Thursday, October 20, 2005

Surprising that her name isn't Ashley

The story of the Wal-Mart heiress, Elizabeth Paige Laurie, who paid her roommate $20,000 to do all her college work for her, is all over the 'net today. Check out this story. Or listen to it on NPR. And here is John Stossel's story about it on ABC's 20/20, subtitled "Cheating Has Never Been Easier--Especially for the Wealthiest Students."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't see what the problem is. Obviously Bud Walton made all that money so his precious grandbabies could buy whatever they want, including their college degree.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Michael Stiber said...

Thanks to the miracle of the web, you don't even need to be especially wealthy to do this. There are plenty of web sites that act to match students who want their homework done for them with others who have what they want.

11:32 PM  
Blogger Michael Stiber said...

And, yes, I should probably read the linked news article before posting a comment. But I so enjoy seeing my name in print.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Stiber! Maybe you should pay someone to leave blog commments for you.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so sad.
so so sad.
Some people will never learn to do things for their own.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's an article on academic incompetence (or supreme slackerhood?), and it says " The Palace in Auburn Hills, where the National Basketball Association's young basketbrawlers -- joined by an assortment of beer throwing, chair chucking out-of-control Detroit Piston fans -- reeked havoc a few weeks back."
That's a pretty stinky spelling of wreaked.

The author of this piece appears to have some axes (some legit, some not) with Chinamart.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Nice Lady said...

Doesn't surprise me out of a year's growth. What makes the whole story is that Miss Heiress wouldn't even pay enough to her stand-in to allow said stand-in to continue at USC.

Not strictly on topic, but.... I recently gave an exam, and the next day received an email from a student in the class, telling me that some students had been cheating (method unspecified). So, I just finished grading these exams, and did notice that a number of the answers were strikingly similar (among a group of folks that hang together, and who were doing poorly enough that they might well have been tempted). The only problem was that the answers were wrong !!!!!

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Kevin (female) said...

I'd like to start this comment with the word, "unbelievable". Sadly, I cannot.

Middle daughter is a junior in a public TX uni, majoring in hotel/restaurant management. (She's a true foodie, what can I say?) Is taking her required non-science-major biology class this semester. Dry, boring lectures-only by a dessicated old prof who seems one step away from being pickled in the formaldehyde jar himself. She absolutely detests the class.

Daughter jokingly said the other day, "If we had enough money I could pay a biology major to get a fake student ID with her picture and my name on it and she could take all the tests for me."

Color me old, menopausal and hopelessly naive, but my jaw dropped.

EPL-type behavior looks to be SOP on college campuses today, and everyone on campus knows it.

The irony here -- our daughter's middle name is Page. At least we left out the additional affected "i" when we named her.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story sends rage through my veins. What is funny is that these billionaires didn't get there without someone working hard. The rest of the people, EPL and her parents, have probably done nothing to deserve what they have. Yet, they have all this power because a parent/grandparent worked really hard. Maybe instead of leaving your family billions, you leave your billions to help the hundreds of thousands of Americans who live in extreme poverty. Or maybe you help with the hunger in Africa. At least your billions would serve a purpose other than spoiling people who have no integrity, heart, intelligence, or character.

Values, my ass. Since when is being an elitist, work for nothing, piss on others kind of person constitute values?
If these are the values that Americans should try to live up to, I'll look for another place to raise my daugther.

There is no honor in being spoiled and never having to work for anything. It's about as low as you can be in society.

I think it's time to stop putting up with people who think they are entitled. I don't care how rich, how powerful you are, you should always strive toward some dignity, some purpose. Otherwise, what are you? A well fed, well pampered animal?

10:36 AM  
Anonymous handworn said...

I agree with most of the above comments, if not all. My first thought, though, was this-- the roommate settled for $20,000? The Walton family has more money than God, and she's accepting that piddly little amount for doing something that could and should get her kicked out of school?

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Call me a spoiled brat since I've never had a job and have lived very comfortable all my life.
However, I've got good morals and don't cheat. And because of that, I make higher grades than before. hmm.

