Academic common room
Use of my name to endorse an essay farm
underestimation · 14/05/2018 09:44
Hi all, just wondered if you would mind me getting a sense check on something?
My institution teaches a large number of Chinese students concentrated in a particular masters degree. It is sort of accepted I guess (I hate this) that some or many are paying for their essays and dissertations. However, I have just been alerted that an email I wrote to a student telling them they had done a good job is now being used to endorse the agency in China which in fact wrote the dissertation on their behalf. So in other words my name is being used to help publicise this agency's services.
I have reported this to school admin who have essentially told me there is nothing they can do. More bluntly I think they can't be arsed and they also don't want to do anything that could damage income from these students.
Has anyone else had an experience like this? What did your university do, if anything? Am I over-reacting to be really pissed off about it? I don't want my name anywhere near this agency and I am also really annoyed that I spent time 'supervising' a dissertation that the student did not write.
CFTrollsSmell · 14/05/2018 10:47
No advice but that’s terrible!
What’s happened to the student?
underestimation · 14/05/2018 13:10
Nothing has happened to the student. The powers that be are driving me mad. They first said that they couldn't identify the student so couldn't do anything. I pointed out that I can very easily identify the student as I have the original email. Then they said there was nothing that could be done as the student had already left. And so it went on. In the meantime, there's my email being merrily circulated by the agency as an endorsement of cheating. It's so frustrating. The administrator who is dealing with this (or not) is trying every tactic to get me to go away and somehow I can't let it go. I don't understand why they don't see this as damaging to their reputation - but maybe they think it's a useful advert. Come to our hallowed institution and cheat with total impunity! Grrrr.
Stricken · 14/05/2018 14:15
I think this is important and am sorry your name is attached to this site.
It sounds as if you need to go up the line to the Faculty or central University bodies - the school-level administrator may misunderstand the situation or what sanctions the institution can use. Even if the student has already left they can have their degree removed, for example.
I can imagine why most people would just let this one lie since you don't need the hassle, but academic integrity is at the core of what we do - if we stop caring about standards and probity then what are here for?
parietal · 14/05/2018 21:47
a student at my uni is about to go in front of a plagiarism panel for using an essay mill. it is taken very seriously. Otherwise it devalues the name of the university.
your uni should be doing the same. And more importantly, trying to prevent future use of essay mills. maybe more exams?
DalmatianDots · 15/05/2018 16:44
God, I would be horrified!
Anecdotally universities are becoming a lot softer on plagiarism. It needs a whistleblower, but then again there’s enough negative press already about HE.
user2222018 · 15/05/2018 18:48
Anecdotally universities are becoming a lot softer on plagiarism.
Given that universities are judged on completion rates, and TEF ratings rely on completion rates/graduate employment, it can hardly be a surprise that universities don't want students to drop out or get low degrees.
geekaMaxima · 15/05/2018 19:12
Anecdotally universities are becoming a lot softer on plagiarism
What anecdotes have you heard to this effect? Seriously wondering.
In my institution, I think we're fairly hard on plagiarism but let some shades of grey operate. For instance, we might let someone get away with "forgetting" to reference copied and pasted text once but they'll be penalised in marks. However, if they turn into a repeat offender, they'll at a minimum fail modules and can be kicked out. They can also fail or be kicked out for one offence if it's something big like having an essay farm write their coursework.
I've had a student in floods of tears in my office while swearing (despite clear evidence) that they didn't make up their final project data, but we still failed them and they didn't get an honours degree. I haven't knowingly had an essay farm student but I'd expect similar treatment.
DalmatianDots · 15/05/2018 19:20
Just a couple of friends who've had clear cut cases of plagiarism where the student has been allowed to wriggle out of it.
underestimation · 16/05/2018 10:15
We seem OK on plagiarism, where we can catch it - in other words, if a student has copied something from another source and turnitin picks it up. Students don't get chucked out necessarily but they do get warned.
One of the things that is really annoying me about this whole thing is the way I am being treated by the professional support people. Basically they want me to go away and shut-up. They say they have contacted the agency on my behalf but when I asked to see the letter/email, said he it would take too long to find it. So clearly they have not written or sent anything. I really resent being lied to on top of the thing itself. Grrrr.
In terms of trying to prevent further use absolutely nothing is being done. My sense is that the authorities here approach this with the attitude, whatever it takes to get students who can hardly speak English through the course is OK. There's no way they would introduce exams - there's no way the students could manage that. There was talk of vivas at one point but that got dropped. It's all so frustrating.
geekaMaxima · 16/05/2018 21:39
That sucks, OP. It's beyond unacceptable that professional support services are trying to bury it.
Have you tried going to the top of the tree in the university? Email the head of registry, cc the pro vice chancellor / dean / whatever with responsibility for student learning at central university level, plus the head of postgraduate affairs at central university and faculty if you have one, plus your HoD... and lay out your concerns succinctly. It's difficult to ignore when it's a very public paper trail through senior management.
Of course, you'd need to have ovaries of steel to raise the issue in that way, as there could well be repercussions (depending on the culture of the university/dept). But if you're really angry about it, it could be worth it. You could raise it verbally with your HoD to soften the ground if they don't already know.
moimichme · 26/05/2018 09:10
I agree that this is tricky, and I'd be horrified and very angry if I were in your situation OP. I would definitely speak to HoD or perhaps a teaching and learning fellow/rep, if you have one?
For what it's worth re: plagiarism, my strategy has been to set assignments (where possible) where it's too specialised for the student to simply have someone else do it. For example, a mini-experiment where the student has to collect new data, or a report with responses to specific questions that rely on their data analysis (where the data changes each year). Not perfect and I don't know if it would really help with the essay farms/faking the actual data in the dissertation, but at least it's not yet another essay on topic X that they can buy cheaply!
On the other hand, I've been involved in a plagiarism case with a final year UG student who had been caught 3 times and only got a slap on the wrist (again), with incredibly sympathetic responses from the panel...because I guess nowadays student retention and support is far more important than having any academic standards.
underestimation · 30/05/2018 15:52
Yes, agreed - academic standards are increasingly nowhere to be seen!
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