Corrupted Files for Corrupt Students?

By Virginia Breen

Jun 8, 2009 2:40pm

ABC News On Campus reporter Brittny Krause blogs:

The old “dog ate my homework” excuse just got a new technological twist. 

Students who log onto www.corrupted-files.com find a message reading, “Don’t hand in a ‘Garbage’ Paper! Send a Corrupted File instead!” For $3.95, the site promises to provide one.

The student then sends the corrupt file to his or her professor. “It will take your professor several hours if not days to notice your file is ‘unfortunately’ corrupted,” the site reads.

So, in theory, while the professor spends hours trying to open a file that was sent in “on-time,” the student has literally bought extra time to finish up the assignment.

The site shocked Judy Bolch, a journalism professor from the University of Missouri.

“Clearly, if enough similar ‘corrupted’ files show up, teachers will become suspicious and no doubt begin to check them out,” Bolch said. “What I can't understand, however, is why these cheating students would bother to pay money for such an excuse.

“So many of them already seem to have discovered ways to send files that cannot be opened at all,” Bolch continued. “Plus, others find it convenient to claim they sent the file even when they didn't. A teacher finds it much more difficult to prove evil intent with the latter two than with an official website that could no doubt be identified.”

The site does attempt to distinguish its services from cheating.  “This download includes a 2, 5, 10, 20, 30 and 40 page corrupted Word file,” it read. “Use the appropriate file size to match each assignment. Who's to say your 10 page paper didn't get corrupted? Exactly! No one can! It’s the perfect excuse to buy yourself extra time and not hand in a garbage paper. Cheating is not the answer to procrastination!  – Corrupted-Files.com is!”

Austin Giovanetti, a senior at the University of Florida, disagreed. “That is cheating,” he said. “It’s not fair to everybody who turns it in on time. Who would spend time paying money to get an extension when you can just spend that time getting your paper turned in by the due date? It promotes procrastination.”

But at least one University of Florida junior gave the site a thumbs up. “Look, I think this a great idea,” the student said. “I’m not saying I would rely on the site, but things happen to us college students and if something came up and I needed more time I would spend the four dollars. It doesn’t do anything to destroy the teacher’s computer, so I don’t see the big deal.”

The site contained a warning to users to “keep this site a secret!” Word got out, however, when Insidehighered.com. ran an article highlighting its services.

"I used the corrupted file excuse back in my college days (I’m 25) as I started my first business at 19 so I didn't have much time to do my schoolwork,” the owner told Insidehighered.com. “I know this was not the most ethical thing but as a young entrepreneur, I did not have much of a choice as I valued my employees well above my academics." ABC News On Campus could not reach the owner, as the site was "temporarily" out of service at 2 p.m.

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