Certain classes we're forced to take makes me pissed. Very. Universities are more greedier and want more tuition and tack on these god aweful requirements for classes. Frankly, if I had a bit more backbone and the money I wouldn't think it's such a bad thing to pay someone off to get them out of the way. When has higher education become another obstacle and not something enjoyable anymore?

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what was she doing for 3 1/2 years? Not shopping at Wallyworld. And living in a dorm, puhleeze? Seems like the reserves would frown upon cheating for cash.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's great that you've never had to have a job. My guess is that you're going to school so that you do get a job? Either way, education is good for personal enlightenment and/or for career opportunities.

While I understand it may piss you off that you have to take some classes that you don't find relevant, I'm going to encourage you to brush up on your grammar and spelling.

Just a hint, you may want to learn what a run-on sentence is. And while you are at it, you might want to understand what an incomplete sentence is. Additionally, pay attention to the spelling of awful, and more greedier is not correct. Hopefully, you will not see these errors as obstacles and you will enjoy learning these things.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Ms. Ordinary said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I forgot something. You have lived comfortably all your life. You may want to learn about adverbs as well.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Stefaney said...

Hillary is so totally right. I mean, my Dad owns this completely huge business. I won't say the name here, but let me just say that you ALL know it. I don't even see WHY I need a college education. I mean I so appreciate the chance to make some really diverse, fabulous friendships and grow as a person both spritually and mentally. But I already know I'm going to work at my Dad's business!! So like he'll show me whatever I need. And if I don't know something, I'll just ASK one of the people I hire to help me. So like, I guess I need the college education to prove to you people that I'm legit or something, but I so know that I am legit already. I don't know. I don't mean to sound totally stuck up, but I think like being around wealth and success and stuff is the absolute best education in the world.

4:02 PM  
Blogger A. G. Rud said...

Why is this a new story? All your links are a year old. I don't get it.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the impromptu grammar lesson,

I wish people would quit taking themselves so gosh-darn seriously! The best part about the Phantom Prof and her work here is that she's willing to make you laugh and inform you and teach you, but she's still keeping things in perspective. She knows a hell of a lot more about writing than most of us, but have you seen her patronize us about that? Nope. That's why we're here, right?

So why are we spending our time nit-picking other people's grammar -- anonymously, might I add? This is a blog. And these are short comments meant to be quick and simple, not something we should worry about proofreading before we post.

Let's keep this enjoyable, okay?


And as for Page Laurie, I don't see why she went to college to begin with. What good is that little piece of paper from USC going to do her if she has no interest in learning anything? She's got all the paper she's going to need for her interests.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

There are so many Stefaneys and Paiges in this world. The fact that they grow up around "wealth and success and stuff" isn't anything to look down on... it's just another way people live. Such is life.

However - it doesn't mean that they are "above" those of us who actually value our college education. Stefaney, Hillary - if you are too good for making yourself well-rounded through a traditional university education, please do not come to our universities. I am sure that that Dad will help you learn all the ins and outs of the family business, and there's always Junior League and things like that to keep you occupied in your spare time.

But please, don't ruin our respected universities by coming here, demanding good grades for dollars, treating your professors like your hired help at home, and cheating and drinking your way through your "higher" education experience. If you don't have any need to go to college, why go in the first place? And if you still choose to do it for the "experience" and the "networking," please take it for what it is and at least *attempt* to learn something from the experience. Do not look down on the rest of us who are actually here to learn something.

7:24 PM  
Blogger ponygirl08 said...

Being a college student I'm going to defend the others in saying - you don't have to have money to cheat, anyone/everyone does it. Just because a lot of our local college students do have a job waiting for them when they get out doesn't make them any less human.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Red River said...


Can you imagine if EPL's proxy had FAILED all the finals her last semester?

12:55 PM  
Anonymous lucille said...

Ay yi yi. Hillary reminds me of my mom's mantra that money can't buy you looks, brains, or class (or even, apparently, an 8th-grade-level education in English grammar). Um, poor little rich girl, higher education is supposed to be an obstacle: a meritocracy to compete with an aristocracy. Doesn't mean it works that way in practice, but that's the theory.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Initially I had to laugh that the proxy settled for such a low amount. I would have asked for at least all of my tuition for the next four years including housing, textbooks, and other expenses. After all, Ms. Paige can certainly afford it. Of course, that would only work if I was so inclined as to sell my reputation, integrity, and honesty, which I am not. I think I have to agree with one of the commenters above, people like her should not soil our universities with their clear lack of ethics. If they are going to work for mommy or daddy and don't need the education from a college, that is perfectly fine. They can go "work" for mommy and daddy, or more than likely "supervise" while others actually do the real work. I also can't help but wonder why the change of conscience from the proxy.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Greg - Cowboy in the Jungle said...

