Student note-takers available for hire

If you are worried about failing that Friday 8 a.m. multi-variable calculus class you registered for mistakenly, calm down. A sophomore student is offering help – for a price.

Cory Cohen is enlisting the efforts of other students to create a note-taking service that would provide class notes to students for about $5 a class. While he plans the logistics of the business, some professors are dubious about its ethical and practical implications.

By Oct. 31, Cohen envisions having a staff of 30 to 50 students who would attend their own courses and submit notes to him for a 12.5 percent commission. Customers will pay $4.99 for a single lecture and $59.99 for an entire semester of notes for one class.

“Students share notes now and it is perfectly acceptable,” Cohen said. “I don’t think it’s cheating. I personally just see it as beneficial to the University and the students and if I didn’t believe it I wouldn’t partake in this enterprise.”

His employees will remain anonymous, he said, so they “won’t be subject to disciplinary action or hazing from professors.”

In 2000, Versity.com – a national service – paid GW students to take notes for class and then the company sold them to other students at the University. The company enlisted students to take notes in about 200 classes. It was shut down after Versity merged with Collegeclub.com.

Tim Terpstra, director of the Academic Integrity Office at GW, said Cohen’s business plan does not violate University policy.

“(Note sharing) could theoretically happen any time on an individual level,” Terpstra said. “The only difference here is doing it for money.”

Terpstra added that there could be ethical problems. “It is questionable ethics and I can see how some faculty would be offended by that.”

The polite thing to do, Terpstra said, would be for the note-taker to identify themselves to the professor – something Cohen has said he will not encourage.

Professor of political science Lee Sigelman said any student who would use such a service as a substitute for going to class is wasting their education.

“If a student doesn’t want to come to class, that’s his or her business.” Sigelman said. “(They) will miss out on an important part of the educational process, but that’s his or her call to make.”

Disability Support Services offers a similar program to students with learning disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder. DSS requires students to still attend classes.

“I think notes are fairly meaningless if you’re not (in class),” said Christy Willis, director of DSS.

Cohen, chair of philanthropy for the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, said he came up with GW Classnotes with his friend Russell Falkenstein freshman year when they noticed waning attendance in their lectures.

“GWU – unlike other universities – provides unique opportunities: people have internships and lots of other responsibilities,” Cohen said. “I am an optimist in the sense that I believe that classes are missed (largely) because of being in this kind of environment.”

Some students said the service misinterprets the goal of a college education.

“I think it definitely creates a disincentive to go to class,” said junior Ashley Bohrer said. “Most of the revenue will come from people who want to skip class, which isn’t illegal but problematic.”

Junior Devin Morgan, also questioned the intentions of the service.

“I can see how there would be a demand for it but I think it is a lazy way out,” Morgan said. “I also think there is not much the University can do.”

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