Ideas for Sale

Defining Academic Dishonesty

By Minhal Motiwala

Websites such as StudySoup, OneClass and GradeSaver offer students the ability to take notes for their courses and sell them online. Selling class notes is becoming an increasingly popular way for students to make money, while also trying to stay focused in school. The better the notes are, the more money students are likely to make, but is it worth the consequences for the students who get caught? Selling class notes is considered academic dishonesty in some colleges, and the repercussions are the same as those of cheating on an exam or purchasing a term paper.

Berkeley City College has a strict policy concerning plagiarism. This includes the sharing of ideas without due credit, which is what happens when notes are purchased. Yet selling one’s notes is not given the same importance by students as some other forms of plagiarism, in part because it is a fairly new concept, and also because of the divide between people who believe selling notes is a form of academic dishonesty and people who don’t.

“If someone sells me notes,” says a second year Berkeley City College student, “from a class that they are taking this semester, that I will be taking next semester, then I can benefit from their notes and know what to expect of the class when I take it, rather than use them as my sole resource of passing the class.” This is the perspective of a student who is hoping to transfer soon to the University of California, Berkeley.

It’s a popular opinion among students that the sale of notes should not be considered plagiarism. However, Berkeley City College’s website and Student Code of Conduct defines academic dishonesty as “any type of cheating that occurs in relation to a formal academic exercise.” It goes on to include plagiarism as a type of academic dishonesty, defining plagiarism as, “The adoption or reproduction of ideas or words or statements of another person without due acknowledgment.” Though this policy doesn’t specify the sale of class notes, it does prohibit reproducing another individual’s original thoughts and ideas without giving credit.

Berkeley City College’s website also links UC Berkeley’s code of conduct as a resource, which explicitly states that “selling, preparing or distributing for any commercial purpose course lecture notes or video or audio recordings of any course unless authorized by the university in advance and explicitly permitted by the course instructor in writing” is a form of academic dishonesty. As if this wasn’t specific enough, most instructors also include their personal definition of academic dishonesty on their syllabi, so it’s clearly stated for each student even if they haven’t read the school’s code of conduct.

In an interview with The BCC Voice, Brenda Johnson, Dean of Student Support Services, invokes instructors’ efforts when asked what immediate steps can be taken to prevent students from being academically dishonest and selling class notes. She states, “I would hope that the instructors would be of assistance in helping students know not to cheat.”

Students find the idea of selling class notes appealing because it seems like an easy way to make money while still focusing on their academics. However, when it comes down to it, it’s dishonest and both the buyer and the seller are compromising their academic integrity. The buyer risks dealing with the consequences of being dishonest in their college and the seller is profiting off of someone else’s dishonesty. Additionally, when the seller is found out by the administration at their college, they too have to deal with the consequences of being academically dishonest. This could include receiving an F for the class, being dropped from the course in which they are caught cheating, being suspended or even expelled from their college.

When it comes to making money as a student, though it may be convenient to sell class notes, the convenience is not worth the consequences. Students would be better off looking for resources that can help them academically, such as Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) which provides students with free textbooks, printing and counselors to help them every step of the way. They could also apply for scholarships to use toward their expenses or participate in a work-study at their school where they can get paid to work during school hours. This work can sometimes include taking class notes for disabled students, a school-approved way to get paid for taking notes, facilitated by Disabled Students Programs & Services. (DSPS)

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