This story is the same as it always has been. Only the names change.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong, I love John Stossel... But what bothers me about his story is the light in which he has painted the girl who wrote all of Paige's papers. I'm not sure about at USC, but where I go to school she would be in violation of the honor code just as much as Paige. In the state of texas what she did is actually a violation of the state fraud statute; carrying with it the penalty of a class C misdemeanor, up to a $500 fine and nice mark on your criminal record. Now she has come forward to have her 15 minutes... yet she is the one who made it so easy for the girl to cheat in the first place. I attend a school where cheating is rampant. Those of us who choose to do our own work get the short end of the stick... We work harder and are often graded in comparison to those who do cheat... Cheaters further devalue our education, when they graduate they are representing themseleves to have earned the same degree as me; but they do not have the same skills, work ethic, etc... So much for a level playing field.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

sorry I suck at grammar. (I)Guess you guys weren't on the scholarship board that gave me full tuition scholarship at my previous school, and half tuition scholarship here at SMU based totally on merit and not income or athletics.
That aside, I was bringing up a point, no matter how distracted everyone is with my god-awefully horrible grammar, that perhaps if the system which everyone adores adds to the problem. We never blame the preacher for what the churchgoers do?

Maybe it would make everyone feel better if I say I hate Bush. there. Am I one of you guys now?
I will keep in mind some of the nasty things that are said towards me. Just because I speak out doesn't mean others don't think it.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

I graduated with two degrees from SMU with a 3.89 GPA.

I never cheated. Not once. Ever. I studied and did my own work, even though I hated a lot of my classes. I was a business major to please the familial units - I didn't care for it at all. But I never cheated to get through it; I'm a stronger and smarter person than that.

I don't want to hear this nonsense about "Everyone does it so it is not a big deal." It still doesn't make it right, and it's a mockery of what the educational system is supposed to be. Anyone remember the Phantom Prof's blog entry of a few months ago where she compiled a grammar test out of a FOURTH-GRADE text that college students *still* failed? Does that strike anyone as strange? Anyone? Bueller?

No wonder our jobs are all going to India and China when the United States work ethic is "do the least amount of work for the most credit possible." And that's in higher education! It's pathetic.

So don't complain when your job gets outsourced to Anuradha in India - she was doing calculus at age twelve while you were cheating on your long division homework. You reap what you sow, and consider yourself lucky if you can get away with it for a season.

"Just because I speak out doesn't mean others don't think it."
I'm not singling you out, Hillary... but don't you think it's really kind of sad that so many people DO think this way, even and especially those on academic scholarships?

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stefaney and Hillary --

You won't need your education until your parents die and leave you in charge. The point of higher education shouldn't be simply vocational -- there are technical schools that do it much better and faster -- the point of your higher education is to give you the knowledge and perspective to make good decisions for yourself.

Your responsibilites will be significantly higher than us "normal" people, as you have the lives and welfare of others riding on your decisions -- that is what it means to own and manage a (in Stephaney's words) HUGE company.

If you choose not to take the educatinoal opportunities given to you, you'd better hope mommy and daddy hire some good managers and that those people stay with you once they are gone. If I were a good manager and was left working for a poorly educated spoiled little rich girl -- I'd start looking for another job, because I'd see the company either morally corrupt (Enron-style) or out of business in 5 years.

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I too am in the business school and outsourcing is a very scary thing, especially technology majors like myself.
Perhaps you should keep in mind the countries like China and Japan who's suicide rate is double ours due to their faster pace of life. I'm not sure if I'd like to compete with something like that.

