Pay for the grade

by Ilanit Chernick and Robyn Kirk

14_Pay websites for students

Journalism student Ilanit Chernick explores a pay essay website. Photo: Luke Matthews

Some Witsies could use dishonest means to complete essays and assignments in order to get a degree.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of students about their willingness to turn to other students and websites which offer to do their work for them for a small fee.

David* said he would “pay someone” as long as he “didn’t get caught. It’s about getting my degree and passing. I just want to graduate.”

Another student, Najeeba*, said, “I would do it all the time but I would just change it around a bit before handing it in.”

One Witsie said he knew of students who had paid people to write their essays for them and had made use of pay websites without getting caught. But he was unwilling to elaborate.

A number of students said they would only do it in the most “extreme circumstances”, such as if they were failing and it was the “only way” they would pass their degree.

Zondo*, also a student, said he would “happily write essays for others if he was paid for it”. When asked about his price he said he would “charge between R100 and R150 a piece”.

But not all Witsies were willing to take the chance because of the repercussions that come with committing plagiarism. These include the reduction of marks, loss of dually performed points, suspension and even expulsion.

Wits defines plagiarism as not only “failure to acknowledge the ideas or writings of another” but also using someone else’s work as your own.

Wits Vuvuzela found a number of websites, including and which cater for South African students even though they have to pay in dollars.

Wits Vuvuzela was told: “there has only been one disciplinary hearing this year in connection with plagiarism within the Humanities Faculty”.

Dean of Student Affairs Dr Pamela Dube said, “Plagiarism is not just a faculty concern, but impacts on holistic student development. A structured approach to plagiarism offers the best protection for the student and the best protection for the rights and thoughts of others.”

A student member of the disciplinary committee, Tshidiso Ramogale said, “Plagiarism is an issue that is not unique to Wits, it is of concern to any institution of higher learning. The student disciplinary committee has, and will continue to, condemn plagiarism in the strongest words possible as it is that an act that undermines the quality of the Wits degree and the reputation of the university. It also reflects negatively on the student community and the university alumni.”

He suggests students approach the Student Representation Council to get assistance with their cases because they don’t do so often enough.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Zero tolerance for staff or student plagiarism

A former Wits professor was dismissed because of plagiarism in nine of his publications according to recent reports.

Professor Abebe Zegeye was the director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser) for about two months but was dismissed after Wits was informed of his plagiarism.

Asked about the Zegeye case, deputy vice-chancellor: advancement Professor Rob Moore said on Monday there are three measures in place when academics are employed.

The first measure is testimonials from reliable individuals which the academic provides. The university then contacts those individuals and thirdly they assess the publications of the academic.

“The assumption is that these testimonials are not the applicant’s brother,” said Moore.

The applicant provides a list of their publications and a written assessment and analysis are done by the university. Moore added that there are rigorous examinations into the publications.

“Whether it’s foolproof, that is the question,” he said.

Elaine Milton, the director of employee relations, also attended the meeting.

“There have only been three cases of plagiarism in seven years,” Milton said.

When asked why the dismissal of Zegeye was kept quiet, Milton said the process of dismissal is confidential and not published to protect the reputation of the academic.

“The report [Zegeye’s dismissal] had a limited circulation,” said Moore.

Milton added that only seven or eight people saw the report and that it must have been leaked by one of the people, but that it definitely didn’t leak from the university.

Milton said the only time the university would make the reason for dismissal known is if someone asks for a reference. If further enquiries were to be made they would always be truthful about dismissals.

Moore said Wits was the only institution Zegeye worked at that investigated and prosecuted him for plagiarising.

Zegeye went to work at the University of South Australia as the director of the Hawke Research Institute after his dismissal. He resigned after the Mail & Guardian article on April 15 which exposed his plagiarism.

Moore said the university’s stance on plagiarism doesn’t change and they are “strongly against it”.

Alex Rilgour and Panashe Paradza, 1st year BA law students, said their opinion on the matter was that it was “ridiculous”.

“Especially since we are nailed so hard for it,” said Rilgour.

Paradza added, “There is no need for a double standard.”

They didn’t know about the link to the Wits plagiarism document but said it gets drilled into them, which is a good step towards eliminating it.