Taking a leaf out of Sharon Williams’ book, or should I say her latest blog post on a similar topic, I have to add my own concerns to this new ‘trend’ happening.
Over the years it’s not been uncommon to have Uni students ask to engage a member of our VA team to do things for them. They’re often not upfront in the original request but once they’ve engaged a VA they’ll tell them what they really want. And often it means logging in under their own name and password to a Uni website to download lectures, listen to them and then write up on them. huh! Sometimes it would be new VAs who would score these jobs and it only happened a small number of times but once I got wind of what was happening I made it clear no member of the team should be doing this as it was unethical. To add to that, I had someone from one of the Unis contact me because they too had heard that’s what was happening. There are rules on Uni websites about the legality of students handing out their logins to other people.
Recently I was floored by a request by a mature age student and someone who should have known better. Mature age = in this case someone who is married with kids of their own. They were under the pump with their workload for their business and their studies and wanted to know if one of my team could [quote “I need to complete Part 2 of the assignment. My average attempt at Part 1 is attached. It’s at Masters level however undergrad standard would probably do the job. Naturally I’ve become time poor.” unquote].
The subject matter? Their own business!
I wrestled with this one but not for very long. Instinctively I knew this was wrong but the person involved I knew personally and I knew they were desperate for help. I wanted to help them but the reality was that what they were asking for was not ethical.
My response to them was: “Logging in aside, my team feel uncomfortable doing something for you that you need to be doing for yourself. They’re more than happy to type up your notes or reformat your assignment but not actually do your assignment for you. Sorry.”
They had to go off and do the assignment themselves after recognising that what they asked was indeed the wrong thing.
Ethics and lack of ethics can be easily intertwined or easily disguised when coupled with emotion, desperation, a need of urgency. It’s easy for people to justify that what they’re asking is reasonable but the core needs to be looked at and assessed.
When it comes down to it, if you’re passing off work that someone else has done for you as your own then the ethics of what is taking place needs to be very carefully considered and assessed. VAs, no matter where they live, or how much they’re being paid, should not add to the deception of a client passing on work as their own and especially when it relates to passing something in order to get ahead with their own worklife or whatever.
There are cases when it is ok: sub-contracting a job for a client, ghost-writing, etc but not when it comes down to someone needing to pass a test or course in order to get ahead with their own role in life or work. In the end they will get found out when it becomes obvious they don’t have the skill or the knowledge it was assumed they had.
I have to agree that doing someone’s assignment for them is unethical. When I was an undergrad in college, I did research for grad students. That is, I looked up references and photocopied the articles for them. I also typed and edited papers for them. What I did not do was write papers or synopses for them.