My boss wants me to help his kid cheat. Should I?

Well, actually it’s my boss’s boss. I’ll be changing some salient details for purposes of discretion.

Yesterday, my boss’s boss, whom I’ll call Jim, came into my cube and asked me if I had time for a cup for coffee outside the office. Being addicted to caffeine, I naturally agreed to meet him at Starbucks.

At the coffeehouse, Jim asked me if he understood my educational background correctly–that is, that I’d majored in literature & langauges in college, with minors in economics & history. When I said yes, he asked if I’d ever heard of the Inklings.* Sure, I replied, rattling off a few salient facts. At that point I put down my coffee and asked why he wanted to know. Jim explained that his son, who I’ve met, is having difficulty in his literature class at college. The son’s an engineering major and will not need the knowledge in the class professionally; however, he does need a certain number of liberal arts credits to graduate, and he’s put them off till his senior year.

I asked Jim if he wanted me to tutor the kid: a reasonable possibility, since my doing so on the side is public notice. But that’s wasn’t what he wanted. His son has a paper on the evolution of fantasy fiction* due in a few weeks, and he’s also overwhelmed with assignments in his field. The teacher in question makes a point of running every paper that’s turned in through various net-based plagiarism checks, so buying it online isn’t an option; thus Jim wants me to write it for him. He offered me a decent fee to do so, and emphasized that this would be a private arrangement between the two of us: i.e., that it had nothing to do with my job, and he would not take it out on me if I said now.

I told Jim I’d have to look at my schedule and get back to him.

Okay, there’s the background. Now I must confess that I’m torn. The class the kid is taking is one I would take if I had the time. I enjoy writing academic papers; the thought of immersing myself in this kind of research and writing is actually pleasing. The sum Jim offered is a reasonable amount for the amount of work even if I wouldn’t enjoy doing it, and I can use the money.

On the other hand, it’s cheating.

*Okay, this is one of the elements I’m changing, but not the only one.

It’s wrong. So no, you shouldn’t. If it were me I’d probably reconsider working for someone that would even ask such a thing.

I really couldn’t ethically do it. How would your uber-boss react if you told him that you didn’t feel comfortable helping his son cheat? Would it impact your standing in the company? That’s an awful position to put someone in.


I’d be offended and I’d say so, albeit politely and civilly. Is that all you think of my moral code? I would break it so easily to help your kid? Maybe if it was my sister’s kid but probably not even then.

There’s looking away while the kid cheats and then there’s doing the cheating yourself, and I can deal with the first but not the second.

Why can’t you tutor the kid? What did he say? The tutoring will stand him in much greater stead.

Wow, what a tough situation.

If it were me, and I was in the same work situation I’m in now, it’d be tough to say no, but I probably would have to.

Don’t do it. And be prepared to face the consequences of saying no, a person that would think doing such things is ok (i.e. your boss’s boss) probably thinks its ok to screw you over for spurning him.

It’s not only cheating, it’s fraud. People who look at that kid’s diploma in the future should be able to assume that he fulfilled all the requirements, not just the ones he liked or was interested in.

It’s also enabling, in that it is teaching him that it’s ok to delay unpleasant tasks until “later” when something magic will happen to let him off the hook.

What’s the worst that can happen? He could fail the class, and take it (or another class) again. It might delay his graduation. Worse things have happened, and it might be a valuable lesson.

I hesitate to predict someone else’s reaction. But Jim went out of his way to say this was a separate deal from my employment, and he gave me an easy out by saying, “Well, let me know if this is something you have time to do. No hard feelings if you can’t work it in your schedule.”

Plus he’s a generally good guy.

Wow, this is wrong on so many levels. Regardless of why you were asked (your educational experience, it’s not the kids’ major, whatever), the school he is attending specifically states that it’s against their policy to engage in this type of behavior. Jiim even told you so.

To ask you (an employee) to go against a specific school policy is just…not right.

Are you sure this isn’t a set up? I mean, if you agree to do this, pretty soon the thought should cross Jim’s mind that “if Skald would go against this policy, what else is he going agaist and how does it negatively affect me/my company?”

