The Intersection of AI and Academic Integrity  

Alex Caban-Echevarria headshot
Alex Caban-Echevarria

There are many ways to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool, including fixing code, checking the tone in an email and generating images. Over the past year, ChatGPT has become a prevalent learning tool with upsides and downsides, like any new technology. 

I first heard about ChatGPT this summer, while taking Data Journalism with Dan Pacheco, a professor of practice. We were shown how to ask ChatGPT to detect mistakes while writing HTML code and how Pacheco generated an AI-generated cover design for his new book. Pacheco and many other professors agree that when used correctly, AI can be a powerful brainstorming tool. 

In my Graphic Design Fundamentals class, adjunct professor D. Addison Spears encouraged the use of ChatGPT to write our magazine cover lines and body copy. We could then customize it and use it instead of the standard Lorem Ipsum placeholder text in InDesign. This showed us the benefit of using ChatGPT as a starting point, especially when as a designer you want keywords or pull quotes to have more visual weight. 

Since discovering these avenues for enhancing my creativity, I have used ChatGPT to brainstorm names for my beat in Enterprise Reporting, the title of my documentary in Multimedia Storytelling for Journalists and come up with the name of my first Newhouse Insider blog post “My Spring Elective Journey.” 

More recently, I have seen other students use ChatGPT more, especially as a search engine to answer their questions about readings or class topics. As a tutor and instructional assistant, I work with undergraduates every day, and this got me wondering about the prevalence of ChatGPT in higher education. As students becoming more comfortable with advanced technology like AI in their studies, how can the pros offset the cons? 

an aisle of books in a library
Photo by Alex Caban-Echevarria

Professors this academic year have begun to address the issue of academic integrity regarding ChatGPT. One of my syllabi has a note that reads: “Any undisclosed or unapproved use of AI technology as a tool to supplement or replace your work on any class assignment will be considered a violation of intellectual integrity.” This statement highlights the deceit that comes with using ChatGPT, especially when students try to pass off work as their own, which is unfair to their classmates who have taken the time to write their assignments, and themselves to get out of a learning experience.  

I’ve heard some students say that their classmates all write their papers with ChatGPT. I’ve observed students on the bus who copy and paste full conversations they’ve had with ChatGPT into a Word document. Whether these instances are all academic violations depends on the context, but the warning is clear — with great power comes great responsibility. 

Alex Caban-Echevarria is a graduate student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.