Student leaders participate in on-campus AI panel discussion

By Liv Barry


On Thursday, Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m., student leaders gathered in The Egg to host a discussion about academic integrity and artificial intelligence, co-sponsored by the Honor Board and the Student Government Association. Professor of English, Director of Writing, and Co-Director of the Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning Dr. Sean Meehan moderated the panel.

Panelists included News Co-Editor junior Heather Fabritze, who organized the event in part with Dr. Meehan, junior Claire Garretson, sophomore Cara Olivarez, junior Stephen Hook, Elm Copy editor senior Delaney Runge, and senior Parker Hayden.

While the panel primarily consisted of Honor Board members and student tutors, the students represented a range of disciplines, including communication and media studies, biology, political science, French, English, and computer science.

According to Dr. Meehan, the need for an open forum about AI following the updated language in the student handbook regarding generative AI prompted the idea of the panel.

“When ChatGPT kind of exploded…[it] became very public to people who never really thought about AI, or didn’t think about using it,” Dr. Meehan said. “Our approach was to better understand what’s going on and what it is. I think this extends to where we are today, which is to think about guidance on its use.”

Following “an increased number of plagiarism cases…related to the unauthorized use of AI” last fall, the handbook update was released at the beginning of the spring 2024 semester, according to previous Elm coverage.

The policy, which falls under plagiarism in the handbook, states: “Unauthorized Use of AI: using AI software to generate ideas, text, or images and submit them as one’s own work, without proper attribution and/or absent a clear statement of permission from an instructor.”

The Honor Board penned the updated policy with the guidance of  Faculty Coordinator for Academic Integrity and Associate Professor of Education Dr. Sara Clarke De-Reza. They derived inspiration from Stanford University and Rice University’s AI policies, which use neutral language in order to not outwardly encourage or ban the rapidly-changing technology.

However, student panelists acknowledged the complications that come with the updated policy.

According to Hook, the new protocol does not fully encompass the different ways in which AI is employed across disciplines. While generative AI is allowed in some classrooms with the caveat that its use must be cited, in others, it is outright banned — even learning tools, like Grammarly.

“I know this is a panel about…finding answers to questions, but my question is: How do we find what authorized use looks like? How does that change across divisions?” Hook asked. “How do we…tell our students that in a succinct way in our syllabi, and make that clear in every class — what authorized or unauthorized use looks like in each course — just because it changes so drastically, especially between divisions.”

Hook, who is a double major in communication and media studies and political science, said that he took a class in which the use of generative AI constituted an automatic failure for any student caught using the technology.

Other students, like Hayden, a double major in mathematics and computer science, are encouraged by professors to use generative AI. According to Hayden, many of his professors allow their students to use AI  to troubleshoot issues like broken code, as long as its use is properly cited.

“I use AI pretty much daily,” Hayden said. “I see a big use for it. I consider [AI] as more of a tool than a source.”

By the end of the hour-long event, the panelists agreed on one answer to the nuanced questions posed by generative AI: WC students must educate themselves on what artificial intelligence is, and how it can be both a tool and a hindrance for learning.

“Students need to learn how to use [AI] appropriately and not just be told, ‘This is awful, this is your downfall, you’re going to get caught,’” Garretson said. “If you’re using it wrong — yes, absolutely — but I think we need to focus more on how we can use it right, how it can be a tool, how it can prepare you.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *