Essay, personal statements for sale resurface on campus

By Francisco Portillo 

A poster in Chinese, offering to sell essays and personal statements to East Los Angeles College students has resurfaced on campus.

Previously reported by an former Campus News staff writer Faith Lee in 2011, she discovered that the unethical practices are still occurring.

The flyer is written in Chinese and contains the English equivalent next to it that reads; “Are you having trouble with you personal statements?”

Lee called asking to receive help on an essay and discovered that the writing coach was willing to go further than the advertised tutoring sessions.

According to his website, Jon Arsmden, known as the “writer’s coach” on the flyer, charges $250 for undergrad statements and $300 for graduate school admission statements.

This year, the University of California system introduced a new format of personal statements in the form of personal insight questions to prevent plagiarization and forgery during the application process.

The Department Chair of the Counseling Department, Christopher Garcia, believes that it is too difficult for someone to forge a student’s personal statements.

The consequences of such actions would result in the immediate termination of the student’s application, but Garcia suggests that it’s too difficult to determine whether or not a student had committed forgery.

“One of the factors for changing the format of the personal statements is because the personal insight questions make it more difficult for students to plagiarize,” said Garcia.

Garcia also felt that it would be difficult for students to convey their stories to a secondary party who would transcribe the stories effectively.

“As someone who went through the process, something definitely feels off. It doesn’t seem to be a good service, it seems to be more of a disservice for students,” said Garcia. “If someone close to me wanted to use the service, I would advise them against it to avoid this coming back to haunt them in the future.” 

In 2011, the flyers were not approved from Associated Student Union and were ordered to be taken down.

Given the fact that the flyer was approved by the ASU this time around, questions were raised about the approval process of flyers.

In order to get the stamp of approval from the student government, the posters are required to sign a Posting Contract and comply with the rules and regulations in the contract.

There is no research done by ASU to make sure the flyer is credible.

“We don’t approve (flyers) by the specific content. This doesn’t seem like it’s a hurtful message. They’re not stating that they’re doing anything unethical. I can’t even determine whether this is taking place or not,” said Frank Lozano, who is the inter-club council advisor.

The ad is approved by the ASU with an Oct. 31, 2016 expiration date.

“What we can do, is we can have a discussion with our administrators to make sure that they know about the situation,” said Lozano.

To ensure that the flyer is not approved again, ASU President Aurora Paredez and Lozano made a point of gathering a group of people to conduct a campus-wide sweep of the ads.

“I honestly don’t think that students are intending on calling this guy because we have a lot of resources here on campus. We have a Writing Center where students can go to for help, we also have the Transfer Center who is there to help students with their personal statements,” said Paredez.

Lozano stated  that just because the flyer had the ASU stamp of approval on it it does not mean that they promote the activities of said flyer.

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