JIM (not his real name), a senior at a Carolina college, was dying of cancer. He needed to write just one more paper to receive his degree, but he did not have the strength to do the necessary research. Jim confided in his priest, who found a solution to Jim's problem. He contacted Quality Bullshit (QBS), a termpaper service located in Brighton. QBS is now writing the paper, and as a humanitarian gesture, is doing it free of charge.
Quality Bullshit is just one of the four professional term-paper services operating in the Boston area, the birthplace of this new industry. The companies change $2.25-$6 a page for custom-made papers and $1.50-$3 a page for used papers. By June, the four services will have sold approximately 10,000 papers for a cool $250,000.
The brain behind the term-paper business is Bill Carmody, a 26-year-old graduate of Northeastern Business School and the president of International Termpapers, Inc., located in Waltham.
"People talked about setting up a term-paper business for ages," Carmody said recently. "Well, about four years ago, I began to test the market to see if the whole idea was really feasible. I put a few advertisements in Boston After Dark in order to attract students and writers. The response was unbelievable. So I founded International, and our phones have been jangling like mad ever since."
International, with 80,000 papers in its files, is the largest term-paper service in the country. Carmody employs 300 writers, two secretaries, and one full-time assistant. He pays his writers $2-$3 a page and charges his customers-who come from all area colleges-$3-$6 a page. In addition, each student shells out a $2 application fee.
Most of the term papers are written by college graduates who work full-time or part-time for the term-paper services. Some writers produce only a couple of papers a month while others turn out as many as four or five papers a week. Most write only in certain fields while some will write in any area. One of the most prolific writers in the business is Phil Mushcovitz, a Northeastern graduate who has monthly columns in Blackbelt Magazine and Karate Illustrated. Mushcovitz writes for both QBS and Universal Termpapers and has a paper due every day through May 17. Mushcovitz says that he earns $140 a week, before taxes, for his efforts.
Like its competitors, International Termpapers keeps detailed records of its transactions to make sure that no one instructor receives two identical papers. And any paper which gets less than a B twice is immediately tossed out of the files.
Carmody refused to disclose just how much money he had made since he opened up the business. Yet it must be considerable, for Carmody not only has numerous employees and a plush office, he also spends $1000 on advertisements per week.
Carmody argued that his business is in no way unethical since the firm does not produce papers to order-it only offers students a choice from among its existing stock. "We don't write term papers for students," Carmody pointed out. "We only sell students papers which our professional writers produce for us. I mean, if we actually wrote papers for students, well, that's going off the deep end."
THE Harvard Administration condemns the term-paper business in vehement language. Dean Epps said that the business "strikes at the heart of the educational process." As plagiarism, it is "an offense which the University will not tolerate under any circumstances," Epps said, warning that Harvard might expel a student caught buying a term paper.
He also said that Harvard may go to court to prevent the services from selling papers to Harvard students. He did not say what the legal basis for such a suit might be, but noted only that the matter is being discussed with University counsel.
Administrators at other colleges are just as irate. Stephen Trachtenberg, dean of University Affairs at B. U., labeled the presidents of the term-paper companies "enemies of the people," and said that the B. U. administration was also contemplating court action.
Perhaps the fastest growing term-paper service is Universal Research, which began in March. At the start it was a one-man operation but now has 34 writers and 280 papers stashed away in its files. Universal sells custom-written papers, complete with footnotes and bibliography, for $4-$6 a page, and "used" papers for $2 a page.
The man responsible for Universal's rapid development is known by a number of aliases. His writers call him Dave Martin. Bill Carmody said that he had always known him as Steve Gordon. He is also known in the Boston area as Mr. Papers.
WHEN I called up Mr. Papers to request an interview, he was a bit hesitant. "The trouble is," he explained, "I work a 20-hour day, seven days a week. Except, of course, for yesterday, when I worked 22 hours. But I'll tell you what. I'll meet you in front of the Crimson at 2:30 a. m. You'll recognize me because I'll come in a yellow car."
Mr. Papers arrived promptly at the appointed hour, and we drove to his office for an early morning interview.
Mr. Papers was a big man, standing six feet and weighing more than 200 pounds. Carefully avoiding specifics, he presented a brief account of his past. He said that he had graduated Phi Beta Kappa from "one of the ten best colleges in the country," where he lettered in football and tennis and was editor of the school newspaper. Then, he recounted, he went on to graduate school, obtained his M. A., and moved to California to work towards his doctorate. There he supported himself by teaching at college, and, he said, established a reputation as "a tough teacher who would not tolerate plagiarism."
Last September, Mr. Papers came to Boston. He bummed around here for six months, he said. In February, he spotted several advertisements for term-paper writers in the Phocnix and BAD and began writing papers for Termpapers-Unlimited-which started last fall and was for a while the only term-paper company in Boston other than International. Mr. Papers claims that he turned out as many as 35 papers a week for Termpapers Unlimited.
At the end of the month, he started his own company, a one-man operation, and it was an immediate success. In early April, Mr. Papers took on a business partner, Chris Frazier, and moved to a new office on 334 Beacon St.
"I can't believe this is happening to me," Mr. Papers kept repeating. "Last October, I didn't have enough money to wash my own laundry, Now I'm earning more money than Nate Pusey."
According to Mr. Papers, Universal gets little business from Harvard, and none from Radcliffe.
"A while back," he said, "some students from Harvard had to write papers for some crazy Indian course, and they came flocking down. But I'd say that only four people ended up buying papers. We get most of our business from average students at average schools, like B. U. and Northeastern."
At the end of the interview, I asked Mr. Papers if he had any long-range plans.
"Sure," he replied. "Someday I'd like to be a professor at a college in the Boston area."
THE fourth term-paper service in Boston, and the most unusual, is Quality Bullshit (QBS). Since opening on Feb. 16, QBS has been swarmed with customers, but has been barely able to break even because it charges such low prices. QBS sells papers for $1.50 a page and has sold custom-written papers for as low as $2.25 a page. QBS also gives away one free paper a week to students who are in a particularly desperate situation.
In addition, the company pays its writers handsome fees. A professional writer for QBS receives 75 per cent of the selling price of his paper and pockets a 33 per cent residual on every used paper which is sold.
One of the founders of QBS, Dick Marin, tried to explain just what QBS is trying to do.
"We went into this business for two reasons," Marin said. "First, students were really getting ripped by some of these other companies. Nobody should have to pay $6 a page for a term paper. Second, we wanted to make the colleges around here examine their own faults. Hell, term papers aren't assigned as learning techniques. You can just go into the library, paraphrase a few books, write a lot of footnotes, and you have an A paper. Now, thanks to these term-paper services, maybe the universities will wake up and take a close look at what they're doing."
QBS's low prices and generous attitude have attracted numerous Harvard students. Bob Roth, Marin's co-worker, estimates that more than 100 students from Harvard have bought papers from QBS so far, making Harvard QBS's largest customer on a per capita basis.
"Hell," says Roth, "the idea that only students from B. U. and Northeastern buy term papers is a lot of shit. Harvard students need papers just like everyone else."
The students contacted offered many different reasons for buying papers. Some just didn't want to spend the time researching a topic, while others were honestly afraid of flunking.
A Northeastern senior said that he was buying a paper because of "sheer laziness. When I first came to college," he said, "I actually tried to learn something, so I wrote all my papers, but now I'm married, I've got a part-time job, and I really don't want to hassle a paper on money and banking."
A freshman at Connecticut College described his predicament in this way. "I took Economics 112 and got absolutely lost. I flunked the first test, and I knew I just wasn't going to be able to write any 20 page paper. So when I saw an ad for QBS in the Phocnix I just got in my car and drove straight to Boston."
Writers offer their services for one main reason-money. In the words of one Harvard graduate student, who works for QBS, writing papers is "a damn good way to pick up some extra bucks. Once you learn how to dish out the shit successfully, the whole thing becomes pretty easy," he said.