Steubenville, OH—When news broke earlier this month that a particular page on Wikipedia that had been on the site for more than five years was a hoax, students all over the world were taken aback that something like this could happen to a website known as a trusted, reliable tool in getting students better grades on papers and on homework assignments.
For five years, a page on the “Bicholim Conflict” duped students and Wikipedia editors alike into thinking the conflict between Portugal and the Indian Marath Empire that took place between 1640 and 1641 was real. But a little digging by one skeptical Wikipedia editor has blown the lid off the hoax, and shaken the faith of students who turned to Wikipedia when their own sad scholastic attempts failed miserably.
Students like Eli Jameson, 17, who said that he regularly visits Wikipedia and “cites it thoroughly and confidently” when completing homework assignments, but will now contemplate actually studying and doing research the old-fashioned way, by Googling e-books. “You put your faith and trust in something online that you feel confident in copying and pasting into a report for a class that you’re close to failing, and then to find out it’s not accurate, it’s made-up,” said Jameson. “I’ll really think twice before just blindly cutting and pasting into my next term paper. It hurts. It hurts.”
“Hell, I did a paper on the Bicholim Conflict,” said two-time senior Ben Frazier, 20. “Just copied and pasted the whole page, turned it in three years ago, and got a ‘C’ on it. I was so damn proud of that ‘C.’ My history teacher told me it was the best paper he’d ever seen me complete. My parents talked about it in our Christmas card that year. Now, knowing it’s tainted, I don’t know what to do.”
It still remains to be seen what the fallout worldwide will be for Wikipedia. But in this Ohio town, many students have admitted they’re thinking about doing something they only know about thanks to YouTube videos they watched on their smartphones: cracking a book at the library and hand writing essays and term papers.