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Cashing in on cheating

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Student-run operation charges money for

completion of online assignments

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“Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and will not be tolerated in this class. If you are caught copying or cheating on an exam or a homework assignment you may either fail the exam/assignment or fail the course.”

This is the section labeled “Honesty” on Professor Peter Ross’ Computer Applications in Business (BITM) 215 syllabus. According to information obtained by the Albany Student Press, a number of students in the approximately 650-student course are not adhering to those rules.

According to information provided by anonymous students within the course, further verified by the ASP, it is possible that as many as 500 students have been paying other students to do their assignments. No exact number is available at this time.

It is unclear how many students are involved in the completion of assignments for payment and sources indicate that there are multiple students engaging in this kind of activity; however the ASP has learned that one student, who is also an employee of the University ITS department, reportedly made over $20,000 doing capstone assignments.

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The student, Brook Ballard, posts on various Facebook pages to solicit business.  After an agreement is made, the paying student hands over their log-in information for the homework program along (MyItLab) with the money, and their assignment is completed for them.
Ballard has taken the course, but is not enrolled in it this semester. According to emails and text messages between students in the class and Ballard, prices range from $10 for a normal homework, to $40 for lengthier “capstone” assignments.

According to the syllabus, there are three capstone assignments this semester in addition to 15 regular, “grader home works.”

According to Ballard himself, he does not charge anyone for completion of the assignments. He offers tutoring to students and help on specific questions if they ask.

“I’ve made very sure I don’t do anything against the rules,” he said.

Ballard said he offers tutoring to people who come to him, if he has the time. He does charge people for tutoring on his own accord, stating that he has a lot of experience in Excel and has done research on his own time. He said maybe a dozen people have come to him recently for help.

“I’ll make those posts early, before they are due and then people can hit me up, if I have time in my schedule I’ll meet them in the library or whatever,” he said.

Ballard stated he does not wish to turn this into a large practice and requested that any prospective clients refrain from contacting him through his personal email and Facebook, but said he will help people when he has the time.

According to multiple students who communicated with Ballard, he prompts them to meet him in the library or another agreeable location with their MyItLab information and payment.

“I know this is a problem that has been going on for some time and it’s shameful,” said one student who took the course last year and wishes to remain anonymous. “It cheats honest students.”

Another who is currently taking the course echoed their colleague’s sentiment.

“I am being cheated out of an honest grade because the grade is being inflated, therefore taking away the would-be curve.”

Professor Ross explained that over the years he has implemented multiple measures to combat cheating, including the current program through which assignments are submitted.
Ross was also not surprised at the prospect of cheating within his class, and was not sold on the number of students reportedly paying to have their work done for them.

“The grades are high, but I expected them to be A’s, B’s and C’s, and not a lot of people failing because if they do the work they’ll get a decent grade. It’s a broad enough distribution from what I’m seeing that it’s not 500 out of 650 students paying to get their homework done,” said Ross. “If that’s the magnitude that would surprise me, if he said 100 kids are paying, I’d say I could buy that,” he said.

Despite his initial reaction, Ross seemed surprised to learn that Ballard was an employee of the university.

Currently the university is working to nail down the exact number of people who are paying to have their work completed for them utilizing various methods available to them. Once a firm, accurate number is verified, the ASP will follow up accordingly.

“I don’t want my image tarnished with the school, I don’t want to be one of those kids who is like offering $100 to write an essay. I don’t do work for people. I am more than willing to help people but I don’t want to be thrown in the same group as these kids,” Ballard said.

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