AI Policy and Guidelines

USF, like many universities across the nation, is facing a time of change due to Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs like ChatGPT. As a department, we are well aware that writing is a critical component of the learning process, and that part of preparing our students for the world in which they live is teaching with and about the tools that they have at their disposal. After all, rhetoric is based on utilizing the “available means of persuasion.” Thus, the faculty in our department are encouraged to not only educate our students about the benefits and pitfalls of AI, but also to use the technology in order to prepare them for both professional and civic participation.

While this new technology may understandably cause a range of reactions—everything from excitement, to confusion, to fear of an existential threat—as teachers of writing, we are confident that strategies and approaches based in long-standing good pedagogy, things you are likely already doing to support active learning and positive student-teacher relationships in your classrooms, continue to be best practices in the time of AI. 

Pedagogical Guidelines for Incorporating AI 

Rhetoric and Language faculty are invited to …

  • Consider addressing ChatGPT and other AI platforms explicitly. 
  • Include a customized AI statement on your syllabus (Developing Your Default GenAI Policy). (note: while you could restrict any use of AI, this total ban may inadvertently limit students ability to engage meaningfully and ethically with these tools that are already being utilized in many workplaces).
    • SAMPLE COURSE AI POLICY: AI can both hinder and enhance our capacity to learn. Therefore, we must learn how to recognize when it impedes us and when it provides us with new understanding. In this course, you may use AI-generated text to supplement and broaden your own ideas and creativity, but be mindful of how AI text shapes your thinking and communication. Additionally, you will be expected to adequately cite your use of AI (MLA and APA guidelines are available). Remember AI-assistance is a form of collaboration that can help you think in new ways, but only you can make judgements and choices about content. Please keep in mind that there may be certain assignments that will be designated as AI-free writing to emphasize the importance of human generated content. (policy adapted from iSophist, Lance Cummings)
  • Demonstrate the shortcomings and challenges of using AI to generate truly effective writing for assignments. (note:it’s a good idea to test your prompts on ChatGPT to evaluate what ChatGPT outputs and potentially refine your writing prompts.) 
  • Working explicitly with your students is one of the best ways to avoid academic integrity issues.
  • Expect students to give credit to AI tools whenever used, even if only to generate ideas. (MLA and APA guidelines are available)
  • Explicitly state in assignment prompts and/or in instructions whether or not use of AI tools during in-class examinations, assignments, etc. IS or IS NOT permitted.

In other words, encourage students to use AI tools wisely and intelligently, aiming to deepen their understanding of subject matter and to support learning.

Guidelines for When AI-generated Work is Suspected

Position on AI Detection Tools
AI “detection” sites are  available to help determine whether or not a piece of writing is likely to have been generated by Chat GPT or other AI/algorithmic programs. These sites have been critiqued for inaccuracy and generating “false positives” (AI DetectionResults and ChatGPT Detector Flagged Innocent Student). Given this, the department does NOT endorse the use of these sites as “proof” of a student’s plagiarism. However, these sites can be helpful as ONE tool amongst many for assessing the likelihood of AI usage. Just as generative AI is evolving, so too are these “detection” sites, and we are sure that any specific site we identify is likely to quickly become obsolete (ChatGPT Shuts Down Detection Tool). However, at the time of this writing, a free, research-based site for AI assessment is Zero GPT. Read more about how ZeroGPT works here.

Again, we only recommend sites such as this as part of a much longer, dialogic process rather than a “one stop shop” for determining guilt or punishment.

Guidelines for Full Class concerns:
If you notice several (or all) students using similar phrasing, generic or vague responses, and/ or language that is not representative of undergraduate work (too sophisticated or not developmentally appropriate), then it’s useful to acknowledge and discuss this with everyone in the class. For example, you might copy all examples of the statement/phrase in students’ essays (removing student names) and ask the class to reflect on what happened. This avoids calling out individual students, but creates a learning experience and a conversation around it and the shortcomings of AI-generated texts. You might also reflect on whether or not your assignment prompt itself made a response from ChatGPT easy or if students are struggling too much to work with a particularly difficult text (and were thus tempted to turn to AI for help). 

Guidelines for Individual Student Concerns:
If you suspect an individual student has turned in writing for a final paper or major project that is AI-generated and they are claiming this writing as their own, the process is the same as it is for any plagiarism case. We recommend you do the following:  

Conference with the Student

  • Invite the student to a conference and ask about their process and argument in the paper. That is, you might ask them: Can you describe your writing process for this essay? What were the steps you took to get started and develop this into a draft? Can you talk me through your argument in your words? What evidence helped you get to this argument? Why do you think this? 
  • Ask the student directly.
    • Explicitly and directly as the student if they have used AI to generate their paper and if so to what extent. 
  • Talk to the student about your policy around academic integrity and what your expectations are for writing. 

Make an Action Plan

  • Create an appropriate response given the conversation, which might involve:
    • Asking the student to rewrite the paper and turn in a reflection about their process;
    • Failing the student on this particular assignment;
    • Reviewing the process of submitting an “incident report,” and potentially requiring the student to go through a more formal conversation with their CASA coach and/or faculty advisor. 

As you make these choices, remember the goal is for students to learn from their decision and move forward in your class

USF Academic Integrity and Honor Code Policy
USF’s Honor Code empowers faculty to address plagiarism or cheating in whatever way the faculty member deems reasonable, based on standards in their field and on their own professional judgment.

Most (about 75% by a recent count) of USF faculty respond punitively to plagiarism: students fail an assignment or even an entire class as a consequence of perceived cheating. In Rhetoric & Language, however, most faculty choose to respond by offering the student individual mentoring and a chance to re-do the work, sometimes with a grade penalty and sometimes without any penalty. In this way, the student gets more support for learning and growth through the experience.

This isn’t just an issue of individual conduct, but also an issue of educational equity. Analysis of penalty patterns at USF indicates that penalties fall more heavily on students already facing significant educational challenges, including first-gen students, students from under-represented demographic groups, students with disabilities, and international students. In other words, the punitive side of USF’s system tends to magnify educational inequality.

The recommended procedure in Rhetoric and Language for any perceived violation of academic integrity is as follows:

  1.  Consider talking with colleagues or consulting with the Department’s leadership team about the situation. The more we talk to each other about this, the wiser and more consistent our responses will be.
  2.  Speak with the student individually (See guidelines outlined above).
  3. Offer a path to academic recovery rather than imposing an “academic death penalty” (Howard). (See guidelines outlined above).
  4. File an “incident report” with the Academic Integrity Committee. The student will be notified of the report, providing a warning that USF takes academic integrity seriously. However, there are no further consequences for the student from the AIC—no interview, no investigation, no penalty. