Academic Honesty and Integrity

What should a syllabus statement on AI look like?

While it is unusual for faculty to update a course syllabus mid-semester, the unprecedented impacts of ChatGPT and AI technology have many looking for ways to provide more guidance for their students. In this post, I’d like to share different versions of what syllabi statements on ChatGPT and AI-generated material can look like.  


These can take different approaches. I would describe the basic approaches in the following categories: the prohibitive statement, the use-with-permission statement, and the abdication statement.


The Prohibitive Statement: 

Here is one such example, created by Virginia Chaffee, Senior Instructor in the CSU English Department and University Writing Program:

A Note on AI: Any work written, developed, created, or inspired by artificial intelligence (AI) is considered plagiarism and will not be tolerated. While the ever-changing (and exciting!) new developments with AI will find their place in our workforces and personal lives, in the realm of education and learning, this kind of technology does not belong. This is because the use of AI robs us all of the opportunity to learn from our experiences and from each other, to play with our creative freedoms, to problem-solve, and to contribute our ideas in authentic ways. In a nutshell, college is a place for learning, and this class is specifically a space for learning how to improve our writing. AI simply cannot do that learning for us.


Note that this instructor has set the expectation that any use on graded work/ work for credit will be considered a violation of the academic misconduct policy. This would be an appropriate statement for a class in which the course outcomes have been compromised by use of the technology (as one would imagine would happen in a writing course). Also, I really love how this statement shares its reasoning and approaches a prohibitive statement with a positive tone and care for the student. 


The Use-With-Permission Statement

This statement may unfold in this manner:

Generally speaking, you are not authorized to use artificial intelligence engines, software, or artwork generating programs (or similar) to produce work for this class EXCEPT on assignments that I have identified and for which you will have received significant guidance on appropriate use of such technologies. I will provide more information about the specific assignment when the time is appropriate in the course. You may not, however, construe this limited use as permission to use these technologies in any other facet of this course. 


In this statement, the instructor makes it clear that only certain uses will be acceptable and that the student can expect future communication and instruction in those cases. In that scenario, the student has a reasonable expectation that the instructor will use signaling language when the work is assigned and that there will be significant guidance at that time about how to use the technology. 


The Abdication Statement 

This statement may unfold in this manner: 

From this point forward, I will assume that all written work has been co-authored or entirely written by ChatGPT.  I will grade such writing as I normally would and your grade will be a reflection of your ability to harness these new technologies as you prepare for your future in a workforce that will increasingly require your proficiency with AI-assisted work. 


This is based on a real statement I saw in early February 2023. I felt many emotions while reading it, and I’m sure you have as well. I’ve called it the “abdication” statement because, while this author might be right about AI technology’s future in the workplace eventually, not preparing students to communicate effectively according to the current standards of our disciplines is widely seen as an abdication of our responsibility to them. There is something very human in this response to ChatGPT, though, and I sympathize with faculty who feel exhausted at the prospect of having to combat yet another technology with the potential to undermine higher education. 


Last Thoughts

As you can imagine, the right syllabus statement for your course can fall anywhere in between. However,  it is important that they remain consistent with university and department policy on assessing student work. Finally, the most important part of including a statement is that it provides clarity to your students about your expectations. Hopefully, it can also be the starting point for an evolving conversation.