YP Have Your Say: Is hiring ghostwriters ethical?

YP Have Your Say: Is hiring ghostwriters ethical?

SCMP uncovered a Hong Kong-based online business that sells academic papers to university students worldwide for HK$125 a page. Lawmakers describe the operation as an “unforgivable fraud” and urged the commercial crime bureau to investigate the company. We asked our readers what they thought about the practice of hiring ghostwriters and whether it should be considered an offence under the rules of universities.

Ella Chan, 17, Li Po Chun United World College

Hiring a ghostwriter is definitely unethical and unfair for any parties involved in this activity. The credit of the material is attributed to a person who did not write the paper.

The university would not know the true standard of the student. It is also very unfair for the other students who are truly honest in their papers. When discovered, hiring ghostwriters should be an offence under the rules of universities as well as the Hong Kong law.

Henry Lui, 12, Sha Tin College

I strongly believe that hiring ghostwriters is extremely unethical and universities should put in force reprimands or suspensions if students are caught doing so.

Hiring a ghost writer is the academic equivalent to hiring someone to forge a legal signature. It will also cause a less intelligent society as the students don't learn anything from the process.

Fong Hui Yi, 17, Kiangsu Chekiang College International Section

Personally I think students who hire ghostwriters for their academic papers are extremely unethical and unfair to other students. Besides the hard work of other students being unrecognized, it also sends out a message to young people that "with money, I can achieve anything, including a degree that secure my future”. Perhaps the authorities should investigate what encourages the launching of this kind of company in Hong Kong? Why is there a demand of this kind of service? If universities do not list this as an offence, does it imply that the other assets of universities like teachers and professors can hire ghostwriters as well? This situation cannot be tolerated. If this behaviour gets any more prevalent, how should we then define an educated person?

Erica Kwan, 15, St. Paul's Convent School

First, I believe that the hiring of ghostwriters is unjust towards underprivileged students who do not have the means to do so. Compared to students whose papers are written by professionals, they may receive a lesser grade, thus lowering their academic standards. These underprivileged students may need to put in extra effort in order to catch up with those who can afford to hire ghostwriters, therefore creating an unfair gap in the student body. If we allow students to hire ghostwriters, we will be treating other students who put in real effort unfairly.

Also, if students constantly hire ghostwriters to complete their papers and essay, universities may not be able to assess their true standards and may be misguided. School authorities will then give out marks based on the performance of these professional writers and not on the students themselves.

In addition, I believe that plagiarism and ghostwriting lie on the same level since they both involve using materials that were created by someone else. If universities allow ghostwriting to go unpunished, they will then be encouraging dishonest, deceitful and fraudulent activities. Therefore, I fully believe that ghostwriting should be listed as an offence in universities and convicted students should be punished severely in order to act as a deterrent. We live in a society that encourages justice and fairness, but if we allow ghostwriting to go unpunished, we are blatantly acting against the values that we ourselves promote.

Abigail Chen, 16, Creative Secondary School

I think hiring ghostwriters is definitely wrong. By doing this, one is not only cheating others but themselves too – what good is going to university and getting a degree if you're not going to learn anything from it? Even if you get a job from it, you're bound to be questioned on your talents and skills. Even if the ghostwriting isn't of great quality, it's still a form of cheating, like getting someone else to do your test for you. It's unethical, unfair to others, and most of all, harmful to you in the long run.

I do think it should be an offence because it is also a form of plagiarism, taking others' works and using it as one's own. It may not be stated explicitly but it should be discouraged as much as possible. Teachers should also know the students' work well enough to know whether or not they have written it. In university, this may be difficult but professors should not only trust online plagiarism-checking sites such as Turnitin.com but with their own instincts and intuition as well.

Candace Kwan, 18, St. Paul's Convent School

Personally, I'm against hiring a ghost-writer - it isn't really a question of ethics/fairness or anything like that, but the whole point of academic writing is learning. To learn, you HAVE to do the dirty work YOURSELF, there's no other way.

If you expect your diploma to have your name on it, then you have to work for it - it's that simple.

Sure, hiring a ghostwriter may help you but it's just a shortcut to get the grades you paid for, not the ones you deserve. Pay for all the papers you like, but when the time comes when you need to get the work done yourself... sucks to be you.

That said, there is a difference between getting someone to look over your work and hiring someone to do it for you. The former is okay as long as you're only getting (minimal) help and not someone to re-write your work for you.

Yes, it should definitely be an offense - the grade you get should be yours, not someone else's. Ghostwriting just defeats the whole purpose of writing - the student won't exactly get an "education" that way and it won't reflect their true academic ability. Universities should change their Honor Code or equivalent as soon as possible to curb this form of academic dishonesty.

Samantha Sugarman, 16, South Island School

I find that hiring a ghostwriter is just another sign of how lazy some students are. Comprehension of information is put to the test through exams and essays; how are universities supposed to know who is truly dedicated to their classes versus those who are not? I believe the universities could be devastatingly affected if they turn the other cheek on this issue by, at least, resulting in dropped test scores and the gain of an unflattering perspective from the public’s eye.

The essays provided by the ghost-writers are more than that; it is a lie on behalf of the student and unacceptable behavior on behalf of the university. This issue goes back to elementary school in which cheating results in an automatic “zero.” Why should this issue be handled any differently this late in the education process? If anything, the punishment should be much more strict.

Samantha Lau Pui Ching, 19, The Open University of Hong Kong

I strongly oppose the move of hiring ghostwriters. Not only is it unethical and unfair to other students, but it's also a kind of cheating to oneself.

In universities, essays are meant to help consolidate our knowledge and reflect what we have learnt. What you write reflect what you have gotten from the lectures. In this sense, what is the point of hiring ghostwriters then? It seems that the one who support this act is lazy and see studying as a burden. Frankly, I think that writing essays is a must for an undergraduate. If one is unwilling to do so, it is unlikely that he or she should be called a university student.

I don't think making hiring ghostwriters as an offence under the rules of universities can effectively curb the problem, but it is the best solution so far. With harsh penalties, some may be deterred and not dare to do so. You know, it is always better to have some kind of action rather than none.



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