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I am writing this, a little reluctantly, using an impressive offline blogging tool called Microsoft Live Writer. My misgivings arise in part because I am unhappy with Microsoft’s attempts to bundle extra software and get it onto my computer. The installation for Live Writer offers first this

WindowsLive

and then this list of additional software

LiveWriterInstall

Yes, I know very well that I don’t have to accept anything that’s offered that I don’t want, but I am tired of having to say no to unsolicited invitations.

If you visit a restaurant you don’t expect the waiter to come back with special offers on double glazing or life insurance after you’ve placed an order. And if he returned, after you’d declined these, with a selection of holiday brochures, surely your leaving at once and dining elsewhere would be entirely justifiable.

Fine, but what do you if there’s either nowhere else you can eat or, as is now increasingly the case, every restaurant is in the same business: getting you in the door and then trying to foist other things on you? It just leaves a bad taste. Google and Yahoo, especially Yahoo, are also guilty of this.

My home phone number is on the UK’s DO NOT CALL list which UK telemarketers are legally required to respect. Today for the first time I got a telemarketing call from the US. There’s no legal obstacle to US telemarketers calling me up. I would prefer not to be called. Must I stop having a phone or pay extra to be ex-directory?

When I checked the BBC News website before heading off for a class I found this story: Schools warned off Microsoft deal. Microsoft is trying to require schools to have Microsoft software on all computers in order to benefit from academic pricing. I have never heard of any company providing a pricing break to academia pull such a distasteful and mean stunt. In the recent past I’ve been involved in the donation of hundreds of used computers to schools, all with Microsoft Windows and Office installed as result of a (self-interested) concession by Microsoft. I will suggest to my former colleagues that future donations be made with Linux installed. If the donations were converted to loans subject to the condition that no Microsoft software ever be installed, would this not be entirely reasonable? A smaller crime than trying to maintain a monopoly?

GradeGuru

As I was leaving a class in my business school this evening I found a new envelope on the floor by my chair, and I could see an identical one not too far away. It contained a letter (click to read) inviting me to turn in my notes for cash.

At GradeGuru we say it’s about time the givers got something back!

I read aloud

Is this plagiarism, you ask? No.

My neighbour rolled her eyes, shook her head and laughed.

They were also in the toilets

she said.

The address began Mcgraw-Hill House, but I wasn’t convinced yet of its bona fides. Mcgraw-Hill is a respectable company I thought, or was. Surely, this is someone doing a bit of research, a student project perhaps? When I got home I did a WHOIS lookup on the owner of the domain:

Registrant:
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
MH Education
2 Penn Plaza, Floor 5
New York, NY 10121
US

Domain name: GRADEGURU.COM

Administrative Contact:
Inc., The McGraw-Hill Companies, mhe-dns@mhedu.com
MH Education
2 Penn Plaza, Floor 5
New York, NY 10121
US
+1.6094267561
Technical Contact:
Inc., The McGraw-Hill Companies, mhe-dns@mhedu.com
MH Education
2 Penn Plaza, Floor 5
New York, NY 10121
US
+1.6094267561

McGraw-Hill has published many books on business ethics. Personally, I think the concept of reselling students’ work stinks and the underhand marketing hardly warrants any comment, other than perhaps to say that all of the brochures should have been in the toilets. McGraw-Hill is now a brand I’ll avoid, if I possibly can, and I would love to see authors taking their business elsewhere too. After all, this will not be good for sales of their books.

Try not to laugh at the absurdity of this operation using systems (presumably http://turnitin.com and the like) to detect fraud. Note that reputable anti-plagiarism companies will be used. That’s as distinct from disreputable ones. Rely on one of those and you could be unlucky enough to be accused of cheating!And if McGraw-Hill is going to sell your notes 10 times it’s important that it only pay for them once.