And thanks again for telling me 'mommy and daddy won't be around forever to support you' as if I haven't heard that my entire life. Hence why I'm here at college and making good grades. News flash - we're perfectly aware the position we're in. So we were born in a position where our parents handicap us slightly. But did you guys ever think that maybe Stephanie knows more about the business than some newly graduated college student who's only read about it in the book.

We are good kids. I never cheat. I'm just saying when so many people get away with cheating their way through college it makes us who work our asses off feel less accomplished. People will do what they want, cheat. You can't always stop it. You can put less emphasis on how higher education is just another requirement to life you 'have to deal with' and more emphasis on learning for fun and/or future survival.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous AJT_LEO said...

Hi Professor,

I'm a long time reader, first time commenter. Good blog; I enjoy all the stories of the upper-middle-class Jonesers. This comment doesn't apply to any specific post, but to something else. I have been reading a blog about an EMT and his daily toils, but his grammar is atrocious (my grammar is probably less than stellar, too), and just about every sentence is a fragment or a run-on. I was hoping that you could take a gander at his blog and subtly suggest some grammar guidelines. That might make his day, and it would certainly make mine. The blog link is



10:03 AM  
Anonymous lucille said...

Wait -- whaaatt? Someone who writes and thinks as badly as Hillary and has the $$ not to have to work can get a full or half "merit" scholarship while my middle-class students, some extremely talented, work 40-hour weeks to get through the public university where I teach? How can this be true? I don't buy it.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

You really shouldn't judge so harshly.
Thanks for trying to make the world a small, simple, and ugly one.

I've never had a job because my parents don't want me to. I do volunteer quite a bit every summer. Why am I trying to prove myself to you again? I forget. As a teacher you should have learned long ago to stop being so narrow minded and more supportive. I've always had very wonderful teachers but the way you think disturbs ME also.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Oh, and I must have cheated my way through all of that.
Whatever helps you sleep at night!

4:09 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

My problem is not that Hillary cheats or doesn't, but that she thinks it's justified because higher ed is just not enough fun. College has become the new high school, which is sad for those of us who value higher education. If, like Stefaney, you don't think you need college, then why are you there? If you know what you want to do and you are reasonably convinced of your ability to do it without further education, then go do it and stop taking merit-based scholarship money from students who need it and appreciate its value. Enough of my students like to point out that Bill Gates doesn't have a degree that my pat response is to ask why they think they don't need one either. For some people, college is not the road to what they want to do. You want to be an HVAC technician? God bless, you'll spend two years in school and end up making more money than I will, to be sure. If you do a job well, support yourself and your family, then no one has any ground to criticize you. A college education doesn't make someone a better person, it just makes them more educated.

The response I usually get, and one that I would expect from Hillary and Stefany, is "I'm in college because my parents made me, and they're paying my bills". Well, they're paying your bills because you don't have a job, and if the reason you don't have a job is because your parents don't want you to, then maybe you're not quite as mature as you have led yourself to believe. If you think college is unnecessary, if you think college is a waste of your time, if you think you're adult enough to handle life without a diploma, then do it, or shut the hell up.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I think everyone's taking me way too serious. It's fun to play devil's advocate every once in a while. Chill out people.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillary: you make us college-level teachers sad. We see excellent students struggle to make ends meet, or drop out exhausted because of jobs and family commitments. We see mediocre students end up making tons of money from their connections (one of them is "our" president). We ourselves are paid far less than your parents and our kids *have* to have summer and school-year jobs. We do what we do out of intellectual passion, not for your fun, or even really for students like you, because you yourself admit you don't really need us. It's actually not our job not to judge you, unless that judgment results in an unfair grade. And I grade even students I hate fairly, on the basis of their work. But I reserve my right to join the Prof and Lucille here in not respecting you on my own private time, or on someone else's blog time.

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Don't speak for all college-level teachers. That's a bit presuptuous.
If you want to outrightly attack me, keep in mind that the majority of the kids in college have a similar viewpoint. I admit when I first started out I was so excited and passionate... what happened? I discovered corruption in the system. By telling me how much it makes your life miserable doesn't change my opinion. I just figure you're one of those teachers who doesn't know their students (where cheating can usually run rampant).
It's a shame areas where people are passionate in college are non-lucrative. I guess you can thank our current politicians. I've yet to see an Accounting major passionate... Who voted for our current president? Us. It looks like you teachers didn't do such a good job afterall?
(seriously, don't take everything I'm saying personal. I'm really not this disrespectful but this seems more open than a classroom. I'm just trying to get you to think)

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Max said...

