opinion   |   oped

EDITORIAL: Essay mills are unethical

A U.K. movement to ban contract cheating may be gaining traction. Contract cheating refers to when a student buys work custom made for them by a contractor.

Contact cheating not only grants a client greater control over the product, but it often goes undetected by cheating and plagiarism programs. The companies that provide these services, referred to as essay mills, are online and consequently, difficult for universities to stop.

The submission of an essay written by someone else is plagiarism, and therefore, cheating. Students can be punished for using someone else’s work, but the detection and regulation of these online businesses is more complicated.

Controlling the use of these services is especially difficult as they are advertised on social media and near campuses.

A letter to the education secretary signed by 46 higher education heads and officials asks that the essay mills be banned in the U.K. Legislation prohibiting such businesses is a real possibility.

Such legislation already exists in New Zealand and states in the U.S. like New York. An online petition exists to bring about similar laws in the U.K.

This is not a new trend. Essay mills in different forms date back a long time, and the first recorded legal battle against them in the U.S. took place in 1972 with the case State of New York v. Saksniit, in which the New York Education Law was cited to prove that these mills are illegal. The company lost and ceased existing in New York.

Students that use essay mills hurt themselves by refusing to learn and wasting their education. Essay mills work in a student’s best interest only on a very short-term scale. In the long run, they graduate less educated and with less writing skills for the real world.

They are not the only ones being cheated, though. Honest students who do their own work pay the price, too.

While the essays themselves are often not of an exceptionally high caliber, honest students suffer in comparison. Not all students who do their own work are skilled writers, and their genuine writing may pale in comparison to work another student has purchased.

Students who find time to complete all their work themselves juggle a heavier workload and stay on the moral high ground when facing challenges. This sort of information cannot be put on applications or used to distinguish oneself in job interviews.

The essays are discriminatory toward less intelligent and less wealthy students.

Furthermore, these online streamlined essay production services undermine the independent businesses students run that offer similar services like tutoring and essay help. Of all the ways to cheat, this gentrified, corporate avenue is perhaps the least ethical to pursue. Users are simultaneously cheating and hurting independent contractors.

Cheating is wrong, regardless of the circumstances, but the influx of cheating though a corporation is especially disheartening. A study by Swansea University found that 31 million students worldwide had paid someone else to complete their work. It was also found that over the last 40 years, 3.5 percent of students had cheated, while over the past four years it has increased to 15 percent.

Cheating can seem complicated and difficult, but when it comes down to it, the solution is simple- do not cheat. Do not take classes that will tempt you to cheat. Know that you’re capable and use that capability to do your own work.

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