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What to Do if You’re Accused of Using AI to Cheat

Artificial intelligence or AI has been developing steadily since the 1950s, but recently new uses have exploded in popularity with the business world and the general public. Many tools are now readily available to research and write text on almost any topic under the sun. The potential for cheating in academics has grown by leaps and bounds.

Tools developed to detect the use of AI always seemed to be one step behind the users. Then AI detection tools became more aggressive, to the point where they now often “detect” AI-generated content that is in fact produced quite legitimately. Students may be falsely accused of using AI to cheat. In other situations, students or instructors may face disciplinary action for using AI when they thought they were using tools within acceptable guidelines. In either situation, it is important for those accused to take the right steps to defend their reputations and future opportunities.

The Use of AI in Education

AI is generally understood to refer to the use of machines to simulate human reasoning processes. In the education field, AI can be used to analyze text produced by students to help them improve grammar, punctuation, word choice, sentence structure and the clarity of their writing. But AI can also be used to produce content for a student so that they do not do the research and writing. Ethical and quality control issues with AI-produced content currently affect the professional world as well as academia.

Where AI may generally be considered acceptable to assist, at least in some applications, with respect to proofreading or organizing material, it is generally not acceptable for completing a project from start to finish. But exactly where the line falls between acceptable and unacceptable use is not clear in many situations. 

For instance, if a word processing program points out spelling errors, that program is technically applying AI to assist with writing. We are used to “spellcheck” features and gradually becoming more accustomed to word suggestions as we type messages. At some point, it may be universally acceptable to let the machine do the communicating for us. But at the present time, there is a line students are not expected to cross with the use of AI. The problem is that many students, faculty, and staff may not be quite certain where that line is located.

Accuracy and Bias in AI Detection Tools

When students were first able to buy or appropriate content online, educators began using tools to detect plagiarism. Now they find it necessary to use increasingly sophisticated tools designed to detect writing produced through AI. But how well do these tools work?

Several studies have suggested that the accuracy of AI detection programs is questionable at best. When a student’s academic credibility is on the line, is it fair to penalize the student or even make accusations on the basis of an analysis that may only have a 50% accuracy rate?

In addition, AI detection tools may also be inherently biased against those for whom English is a second language. The models used by these tools come from internet content created predominantly in English. In a recent study conducted by professors at Stanford University, AI detection programs inaccurately classified more than half the writing samples produced by non-native English speakers as having been written by AI. These same programs did not make the same mistake with content written by native English speakers. Therefore, AI detection tools may unfairly penalize those with lower proficiency in the English language.

If You Were Falsely Accused of Using AI, You Deserve a Robust Defense

Students wrongfully accused of using AI to complete coursework or an exam risk serious academic consequences if they do not successfully fight the allegations. Accusations of cheating through any means can ruin a reputation, and once damaged, a reputation is nearly impossible to mend. A simple censure on the record could prevent a promising student from obtaining a position as a teaching assistant or interfere with scholarship potential. Any consequence is too great when an accusation of wrongdoing is false.

It is a good idea to work with an attorney experienced in helping students protect their rights and who can develop strategies to fight the allegations. It may be possible to challenge the validity of the program used to detect AI-produced content or introduce other evidence to demonstrate that the content is original.

When the Rules Regarding the Use of AI are Unclear

If a student, faculty, or staff member used AI in the course of a project but believed they were using it in a manner permissible under school guidelines, they also deserve a vigorous defense. When the rules are unclear, those who make a mistake in good faith should have their credibility ruined.

For example, if you are shopping for an item in a store, it is considered perfectly acceptable to carry the item around the store without paying for it. It is only when you step outside of the store that you get in trouble for not paying. Most of us understand that rule. But what if each store set different guidelines? What if you were expected to use a mobile device right away to pay for an item before placing it in a cart? If you didn’t know the rule, you could easily violate that rule even though you had every intention of doing things properly. When rules regarding the acceptable use of AI technology are not well defined, it is not fair to penalize anyone for a first-time violation.

A Students’ Rights Lawyer Can Fight for Your Future if You Have Been Accused of Using AI to Cheat

AI poses a big problem in the academic world, and schools do need to take steps to prevent cheating. However, they should not be allowed to penalize the innocent in the process.

If you have been accused and face disciplinary proceedings or sanctions, it is in your best interests to defend yourself as effectively as possible. The legal team at Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP are experienced in defending students, faculty, and staff in campus proceedings and can assist in a variety of ways. To find out how we could protect your rights, reputation, and future opportunities, schedule a confidential consultation today.