A man located over 12,000 km across the world stated that he has been paid to write hundreds of essays and assignments on behalf of Canadian university students over the past year. These cases represent a form of "contract cheating", a term used by the University of Toronto to describe an act involving the employment of a third party by students to complete their academic work on their behalf, usually for a fee.
The concept of contract cheating isn't new, of course. But, it wasn't a topic on which local news channels frequently reported, until news of Canadian university students committing the academic offence resurfaced last March.
An exclusive report by City News publicly surfaced dozens of posters advertising the website Ehomework.ca around U of T's St. George campus last year. The City News story initiated the launch of an investigation into the services that Ehomework.ca provides students, where it was discovered that, indeed, students were paying for someone else to do their work for them.
Using the website, a CityNews correspondent requested an essay on social issues in the Canadian criminal justice system. A note specifying the essay must be completed within 12 hours was added. The result? For a payment of $165, the completed essay was delivered within the requested timeframe.
In an exclusive investigation, @citytammie speaks with a Kenyan man who claims to have written hundreds of essays for Toronto students and @McAllister_Mark explores how common “contract cheating” is at universities in Canada. https://t.co/2a6d9fWyae— CityNews Toronto (@CityNews) February 20, 2019
Upon discovering Ehomework.ca's true function, perturbed parents, academic staff, university personnel, and even some students weren't hesitant to voice their concerns of academic transgressions and immoral practices that took place under the regulation of U of T's strict academic code of conduct. But further digging into this story has unveiled another, perhaps even more troubling, layer of ethical questions.
Now, a man in Kenya has approached Toronto news stations claiming to be the writer of CityNews' $165 "test essay" from last year. However, of the $165 received by Ehomework.ca, he was paid only $18 for his contribution. “I don’t think if you expected that your essay could be written by someone in Kenya who has no knowledge in criminal justice system,” said the man, who preferred to be called Joseph in order to protect his identity.
Joseph has admitted to writing hundreds of assignments for at least 50 students this past year. In fact, he even provided CityNews with students' logins from schools including the University of Toronto, York University, the University of Ottawa, and Simon Fraser University. He also confessed to being offered immigration assistance if he continued to work for a reduced fee for at least one year.
“The promise was that I work for him, then he can send me a formal job offer for me to immigrate to Canada. He was to withheld part of salary to facilitate my immigration process.”
Joseph earned a Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and began working for the website after responding to a Craigslist Kenya advertisement for freelance writers. He claims to be personally familiar with at least four other people working for this website.
According to Ehomework.ca's website, "We do NOT outsource our work to other countries. All our work is done by tutors in Canada and the USA who have gone to North American Universities and are native English speakers." But Joseph simply does not meet any of that criteria, and believes students who are purchasing the academic-writing service are being defrauded.
“Understand that somebody somewhere is being exploited because of your work and you’re going to use that credit to find a good job there, leaving someone like me without anything.”
The University of Toronto has reported a skyrocketing of plagiarism offences over the past four years. Just last year alone, over 1000 incidents were documented, in addition to 600 cases of "unauthorized aid". Of course, this value neglects to reflect the hundreds - if not thousands - of plagiarism and cheating offences that do not get detected by university administration.
In Canada, "legally, there's not much that can be done to prevent students from plagiarizing or purchasing fully written essays outright", according to education lawyer John Schuman. The onus falls on the student to "do the right thing" and submit papers they have personally researched and written.
“There isn’t much by way of the law in Canada that addresses this type of academic dishonesty. That’s entirely within the universities and their own codes of conduct and their own disciplinary procedures,” he says.
If students are caught, however, the penalty for such offences may vary from a reduced grade to expulsion. At the University of Toronto, students caught buying an essay are immediately expelled, even for a first offence.