The Internet may bring new dimensions to education, but some universities are concerned that students will use the Web to cheat.
Boston University recently filed a lawsuit against eight online term paper companies in response to reports that their students are purchasing independent work via the Internet.
Term paper agency advertisements appear in publications such as Playboy and Rolling Stone and can be accessed from sites like Term Paper Warehouse and Term Papers 911. Despite the sites' accessibility, University discipline officials said Princeton students should not get any ideas.
"Purchasing term papers would be treated extraordinarily seriously," said disciplinary committee member Elissa Doyle '98. "Whether you get something from a book or from the Internet is the same, and (we) would proceed under the same rules as plagiarism."
"If you are found guilty of plagiarism, the automatic punishment is a one year suspension," Doyle added.
Dean of Student Life Janina Montero commended B.U.'s efforts to combat academic dishonesty online.
"It is a good thing for institutions to come together and hinder the proliferation of this kind of business that preys on students," Montero said. "These services seem to promote plagiarism."
Montero said she enforces Princeton's strict policy against such Internet agencies. "We have very clear language. It would fall under the plagiarism regulation and would involve the disciplinary committee," she said.
"There have been no cases related to purchasing term papers off the Internet except for the famous case in which a student supposedly bought his thesis," Doyle said.
The online companies claim that the information they provide is research material and not intended to be handed in for credit, according to an article in B.U.'s campus newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Additionally, to avoid lawsuits, company Web sites include disclaimers and instructions for citation of each paper.
Princeton has demonstrated a low tolerance for academic aids, as evidenced by an incident last fall. Raj Shah '00 started Tiger Notes, an answer-key agency, this fall to help students in math classes. Shah hired graduate students to provide answers to past math exams and then sold these tests. He said his agency was shut down because the "administration does not condone student agencies that involve academic issues."
According to Doyle, the use or purchase of term papers online would be a violation of a code found in "Rules, Rights, Responsibilities."
This book outlines expected academic behavior and is distributed to all students at the beginning of each year.
"Academic fraud will be considered especially serious if . . . the student has submitted a paper prepared by another person or agency," the regulation reads.