What an outpouring of bile.

Hillary, I am a professor at a large midwestern university and I take no offense at your comments. Rather, I find the attacks made against you totally unjustified. You simply mentioned that you come from a wealthy family, have never cheated, have earned an academic scholarship, but you find some of the classes at university to be not worthwhile. I see nothing blameworthy here.

In return your grammer has been attacked. It is generally understood grammatical standards are somewhat relaxed in this type of forum. Commenters have twisted your words to assert you are demanding "good grades for dollars", that you are a "poor little rich girl", that you and your type are the cause of job oursourcing (!), that you should "shut the hell up" seeing as how you make "teachers sad."

Let's be honest: Your real crime to have been born into a wealthy family.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hillary isn't being attacked because she was born into a weathly family. Some weathly families, like some poor families, value education and hard work. Hillary is not presenting herself as someone who respects education and continues to spout off about how she doesn't work and doesn't appreciate higher education, while she brags about being an "A" student. Honestly, I would love Hillary if she made her case without making grammatical errors that make her sound...well, dumb. She just sounds dumb and spoiled. That's why I have a problem with what she's saying. And if she were poor and ignorant, I'd have a problem with that, too. Money doesn't matter in her case. The fact that she sounds ignorant does matter.

She said not to take her so seriously. She said she just wants us to think. OK. I'll buy that. I'll think about what she's said, and honestly, I'm impressed with how she's taken this. At the same time, I'd like to challenge her to think.

One more thing, of course, bloggers don't expect one to write everything correctly. However, blatant mistakes, like more greedier, really sound ignorant, especially for someone in higher education. And she didn't make one dumb error, she made several. If we don't hold people, rich or poor, to some standards, we'll continue down a path where not even higher educated students speak intelligently. Personally, I don't want to live in that world.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes bought a house in Ottawa Hills--a rich, rich neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. Prof. -- any thoughts on this as you were once a Toledoan?

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

There's no shame in being born rich. No shame in being born poor either.

There's no shame in believing that higher education is compulsory, nor in learning from the "real world."

There is no shame in going to a two-year technical school and acquiring skills for real life, going to a four-year university and getting a degree in art history, or dropping out of college entirely and founding a company like Microsoft.

The shameful thing that I see in so many university students these days is what I said earlier, and I will reiterate: The idea that doing no work and getting all the credit is completely acceptable. That cheating is okay because "everyone does it."

It's not an income issue. The welfare queen who refuses to get a job because the dole is providing her weekly manicures and the rich spoiled brat who lives on Daddy's money indefinitely and looks down on people who "have" to work are one and the same. They are both exploiting the system and not putting anything into it while expecting everything to be handed right to them on a silver platter. This is what I see as the shameful thing, the immoral thing.

And it is slowly replacing the "Protestant work ethic" as the American standard.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

The idea that Hillary puts forth is that some of the stuff in college is unnecessary so it would be justified to cheat. Perhaps some things in college are unnecessary. I thought that some of the classes I had to take did nothing for me beyond fulfill a requirement. Why did I have to take calc? No idea, but the fact that I don't see the value in it, or even further, the fact that there IS no value in it does not justify cheating. Hillary doesn't hold this idea because she comes from a wealthy family, she holds it because she doesn't value her education. She's not alone, and that particular club has no income requirements to get in. Education is intended to transmit knowledge, develop skills, and imbue ethics that are then employed beyond the school itself. If you don't need those things, if you know, if you can do, if you have ethical standards, then don't come to college and take opportunities away from students who will value the experience available to them.

As an aside, the idea that something is unnecessary so there's no reason to do it well is precisely what drives the sort of exploitative business practices we see all too often.

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I do not think cheating is acceptable at all. The point that I was trying to make is that everyone points the finger at the kids who cheat. Cure the sickness instead of discover a vaccine.

