16 AM on October 26, 2008


It's possible that my assistance might have gotten him some interviews that he'd have otherwise been rejected for, but in my experience, talking to someone for more than five minutes will give you a better estimation of their abilities and their intelligence than their academic record will, and so I'm pretty sure that nobody was robbed of their rightful place in society as a consequence of my actions.

So your own personal experiences are representative of the actual hiring processes of that industry?

Employers in that field don't use the lack of a degree to screen out candidates from the get-go?

Is that what you're arguing?
posted by jason's_planet at 3:08 PM on October 26, 2008


The thing that I find so interesting here is that, for all of the much vaunted ethical idealism expressed, there's been almost nobody expressing the view that, rather than a way to increase your status and income level, education is actually an investment in one's personal development and growth

In an ideal world, education is pursued as a means to this end.

In the real world, one's education is used to help get a real job. An (expensive) education is diminished by the GilloD's of the world doing their part to turn schools into diploma mills.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:07 AM on October 27, 2008


« Older NaNoWriMo 2008   |   Unethical? Check. Immoral? Check. Tell me how to... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments