Imprint: News (Friday 13 September 1996 (Volume 19, Number 9))
New web page aids plagiarism, claim professors
Sandy Atwal, Imprint staff
A new web page that compiles hundreds of student essays is designed only to help students research their work says its creator, but some professors see his venture as nothing more than an aid to plagiarism.
Ken Sahr, 25, is the mind behind School Sucks, a web page that assembles essays on topics from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray to hypogravitational osteoporosis. Sahr insists that the page is strictly a resource where students can examine the works of other students.
Sahr operates School Sucks out of Miami, where he works for Systems Integration Group, a small organization specializing in computer networks and creating web pages.
Sahr had the idea for the page last November, but waited until June to catch students returning to school. So far the page has been extremely popular, receiving nearly 58,000 hits since it started. Sahr stated to Imprint that the majority of those hits have occurred in the last two weeks. Since then, School Sucks has received “anywhere from 50 to 300 essays a week,” stated Sahr.
“My background is in journalism, and the way I look at this page is that it’s providing content. If you want to cheat, you’re not going to go to my site. All the professors know about my site,” stated Sahr, adding “Mediocrity in the academic world is nothing new. This is a way of keeping them on their toes.”
Not everyone shares Sahr’s enthusiasm. Dr. Michelle Mood, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Providence College in Rhode Island is just one professor who has written to Sahr, expressing serious concerns about his page. Many other professors have written in, claiming his page is a threat to academic achievement. In a letter to Sahr posted on his page, Mood writes “Thank you so much for getting on the web. It will be much easier to catch plagiarizers by using AltaVista than by trying to look up student sources in the library. I hope your website gets millions of papers online. I look forward to failing and expelling students who use their time in school to replicate research sources or actual papers found on the web.”
However, Sahr insists that plagiarizers will not be aided by his web page.
A disclaimer on his pages states that “School Sucks is NOT here for you to plagiarize. If you can not write a paper you shouldn’t be in school. Furthermore, almost every professor in the world now knows about School Sucks. Any student who turns in a paper from this site should be thrown out of school not only for plagiarism, but for sheer foolishness!”
Besides issues of plagiarism, Sahr has already received criticism regarding the level of academic achievement evident in the essays. Sahr readily admits that he doesn’t rate the papers, and doesn’t see this as a criticism of his page. He claims that the essays are simply a cross section of the various levels of scholastic accomplishment attained by students around the globe. He sees professors who complain about the essays as simply “passing the buck.”
Sahr sees School Sucks as a much more honest method of exchanging information than the numerous essay writing services which exist in the United States and Canada. “There are services now charging students for term papers. This is a game of hide-and-no-seek.” says Sahr. “The students quietly order the papers and the academic world pretends that such organizations do not exist.”
Organizations which write essays for money are not uncommon. Magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spin contain classified ads featuring term paper assistance, offering “unique quality papers as well as original research.”
In June of last year, Harper’s magazine featured an article by Abigail Witherspoon (a pseudonym) who wrote student essays for money at a “large Canadian university” (assumed by some to be the University of Toronto.)
Ironically, Sahr credits professors for the success of his web page. Sahr contacted various fraternities who in turn informed academic advisors and professors about the page.
“I want to thank the professors for the free publicity and spreading the word. I didn’t spread the word. Even if the professors loathe the site, they still have to check it every week. Every time they check the site, it’s another hit, which brings me closer to advertising.”
Sahr, however doesn’t see School Sucks to stay as a collection of essays. “My vision of this is that the essays will just be one aspect of the page, that eventually this will be the number one resource for university students.”
Already, the page includes a classifieds section, personals, a calendar, exam questions, reactions from professors and students and this week, School Sucks added a space for students to post their resumes for potential employers