Is it fanciful to suggest that there’s a pattern here? Could it be:

Let’s do whatever’s needed to increase business and fend off competition. Never mind if most disinterested parties would consider the tactics reprehensible. We can get away with it. It’s not illegal. If we don’t someone else will.

3 Responses to “Business Class Ethics”

  1. GradeGuru says:

    We at GradeGuru appreciate your concerns. We do not promote or in any way endorse plagiarism. We intend to raise the benchmark for coursework, not level it. Our free website is about giving students recognition, ideas and suggestions for successful study, not about copying the answers. We performed extensive research with students on campus which demonstrated to us the efficacy of collaborative learning and the idea for the site was born. GradeGuru hopes to replicate the mutually beneficial outcomes that arise when students help each other reach a greater level of understanding. Sharing, critiquing and giving constructive feedback on ideas is a critical part of the learning process.

    Students have long been confronted with opportunities to plagiarize and infringe copyright law, from the advent of web 2.0 and sites like Wikipedia, dating back to the first mass printed material. As ever, it behooves students everywhere to act ethically and use the materials at their disposal to enrich their learning experience, not circumvent it. Using GradeGuru is no different.

    Unethical students will unfortunately always find a way to get around putting in the hard work. To the extent that is humanly and technologically possible, we plan to block plagiarism in all its forms, including preventing students copying GradeGuru content and handing it in as their own and prohibiting students from uploading content that is not legitimately their own. To this end, we intend to work with reputable anti-plagiarism technology companies (the same ones already being used by your lecturers, as opposed to anti-plagiarism tools that are not endorsed by the academic community).

    We at GradeGuru are as keen as you are to avoid unethical behavior taking place, so if you have any suggestions, please let us know!

    You will also note once our site is launched that our community standards expressly prohibit students from plagiarism or copyright infringement in the clauses below:

    B. Don’t rip off other people’s work

    Post only what you create and own. Notes and materials created by your university, college, school, professors, lecturers, tutors, or other publishers are not yours to give. Posting the work of others as if it is your own is theft – this is a black and white issue as far as GradeGuru is concerned. Don’t do it. Including some lines from a Shakespeare sonnet in an English poetry essay is OK. Borrowing material chunks of your English lecturer’s detailed handout on Shakespeare’s poetry isn’t. GradeGuru can’t lecture You on international copyright law – You know if you are doing something wrong.

    D. No plagiarism or cheating

    GradeGuru seeks to raise the educational playing field, not level it. Content posted by Users is only the start of your course and revision work, not an end in itself. Cheap plagiarism of material portions of essays and course work etc (a) is not the goal of GradeGuru (b) will not help you learn more, better or faster and (c) will be spotted by teachers and examiners who use increasingly sophisticated anti-plagiarism tools (d) undermines the serious educational purpose of GradeGuru Services and (e) is a waste of your time. GradeGuru is not the lazy path to qualifications. It is a serious educational tool for those who want to be better educated, not just look better educated. GradeGuru does not want to alienate schools and teachers. We hope to earn their respect and participation.

    GradeGuru

  2. A serious educational tool? Being marketed by letters in envelopes dropped on the floor of toilets and distributed anonymously?

  3. Amy Jussel says:

    You’re ‘spot on’ with this post, and I’ve been remiss in following up with you on Shaping Youth from your comment way back in the summer re: my Chris Avenir posts re: FB.

    Anyway…was wondering if you could weigh in on the student debt/campus marketing of credit cards and such…as I’m concerned the downturn in the economy is going to trigger some ‘interesting’ target marketing from credit consolidators under the guise of financial literacy and such…Here’s my piece on the “Humorous approach to student debt cartoon contest” http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=3313

    I’m interviewing some financial biggies soon on some online tools to curb the dangers of debt and such, and want to know what’s helpful vs. hawking (brandwashing) in terms of mining student wallets…(with a trickled down impact to teens) Thanks for any insights in advance.

    Amy Jussel
    Founder/Exec. Dir.
    http://www.ShapingYouth.org

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