Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Ethics of Business Ethics Essay Writing

It’s this time of the year again – term is coming to an end, exams are coming up, assignments are due. Thousands of ‘Crane & Matten’ readers around the world (this blog alone has got hits from some 30 countries so far) are preparing to score well in business ethics. Funnily enough, this is a situation where ethics suddenly can turn from an abstract academic subject into a thorny practical issue. With many exams and essays due at the same time the temptation to use shortcuts is only too high.

Well, as ethics professors we really shouldn’t get into details on how to cut corners here. Our students mostly seem to be ahead of us on this anyway. Nevertheless, we were quite intrigued about one recent service offered to students by the web-based company essays4you.com! This ‘service’ offers students help with writing essays – from providing a reference list for a bargain £1.99 ($ 4.-) up to custom written essays starting at a reasonably priced £9.99 ($ 20.-)! And if you ever were frustrated that you put so much work into something which is just briefly read by one professor and then ends up on the shelf (at best) – essays4you offers to buy your work for use by future generations of students.

OK, we would be lying if we didn't feel a certain sense of guilty pride that some of their products specifically offer essays on cases featured in our business ethics textbook. But it left us wondering how much of a pedagogical success business ethics teaching really is when such a service is available to pass ethics exams?

But let’s not rush to conclusions: in the ‘acceptable use’ section of their site essays4you clearly states:

"The intended purpose of Our research papers is that they are used as models to assist in the preparation of Your own research papers. […] Papers For You or its affiliates will NEVER sell a model paper to ANY student giving us ANY reason to believe that (s)he will submit our work, either in whole or part, for academic credit at any institution under their own name. "

Now that’s a relief! So students pay money for having an essay custom written by one of their ‘experts’ and then just humbly use it as ‘model’. Sure.

We think this is a great example to ponder the boundaries of corporate responsibility for the way in which customers use the products sold to them. The internet, defence, and fast food industries have all gotten into trouble exactly on this front. The likelihood of some products being used in a harmful, or unethical way is just too high to not assign some responsibility to those who put them on the market in the first place. So we remain somewhat skeptical that essays4you customers - running late for an essay deadline, having missed some classes, ready to leave for the holiday etc. - don't give 'ANY reason to believe that (s)he will submit' the essay4you-product 'for academic credit at any institution under their own name'.

But maybe we are just too pessimistic. So – if you are desperate for some inspiration, some shining ‘models’ of the art of business ethics prose – we couldn’t be happier to having passed on this wonderful resource. Actually, we maybe should ask essays4you for commission for featuring their wonderful pedagogic service in our blog…