During one of my poorer periods of my life, I found a couple ways to make some extra money. It’s not something I’m proud of nor have I done it again in years, but when you have hungry kids, you do what you have to. One of the ways was to build picnic tables for people. It’s one of the only woodworking things that can actually make a small profit based on materials and time. The other way I made extra money was a little unethical, at least to me. I used to write papers for people.
Now before I get all kinds of scolding, I will let you know that I knew it was wrong. Unfortunately, when faced with the electric bill or food, you sometimes do what you have to. You find something you can offer with what skills you have and you do it. I found plenty of college students who didn’t want to write their own papers, so I wrote them for a fee. What’s more, is that I guaranteed a “B” or better on every paper I wrote or I would give the money back.
Some of the papers were fun to write. Short fictional stories were my favorite. Some of the other papers weren’t quite as exciting. Papers based on readings were the worst because I had to read some stuff I had absolutely no interest in. Those cost extra.
One time, I actually wrote a Master’s Thesis for an instructor at a college. It was a boring 70 pages long and it was about vocational rehabilitation. After I finished, I needed rehabilitation. It paid well, however, and my kids had lights and food.
Overall, I probably wrote about 50 papers for pay. Every single one produced a “B” or better so I never had to refund any of the money. Once things were financially better, I stopped writing papers for others because of the guilt I felt. A friend tried to convince me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, it was the people buying my papers that were wrong. I don’t accept that. It would be like saying the person making the meth is not wrong, it’s the people using it that are wrong…sorry, they’re both wrong.
About a year after I wrote the last paper for pay, I was able to return to school. It was my second quarter at the school when my professor for English 102 asked me to stay after class. He was a good instructor and bore a remarkable likeness to Richard Dreyfus, most notably the character he played on “What About Bob?” I had just submitted my third paper for his class so I figured he wanted to talk to me about that. I knew I had strayed a little from the parameters he set for the paper.
PROF: Mr. Dazeodrew, I wanted to talk to you about this paper.
ME: Yes sir.
PROF: Who wrote it?
ME (a little caught off-guard): Um, what?
PROF: Did you write this paper?
ME: Yes I did.
PROF: Ok, we’re going to prove it.
After this, he had me sit down with a pad of paper and write about a lost little boy who was found after a long search by hundreds of volunteers. I took about fifteen minutes and produced a paper of about a thousand words. He read it and smiled while doing so. Then he put it down and looked at me with that same smile.
PROF: So, how long have you been writing papers for other students?
This man, this professor of English, this Richard Dreyfus lookalike, had figured out by my writing style that I had been writing papers for others. I mentioned that I felt guilty about doing that and chose, for some odd reason, to come clean. I realized that lying to a man that could figure something like this out would be a waste of time.
ME: I only did it for a little while and haven’t done it in a year or so.
PROF: Well, your papers are still circulating.
ME: Really? (I felt a mixture of pride, guilt, and just a bit of anger that I didn’t get paid for the extra use of my papers…but mostly guilt).
PROF: I thought I would never figure this out and then here you are.
ME: What now? (I thought my school days were over).
PROF: Nothing. You said you stopped and I believe you. Besides, you didn’t plagiarize, they did.
ME: But I did it willingly for money. (I just didn’t know when to shut up).
PROF: How many kids do you have?
PROF: You did it for your family?
PROF: Then we’re good.
I ended up with a solid “A” in that class. I’m also fully aware that it could’ve turned out much different. Despite what the Professor said, I knew I was just as guilty as the people who bought my papers. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not proud. I did what I thought I had to at the time. Would I do it again? With hindsight, probably not.