Letter to the Editor: A response to News Editor Christopher McDermott's article on Oct. 24

Dear Mr. McDermott,

This letter is in response to your October 24 article "Tech Company Offers $10,000 Scholarship for Essays on Collaboration."

I'm shocked to see a university newspaper giving favorable coverage to such a shady website. It's bad enough that Course Hero is a massive repository of copyrighted course materials, such as readings, assignments, and syllabuses. These are the intellectual property of their creators (including course instructors), and uploading them without permission is illegal.

Even worse, many students use Course Hero to upload exams and essays, for which Course Hero provides "rewards." At my institution, Boston University, this is a blatant violation of the Academic Honor Code, which prohibits students from sharing these materials without the permission of the instructor. I imagine this policy is standard at most reputable universities. 

Other students pay Course Hero for access to these materials, opening the door to cheating and plagiarism. The site's message board even serves as a forum where students trade money for homework. Here is just a tiny sample of these solicitations:

"Need help on writing a research paper and you can decide the topic, but the topic has to be related to Buddhism within period 1500 BCE-1750 Ce. And you can find two legal sources from anywhere, as long as they meet the sources requirements. Details is in the following guideline. Can you can finish the paper and meet all the requirements to get an A, I can give you an extra 30 bucks."

"Please finish the document I provided below. Its due in eight hours but I can try to send it a little later. Please finish and I’ll give a good tip"

"Turnitin report will be used NO plagiarism NO copy /paste NO real business total pages 20"

"I really need some help with my assignment i need to put together a business assumption for a beauty salon am will to pay $30 for help."

A quick Google search is all it takes to learn that Course Hero is much more than "a venture-backed, crowd-sourced online platform that specializes in educational tools":

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/education/18cram.html

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/06/coursehero

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/student-help-site-course-hero-raises-plagiarism-copyright-concerns-1.3035196

http://www.statepress.com/article/2016/10/sp-mgazine-study-blues-when-using-online-materials-can-go-wrong-at-asu

It's unlikely Course Hero (and similar sights) will go away. The site claims it takes down material if the copyright owner makes a written request, which has so far kept them out of legal trouble. But students should be aware that use of the site, either as a provider or seeker of information, could result in serious disciplinary action from their institution. And it goes without saying that cheating is a disservice to the student, who won't be receiving the education they have invested in, as well as the university itself, whose reputation will suffer when these academically and morally inept individuals enter the job market.

Instead of blindly encouraging UCONN students to discover this site of ill-repute, your paper should be warning students of the risks involved. Or, even better, perhaps you should suggest students make this issue their topic for Course Hero's essay contest on "collaboration in education." 

Sincerely,

Benjamin Kochan