This sucks for all involved.

A generally good guy with no sense of ethics.

Wow, you have a cynical, suspicious mid. :slight_smile: However, I agree with you - I don’t like it up and down.

I’ve been tempted on several occasions to lie or cheat. Not wishing to be a liar or cheater, I’ve always (often reluctantly) turned down the offers.

This is more than a matter of just ethics. It’s academic fraud. The kid could get expelled for this.

Hell, why would the boss want to hire people who would be willing to commit fraud and bend the rules?

Money or no, this would be met with a firm NO from me. The kid can’t handle the workload of college and the fact that, even if he’s going to be an engineer, he’s expected to be at least a well-rounded scholar? Then he shouldn’t be in college at all. Tough titties.

Daddy’s trying to fix his problems for him and he’s a senior? Seriously now. I’d tell daddy to take a flying leap. If he’s willing to cheat his way to a passing grade to get his diploma, I’m not sure I’d want to hire sonny-boy later on in life. What’s next? Industrial espionage? Other forms of fraud? Make others do your work for you and take the credit? Some values he’s taught his kid…

(I’m sorry, but this shit really grinds my gears and I refuse to enable it.)

IIMHO, are you actually freaking asking this question?

No, it’s wildly inappropriate and wrong. Don’t do it.

Though I am obviously not Fabulous Creature-evil in the real world, I can’t say I care what lessons the kid learns or does not learn. I’d have a different opinion, I’m sure, if it were one of my nieces writing me to write a paper for her, or pay to have someone else do it.

Also, I seriously doubt that next year, when this kid is interviewing with a job at DuPont or GE or whatever, that anyone will ask or care about his opinions on deconstructionism, kennings, or metonymy.

I would. I know its cheating and wrong blah blah blah! But if I was asked to do something like this for money -

  1. Id be stoked that someone would think I was intelligent enough to do it
  2. Id be greatful for the cash
  3. Id find it a great opportunity for the boss to be pleased with me and would be perhaps hinting for a pay increase after (obviously Id do this in such a way to make it obvious I wasnt asking because I helped his son cheat).
    I know you came here for advise but make this your own decision. If you feel comfortable and you enjoy paper writing go for it!


So? It’s wrong, and you know it, and you’re looking for silly justifications. Do it on your own time if you like, for yourself, but don’t do it for some dumbass kid who can’t handle college.

The way I see it, you have three options. You can find out who the kid’s teacher is, go to him or her, and explain the situation. You can offer to help the kid in legitimate ways, such as tutoring or critiquing a paper he writes himself, possibly for a lower price than the boss is offering. Or you can teach the student a more valuable but much more expensive lesson, by writing him a paper that passes superficial examination but which would have anyone actually versed in the field falling out of their seat laughing at how incredibly wrong it is.

Myself, I would probably go with option two. But that last option is oh-so-tempting.

While everyone else’s answers certainly take the high and moral road, might I post an answer in the ambiguous grey areas?

You could take the moral road and refuse, thus creating a rift between you and your boss, which DEFINITELY will affect you come review time.

Or you could do it for him, have leverage on your (grateful) boss and a pocketfull of green. It’s a freakin’ literature class. It’s not like your cheating for him on some technical engineering class that will affect his competency in his career (possibly affecting people’s lives).

Plus, you said you enjoy academic writing.

But this is just me. Mr. “Morally Ambiguous Dave”. IMHO, people on this board seem to be "Keyboard Do-Gooders"™ who I doubt would make the same choice when faced with a fistfull of (much needed – your words) cash and a potentially hostile work environment.

Did I mention that it’s ONE PAPER for a freakin’ literature class in an Engineering major? It’s not like you’re taking the class for the kid.

How about this? Give the kid his paper in outline form and let him fill in the blanks.

Perhaps – but they SHOULD care that he’s the kind of kid who would be willing to go out and pay for someone to steal the works of another engineer at another firm and then claim them as his own.

He has no sense of ethics if he’s willing to do this. Engineering is a creative world – your sense of ethics and the ability to NOT cut corners is one that employers look for. He’s in for a harsh awakening.