By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Students Caught Cheating Using AI on Final; Academic Integrity Policy Updated

Multiple students in two Yeshiva College (YC) classes were caught cheating using ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, on a take-home final exam this December.

The students who cheated were in two back-to-back classes of “Books on Books/ Films and Films,” a course taught by Professor of English Paula Geyh on Monday and Wednesday. The cheating, which was detected through AI detector programs used by Geyh, also led to changes in Yeshiva University’s undergraduate integrity policy.

The students who cheated will also be summoned to the undergraduate Academic Integrity Committee, staffed by four faculty members from Stern College for Women (SCW), Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB), Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) and YC, as Geyh is initiating proceedings. According to YU’s academic integrity policy, intentional cheating carries penalties of lowered grades, failure of an assignment or course, suspension, notations on personal records and expulsion. Multiple deans and faculty members declined to answer The Commentator’s inquires about how many students cheated, saying that it was a personal matter.

Geyh’s take-home exam, worth 30% of students’ final grades, was given to students on Dec. 12 and was due two days later. Students, depending on which class they were in, were told to write a paper describing how they would direct one or two scenes of a movie based on the fairy tales “Prince Amilec” or “Petronella,” including how they would move actors, what kind of shots they would take and what props and sound effects they would use.

On Dec. 18, Geyh told students through email that she had discovered that students had cheated on the exam, although she didn’t tell students how she made that discovery.

Since Geyh was still unsure at the time if she had caught every student who had submitted work written by ChatGPT, she told students that a new in-person final would be administered on Dec. 21 based on the recommendations of the Academic Integrity Committee, the deans and Provost Selma Botman. Shortly before the final was going to be administered, Geyh told students that it was canceled since she was “confident” that she was able to identify all the cheaters. 

In response to the cheating, Yeshiva University updated its undergraduate academic integrity policy to state that intentional misrepresentation is characterized by using "someone/something else's language," updating it from "someone else's language.” The updated policy also added the word “generator” to its list of examples of intentional misrepresentation.

“The new language makes clear that the use of AI platforms, without acknowledging the source of this content, is a violation of our Academic Integrity Standards,” Karen Bacon, The Mordecai D. Katz and Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of the Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences, told The Commentator.

Multiple professors, based on the recommendations of the Academic Integrity Committee, warned students against cheating using ChatGPT on the finals, with some changing aspects of their final exams to prevent cheating using the chatbot.

“The academic integrity committee,” UTS Dean Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky told The Commentator, “provided additional guidance to faculty in advance of finals … and advised faculty to take additional measures to adapt to the realities of AI and beyond when assigning work and exams.”

Faculty members have also been given access to AI detection software.

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot released by OpenAI, a firm that specializes in artificial intelligence research, has been the subject of much debate since its release Nov. 30 due to its seeming ability to write passable college papers. The San Fransisco-based firm did not respond to The Commentator’s requests for comment.

The cheating engendered many reactions from faculty members, with some expressing shock and others warning that cheating leads to “geneiva [theft].” 

“I’m especially shocked that religious Jews would engage in this kind of behavior,” Associate Dean for Student Affairs Fred Sugarman told The Commentator. 

“The first question we will be asked in Shamayim [heaven],” SSSB Dean Noam Wasserman told SSSB students in a pre-finals email on Dec. 22, “ is whether we acted with integrity in all our dealings (Shabbos 31a). By doing so, we are creating a Kiddush Hashem in everything we do.

“On the flip side,” Wasserman continued, “R’ Moshe Feinstein zt”l paskened [ruled] that if you get a job based on fraudulent grades, every dollar you make is geneiva. Think about that: Every paycheck is filled with aveiros [sins]. Kiddush Hashem becomes Chillul Hashem.”

James Camara, an associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Academic Integrity Committee, told The Commentator that the use of AI generators is not just an ethical issue, and encouraged students who are falling behind on schoolwork to seek help.

“This is not just an issue of ethics. It is also an issue of pedagogy and the learning process. Students should know that if they are struggling to complete work or meet deadlines, it is best to just ask for help. Whether it be help with writing from The Writing Center or a simple due date extension, your instructors and the YU community want to help you succeed, learn and grow the right way.”

According to Wasserman's email, students caught cheating in the past have been expelled.

“Bad decisions in recent semesters,” Wasserman wrote, “have led the YU-wide Academic Integrity Committee to expel [emphasis Wasserman’s] multiple students from the university, in addition to students whose violations resulted in suspensions, course failings, and other repercussions that can remain for a lifetime.” 

Besides Camara, the Academic Integrity Committee is currently staffed by SCW Associate Professor of English Ann Peters, SSSB Professor Marc Spear and Rabbi Natanel Wierderblank from UTS.

The committee was created in the fall of 2019. Previously, each of the undergraduate schools had separate committees tasked with dealing with internal academic integrity violations.

This incident is among the first known cases of students cheating using ChatGPT. Last month, a student at Furman University in South Carolina was caught submitting work written by the chatbot. The NYC Department of Education has since blocked NYC public school students and teachers from accessing the program.

YC’s final exams period began on Dec. 27 and is slated to end Friday. Some professors, like Geyh, administered their final exams on different dates.

Geyh told students in her class that she no longer plans to administer take-home exams.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Jan. 6 to reflect that students will be summoned to the undergraduate Academic Integrity Committee and clarified that the students were in two YC classes. A previous version incorrectly stated that the students were already summoned to the committee.

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Photo Caption: Students cheated using an AI generator in Professor Geyh’s class

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons