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"Every man has his ghost" is a slight over statement, but it still suggests a condition that exists in most colleges today and harasses the instructors who are correcting prepared essays. Ghost writing of all degrees, varying from outside assistance merely in organizing a paper all the way to the composition of a finished product with notes and all, done independently of the student, still prevails to a certain extend at Harvard, despite all efforts to blot it out. As long as it continues to exist, neither the long theses nor the short essays prepared outside of class will achieve their aims.
There are a thousand stories about ghost writing; the student who spent fifty dollars to have his honors thesis written for him and received a D for his money, and the men who merely spent a dollar each week a few years ago and then could forget about their English A themes, are only two examples. Yet these stories represent a serious problem for the University that will remain as long as even a small percentage of students continue to be downright dishonest. Individual "ghosts" and organizations of them, local and national, plying their trade now as they have for years, should be violently discouraged from continuing their activities around Cambridge.
It is even more important that every student should be made to see the light. If impossible to convince them that ghost writing is unethical, then it is necessary to show them its impracticality and risk. Correctors should check up every unusual reference (the suspicious attitude is unfortunate but necessary), and by this vigilance and by the severity of the punishment inflicted, they should fill the hearts of would-be wrongdoers with great doubts. Moreover, professors should be wary of assigning the same essay topics several years in a row, because stacks of ancient essays have a habit of developing in out-of-the-way corners of the college.
By far the best means, however, to prevent the occurrence of ghost writing in a course, is to have the instructor who corrects the papers establish close relations with all the members of the class, and have interviews with them before each paper is due to criticize their outlines and bibliographies. Very few students will go to a "ghost" if they have already done most of the work themselves. In this way the small percentage of the college who cause so much trouble might be dissuade from their practices; and the major drawback to the custom of assigning essays removed. After that, little doubt would remain not only concerning the value of essays, but also their practicability.
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