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SAU Debates Using ChatGPT to Get a Degree!

In the year since its public release in Nov. 2022, ChatGPT has become a phenomenon, spreading like
wildfire across colleges and universities worldwide. ChatGPT has arrived at SAU.

The new technology poses an academic dilemma by providing students the opportunity to use Artificial
Intelligence to generate work and pass it off to instructors as their own.

The platform also launched an iOS version of its software in May 2023, allowing ChatGPT to go mobile
on cellphones, so there are in-classroom issues to consider as well.

Plagiarism and a defined “improper use of technology” is addressed in the St. Ambrose University
Academic Integrity Policies on sau.edu.

“Plagiarism is the intentional or unintentional use of another’s words or ideas without crediting the
source,” states the policy, which also appears in identical language in the 2023-24 SAU student

“Improper use of technology is the dishonest or deceptive use of any technological device such as a
computer, smart phone or tablet to receive or aid another, to receive credit for academic work or any
improvement in evaluation of academic performance.”

However, ChatGPT is not explicitly covered in SAU’s policy document, with it last being updated on
March 6, 2018.

“Currently, St. Ambrose does not have any University-wide policies related to the use of ChatGPT. As
such, it falls to individual instructors to determine their own policies,” said Dr. Joseph Roidt, SAU’s
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

SAU’s Board of Studies is reviewing the academic integrity policy, Roidt added, with that faculty
committee considering appropriate guidelines for use of the new technology.

“This is certainly something that colleges and universities need to address,” Roidt said. “By ‘address,’
however, I mean that AI is going to be part of the world that both we and our students inhabit, so I think
it is important that we (i.e., faculty members, administrators, and staff members) learn how to prepare
our students (and ourselves) to live in that world in ways that are both productive and ethical.”


Of the eight students willing to comment for this article, half have embraced Chat GPT for academic use. Two others said they have used the new technology for non-academic reasons while the remaining two
students expressed a willingness to experiment with Chat GPT in the future.

To protect the identities of those interviewed, student names have been withheld, with references
instead to class year or major.

One junior human performance and fitness major was among the two students who admitted to heavy
use of ChatGPT, explaining, “I’ve used it as a reference for classwork, sometimes for homework answers,
and to help understand my course materials.”

Added one of two graduate students interviewed, “I have used it to find info, get ideas, and even to
summarize articles or books I was supposed to read for class.”

On the other side of the issue are the students who have yet to use ChatGPT.

“But I’m open to trying it because everyone else uses it,” reasoned a freshman business major.
Added another graduate student, “Why not try it after graduation in a work environment if it can help

All the students interviewed expressed no moral dilemma against using ChatGPT to help them complete
their academic work.

“I don’t use it often,” said a junior mass communications major. “Most of the time, I’ve used it is just to
brainstorm ideas. Overall, it’s very helpful.”

A junior international studies student agreed, “I have used it to gather background information on a
topic that inspired my work, but I did not directly copy it. It’s like a more specific version of Wikipedia.”
However, a majority of the students interviewed would not want their ChatGPT usage known by their

“I’m scared to use it academically because I think professors can tell if you’ve used it,” said a sophomore
marketing major.


According to Dr. Mara Adams, a professor of Theology at SAU, instructors can easily detect the use of
ChatGPT by their students.

“I tested it after I heard about it,” Dr. Adams said. “I had a class last spring where some students were
using it, and they gave me answers that made no sense and referenced the wrong material.”
She described ChatGPT as “a vacuum that sucks up information and outputs a word salad.”

“Students need to realize that faculty have the power to enforce academic integrity,” added Dr. Adams.
Other instructors have tried to adapt their course materials to combat the use of AI on tests and other
work in the classroom.

“I wanted to find out what it is, and I only wanted to see if I could create an exam as specific as possible
to limit student use of AI,” said Dr. Duk Kim, a Political Science professor at SAU.

“I don’t know what it can do and what it cannot do, so I’m against its application in the classroom.”
However, Dr. Kim does see other accepted uses of the new technology by his students.

“It can be beneficial to use ChatGPT to check grammar, spelling, expressions, and representations,” Dr.
Kim said. “As long as it does not cross the line of academic integrity, it should be allowed on a daily basis
for everyone.”

However, Dr. Adams expressed skepticism.

“I don’t know if I see a good use for it,” she said, “but it could be a good teaching tool if we can use it for
thorough learning. We need to do a better job of teaching people how to uphold integrity and use AI
wisely. There’s a lesson in integrating GPT into classes to show its limits.”

But even with the risks of breaching academic integrity, students continue to see the rewards of using
ChatGPT for classwork.

“It’s a free-for-all,” said the international studies major. “Everyone should use it. It’s a tool that enables
cheating but doesn’t force people to cheat because it can be used to gather thoughts on a specific topic.
It’s an academic weapon.”

The usage depends on the integrity of the individual student, added the junior human performance and
fitness major.

“But if a professor makes an assignment a paper, and people use it, it’s on them to be able to tell
whether AI was used,” countered the Grad student who reported heavy usage.
However, other students disagree with that view including the freshman business major.

“It allows students to complete assignments in a timely manner, so like all technology, it makes life
easier,” the freshman said.

“It’s not cheating unless you use it to completely plagiarize a paper. Use it for ideas and facts. We do the
same thing when reading course materials; we take in information and synthesize papers in our own

Other students argue that ChatGPT also has many acceptable classroom applications that can be used to
the instructor’s advantage.

“It can be a good resource for them to use to develop the class and teach better,” said the junior human
performance and fitness major.

The heavy-use grad student added ChatGPT can help instructors to better prepare students for real-
world critical thinking by spending less time sifting through details and focusing thoughts by organizing
the information.

“You have to get with the times,” the junior international studies major advised SAU instructors and
policymakers. “Get with it or get lost.”

Agreed the junior mass com student, “Whether liked or not, students are probably going to use
(ChatGPT). If you can’t beat it, join it.”

While considering his own experiences as a student, Dr. Roidt called it a “tough hypothetical question”
as to whether he would have used ChatGPT for course work.

“I’ve certainly taken a number of courses during my career as both an undergraduate and graduate
student that I didn’t find particularly engaging or compelling,” Dr. Roidt said. “Might ChatGPT have been
a temptation in courses like those? Perhaps.

“I would like to think that I would not have. I like to write, and I have always considered writing an
important part of the thinking process. I find that writing helps one to clarify their thinking insofar as
one writes, reviews their writing and realizes that their thinking may not be clear, or that what they’re
trying to communicate could be communicated more effectively.

“My familiarity with ChatGPT is limited enough that I’m uncertain whether or how it might complement
that sort of process. And, fairly or unfairly, I suppose I am assuming that what I am writing and thinking
about is something that I have an interest in writing and thinking about.”

The new technology is the latest topic that has captured Dr. Roidt’s attention – and should have the rest
of the SAU community thinking as well.

“AI frightens me, but the toothpaste is out of the tube,” Dr. Roidt said. “It’s not going away, so we need
to learn how to use it responsibly and productively.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s fair to say that technology has, thus far at least, pretty substantially outpaced
our preparation to teach people how to do this. We’re playing catch up.”

Michael Tappa is a staff writer for The Buzz.