I think it's a sad thing that most students don't appreciate the classes that we're forced to take. I've had good classes forced on me like philosophy. I've had nightmare classes like accounting. I'm an intelligent person (at least on paper) who doesn't have the need to cheat. I know a ton of peers who just can't do their own work though. They're not going to stop cheating when you say "no, no!" They're going to stop cheating when teachers stop giving multiple choice exams and stop being so lazy and start grading on an individual basis. Teachers can't grade on an individual basis because they're not getting paid enough and their classes are too large. Their classes are too large because college has become another four years of high school. There we go, a bit of system corruption.
I'm surprised that not more people see this. Cheating is just another way of outsourcing. It's the American way... and we're sacrificing quality. That's what we reward in our country.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Retired Professor said...

For me, the most important point Hillary has made is the following:

"I admit when I first started out I was so excited and passionate... what happened? I discovered corruption in the system."

I have taught in an Ivy League university all my working life. I am well known as a scholar in my own small field, with permanent contributions and an international reputation to my credit. However, as the years went by, I became more and more aware of my university's inner workings, and those of higher education in general.

Much to my sorrow, my own experience confirms what Hillary says. The amount of dishonesty, at times even outright corruption, that I have seen at all levels and in all sectors of the system of higher education is simply overwhelming. I have seen it in students, in faculty both tenured and untenured, in staff, in administrators and maybe even in the highest levels of university governance.

Though I tried at first, in the end I could do nothing about it except keep my own tiny corner of academe clean, and help an occasional student who otherwise might have been savaged by the corruption. Eventually I could stand it no more, and so I retired.

Like Hillary, I was excited and passionate when I began to teach. I am still excited and delighted by many of the students I have met over the years, including some of those who have come to the same conclusion as Hillary.

But I can no longer respect what I have seen of higher education in this country. It seems to me not to be a matter of a few rotten apples in the barrel. Rather, the barrel itself has become infected with rot, so that most apples that are put in it will eventually become rotten to some degree. It has become a systemic problem in modern academe.

With apples and barrels, one can dump all the apples and burn the infected barrel; then one can have a cooper make a new barrel and get new apples to put in it. I regret that I do not know how one might disinfect a systemically infected system of higher education ...

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You finally made a post that made a good argument and allowed me to see your point.

Thank you, and I see what you are saying finally. I agree that's it's corrupt. And the Ivy League professor's comments above are sad.

What will we do when intelligent, passionate people no longer have the energy to believe in good deeds? Has the world really become so rotten that the cheaters and those without integrity run amok with corruption? Maybe we're on a path of self-destruction. Sometimes you have to self-destruct before you can see your shortcomings. This can be seen in other areas of our lives, not just in education.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...


That's the first time you've framed your argument in a productive way. For what its worth, I based my last post off of this: Frankly, if I had a bit more backbone and the money I wouldn't think it's such a bad thing to pay someone off to get them out of the way. When has higher education become another obstacle and not something enjoyable anymore?

I agree that there are problems that go beyond the individual student, and more than a few of those rest with faculty who make it too wasy to cheat or who think of cheating as something one student does once in a while. The problem is endemic and those of us in higher ed are damned foolish if we think otherwise. The people you point to, the ones who can't do their own work, are the real problem. My classes are too large for me to teach effectively because the university I attend has open enrollment for in-state students. Even without open enrollment, my last institution was stuffed to the gills with students who had no business in higher ed. They weren't prepared or they weren't interested, or they weren't getting anything out of it. They shouldn't be there. Faculty could better balance teaching and research if the teaching side didn't necessitate grading 250+ papers at a time. Graduate students would become better teachers if faculty had more time to mentor them in effective teaching. Students would have a better overall education if they were able to get into smaller clsses and get more individual attention. That can't happen as long as students think of college as high school without parents.

2:52 PM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

Hillary, thank you for spurring such a lively conversation. And thank you all for taking time to participate on my blog. I'm amazed every time I log on and find 350 new emails to read. Stay with me. I'm slow-blogging right now because of my own writing assignments, but I have more posts to come.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Max said...


