[Reader-list] The man who writes your students' papers tells his story

Chintan Girish Modi chintan.backups at gmail.com
Mon Nov 15 10:31:33 IST 2010

Excerpts from http://chronicle.com/article/article-content/125329/

The Shadow Scholar
The man who writes your students' papers tells his story

By Ed Dante

*Editor's note: Ed Dante is a pseudonym for a writer who lives on the East
Coast. Through a literary agent, he approached *The Chronicle* wanting to
tell the story of how he makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay
company and to describe the extent of student cheating he has observed. In
the course of editing his article, *The Chronicle* reviewed correspondence
Dante had with clients and some of the papers he had been paid to write. In
the article published here, some details of the assignment he describes have
been altered to protect the identity of the student.*


I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in
sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy.
I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration,
and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor
relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security,
airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing,
philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology,
literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online
universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for
someone else. You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that
you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an
academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that.
Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you
can't defend against, that you may not even know exists. I work at an online
company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating
original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating
students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic
year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

>From my experience, three demographic groups seek out my services: the
English-as-second-language student; the hopelessly deficient student; and
the lazy rich kid. For the last, colleges are a perfect launching
ground—they are built to reward the rich and to forgive them their laziness.
Let's be honest: The successful among us are not always the best and the
brightest, and certainly not the most ethical. My favorite customers are
those with an unlimited supply of money and no shortage of instructions on
how they would like to see their work executed. While the deficient student
will generally not know how to ask for what he wants until he doesn't get
it, the lazy rich student will know exactly what he wants. He is poised for
a life of paying others and telling them what to do. Indeed, he is acquiring
all the skills he needs to stay on top. As for the first two types of
students—the ESL and the hopelessly deficient—colleges are utterly failing
them. Students who come to American universities from other countries find
that their efforts to learn a new language are confounded not only by
cultural difficulties but also by the pressures of grading. The focus on
evaluation rather than education means that those who haven't mastered
English must do so quickly or suffer the consequences. My service provides a
particularly quick way to "master" English. And those who are hopelessly
deficient—a euphemism, I admit—struggle with communication in general.

The subject matter, the grade level, the college, the course—these things
are irrelevant to me. Prices are determined per page and are based on how
long I have to complete the assignment. As long as it doesn't require me to
do any math or video-documented animal husbandry, I will write anything. I
have completed countless online courses. Students provide me with passwords
and user names so I can access key documents and online exams. In some
instances, I have even contributed to weekly online discussions with other
students in the class.

I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers
at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems,
lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it's hard to
determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I'd say
education is the worst. I've written papers for students in
elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training
courses. I've written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and
I've synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during
classroom observations. I've written essays for those studying to become
school administrators, and I've completed theses for those on course to
become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the
frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future
educators of America, I know who you are.)

I haven't been to a library once since I started doing this job. Amazon is
quite generous about free samples. If I can find a single page from a
particular text, I can cobble that into a report, deducing what I don't know
from customer reviews and publisher blurbs. Google Scholar is a great source
for material, providing the abstract of nearly any journal article. And of
course, there's Wikipedia, which is often my first stop when dealing with
unfamiliar subjects. Naturally one must verify such material elsewhere, but
I've taken hundreds of crash courses this way. After I've gathered my
sources, I pull out usable quotes, cite them, and distribute them among the
sections of the assignment. Over the years, I've refined ways of stretching
papers. I can write a four-word sentence in 40 words. Just give me one
phrase of quotable text, and I'll produce two pages of ponderous
explanation. I can say in 10 pages what most normal people could say in a

How good is the product created by this process? That depends—on the day, my
mood, how many other assignments I am working on. It also depends on the
customer, his or her expectations, and the degree to which the completed
work exceeds his or her abilities. I don't ever edit my assignments. That
way I get fewer customer requests to "dumb it down." So some of my work is
great. Some of it is not so great. Most of my clients do not have the
wherewithal to tell the difference, which probably means that in most cases
the work is better than what the student would have produced on his or her
own. I've actually had customers thank me for being clever enough to insert
typos. "Nice touch," they'll say.

So how does someone become a custom-paper writer? The story of how I got
into this job may be instructive. It is mostly about the tremendous
disappointment that awaited me in college. My distaste for the early hours
and regimented nature of high school was tempered by the promise of the
educational community ahead, with its free exchange of ideas and access to
great minds. How dispiriting to find out that college was just another place
where grades were grubbed, competition overshadowed personal growth, and the
threat of failure was used to encourage learning.

Although my university experience did not live up to its vaunted reputation,
it did lead me to where I am today. I was raised in an upper-middle-class
family, but I went to college in a poor neighborhood. I fit in really well:
After paying my tuition, I didn't have a cent to my name. I had nothing but
a meal plan and my roommate's computer. But I was determined to write for a
living, and, moreover, to spend these extremely expensive years learning how
to do so. When I completed my first novel, in the summer between sophomore
and junior years, I contacted the English department about creating an
independent study around editing and publishing it. I was received like a
mental patient. I was told, "There's nothing like that here." I was told
that I could go back to my classes, sit in my lectures, and fill out
Scantron tests until I graduated.

I didn't much care for my classes, though. I slept late and spent the
afternoons working on my own material. Then a funny thing happened. Here I
was, begging anybody in authority to take my work seriously. But my
classmates did. They saw my abilities and my abundance of free time. They
saw a value that the university did not.

It turned out that my lazy, Xanax-snorting, Miller-swilling classmates were
thrilled to pay me to write their papers. And I was thrilled to take their
money. Imagine you are crumbling under the weight of university-issued
parking tickets and self-doubt when a frat boy offers you cash to write
about Plato. Doing that job was a no-brainer. Word of my services spread
quickly, especially through the fraternities. Soon I was receiving calls
from strangers who wanted to commission my work. I was a writer!

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