Substitute students

By Ryan Xu

Imagine this: you are a college student, and you can’t go to class for some reason. However, you don’t want the professor to find you absent because it will have a bad effect on your grade. What will you do?

Some students develop a part-time job secretly, which aims at resolving this kind of dilemma. If their job can be described in one sentence, it should be “Give me money, and I will go to class for you.”

Nowadays, this phenomenon exists in many colleges in China. Long Yang, which is not his real name, a junior student at Jinan University in Guangzhou, majors in business administration. He is one of the students doing this job. For about four months, he said he did this at least five times.

“I charge ¥20 (about $3) for one class hour,” Yang said. “And the price will be higher if the student wants notes.” He said he could earn more than ¥40 (about $6) each time in this way. “I will put an advertisement on WeChat so that the clients can connect with me,” he added.

Yang%27s ad
A student offers his services to substitute for a class in an ad on Wechat.

Sometimes the professor would ask him some questions, some of which were related to the major. “I’ ll try to play to the score tactically,” he said with a smile.

However, this kind of deal can be dangerous for the students, in particular for the students who paid others to go to classes. Josephine Song, an administrator of International School of Jinan University, said although there are no written policies about this issue in Jinan University. But students who were caught paying others for classes by professors might likely lose points on grades. The students getting paid would also be punished.

Yang said he understood the rules. “Every coin has its two sides, and everyone involved in this issue has his own focus, ” he said. “For administrators, it’s the studies of the students; for me, it’s saving money. I have lots of spare time, so I sell my time to earn some pocket money.”

Jing Lee, a professor of Jinan University, was disappointed with this behavior.

“The students are cheating,” Lee said. “And I can’t accept it.”

Lee teaches “Mao Zedong Thought and Introduction to the Theoretical System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” which is a compulsory class for students. This behavior tends to happen in large classes of 100 students or more because the professor can’t recognize everyone, and students think some courses are not worthwhile.

“These classes are not brainwashing. Instead, we talk about many political issues and philosophy questions in these class, and the students can think critically,” said Lee.

However, most of the students paying others money for classes said they have their dilemmas. Most of them come from an internship or part-time jobs they found outside the schools. Mo Ma, which is not her real name, a junior student of Jinan University, is one of them.

She said she found an internship job with a foreign company outside school this May and her boss told her after she passed the interview that she needed to work on Fridays.

“The problem is I have a class to take on Fridays,” Ma said.

She said she tried to find a compromise but failed. “I had talked to the professor if I can get grades studying by myself,” she said. “I have also asked the boss of the company if I can work at another time to make up my absence on Fridays. But the replies were no. So I have to resolve the problem in my own way.” So she paid others to go to the class for her while she went to work on Fridays.

“It was lucky that the professor didn’t recognize me though I talked with him several times.” she said.

She also said she can’t quit the class because it’s compulsory. “It’s troublesome to quit this class, and the credits can’t be returned,” she said. “I have attended the classes many times, and it’s a bad deal to quit at this time.”

Regarding why she choose to pay others to go to class instead of giving up the job, Ma said she had some ideas. She said the first reason is the internship was important for her. The official job fair will start this September. “This internship job can give more experience and knowledge, which can make me more competitive in the job fair. Besides, it can make me see more clearly about the job so that I can understand if I like this job and do it well,” Ma said.

Also, she said the professor’s teaching was bad. “He was just reading the PowerPoints and textbooks without any of his own ideas,” she said. “I can understand all these materials by myself. If I can learn all the knowledge by myself, why should I sit there and listen to another person read it for me? I can do something more useful. ”

Besides the situation that Ma encountered, some students said that they were trapped in this dilemma because of a change of class schedule.

A sophomore student of the International School of Jinan University said he should have balanced the work and class well, but the class schedule changed in the last month of the semester. He said he was dragged into this dilemma, and he chose to resolve it in the same way with Ma. “I don’t mean to make trouble, but the trouble finds me,” he added.

Song said she couldn’t accept students to pay others to go to class because of work. “In the college education system, an internship can be seen as a course. So when you work conflicts your classes, it is like your two selected classes conflicts with each other, and you can choose only one. If you decide to get the grades, you have to give up the work,” she said.

She also said these students should see more clearly about their identities. “You are still a student, and your major work is still studying. As for the internship, you should do it on your own time, ” she said. “And you can really get much spare time during your college life, for example, the winter and summer holidays and the weekends.

“I also think the companies have the duty to stretch a point for the students because studying is their major work,” she added.

Bedsides, Song said classes couldn’t be valued by whether they are immediately useful. “Many students just appreciate the classes by their practical value, which is very one-sided, especially for some philosophical or theoretical courses,” she said.

Lee agreed with Song. “I think the root of this phenomenon is the fickleness and utility of the society, everyone just focuses on the things can bring practical benefits immediately,” Lee said.

However, Lee added that the students were not totally wrong. “The teachers really need to find more attractive ways to teach.”

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