I disagree with your placing the blame for cheating on lazy underpaid teachers who take shortcuts such as giving multiple-choice exams. As an example of ``system corruption'' this is rather trivial. There is rarely a need to grade on an individual basis (fine arts may be an example). The point of examinations is to determine whether students have grasped a defined body of knowledge, the scope of which is not determined relative to the individual student. Instruction may be tailored to the individual, given obvious constraints, but examination is a more general process. More narrowly, there is nothing inherently good or bad about multiple-choice exams. They are appropriate in some situations, but not in others. Many professional bodies (e.g. medicine, finance) rely in part on multiple choice based certification exams.

In your first post you mentioned you were annoyed at being required to take certain classes, the purpose of which was to increase revenue for universities. I earlier said I saw nothing wrong with this comment. However, your last post suggests you consider accounting to be such topic. In one post you describe accounting students as lacking passion and in your last post you contrast it to classes you forced to take but considered valuable (e.g. philosophy). How a business school student, even a technology major, could claim accounting to be irrelevant is quite beyond me. I did not particularly enjoy the accounting classes I've had to take in the past, but I find a business student calling them irrelevant rather difficult to fathom. Perhaps I am misinterpreting your posts.

Finally, I’ve spent over 20 years in academe and I retain great respect for higher education in the US. There are many things I don't like about the system; give me a beer and I'll share them with you! However, I totally reject the idea that the system is ``systematically infected.''

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

Wow. Hillary might as well be me four years ago. At that time, I shared her major, her idealism, and her feelings towards accounting. (And way to go on the not cheating part, girl. You're above the majority, and I've been on both sides of the issue long enough to know.)

In the past four years, I graduated, worked for Arthur Andersen, substitute-taught when that obviously didn't work out, and now run a lab at SMU. And I've seen corruption and low standards everywhere, from the fast-paced world of consulting to the special-ed class where the teachers, feeling unappreciated, did as little as THEY could for the students who needed it the most. I've seen corruption in my church, where the powers that be cut outreach budgets from 50-90 percent and then give the bishop a $6,000 raise. I've talked to friends who can give practical advice how to pay off the cops when needed. Corruption is rampant everywhere, and it's an eye-opening moment to find out that most of the world is like that.

YES, the system needs to be changed. But it's not going to be changed by people who lower their own expectations or effort in response to the corruption. It won't be changed by blowhards who cheated their way through school and have the equivalent of a fourth-grade reading level. It will be changed by those angered by the system, those who are willing to work their asses off to replace those who are feeding off their own indolence. These are the ones who vow to be better educators than those who educated them.

But we are ALL responsible for what we do. Students can't just blame it on teachers and cheat with impunity, just as teachers can't just blame it on students and slack off in the classroom while kissing up to the dean. The ideal situation is effort and purpose on both sides.

It's an issue I still struggle with: How do you face corruption in everyday life without getting jaded and world-weary? How do you keep that passion in the face of people who use their influence instead of their efforts to get credit? And how do you keep from turning into one of those people?

But yeah, accounting sucked. No one ever promised us that everything we have to learn would be fun (reading financial statements is basic cultural literacy) but that doesn't stop it from sucking. Sorry to any accountants out there who really love it. It takes people of all colors to make a rainbow :P

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Misinterpreted a bit. I wasn't saying Accounting is irrevelent. Accounting is obviously a major concern with the recent Enron scandal. I might be so bold to say, however, that the public university I went to previously made it nearly impossible for students to grasp everything that they wanted us to know - impossible. The common trend was to take the class one semester right until the deadline for withdrawing and then drop it. Then, take it the next semester because it was the only way to keep up with the material they throw at you. The class, which was required, had a 75% drop rate. That's a MAJOR problem, yes? Hence why I called it a nightmare class. I didn't necessarily mean that I don't need it.
Multiple choice test are damned easy to cheat on as compared to essay / scenario tests (more personally evaluated). As an advocate for not cheating, wouldn't you want to avoid giving people an easy ride? Besides, who else feels as if their intelligence is insulted when presented a problem with only one correct answer? Why not come up with one of your own? don't get me wrong, I LOVE multiple choice tests. Someone presents you the problem and their answer.

Prof -
Thank You! and I heard some lovely comments about you from a former student today.

right on. Universities are turning more and more into businesses. Businesses have money. Money corrupts in many ways. Our country needs a (real) moral revolution.

5:35 PM  
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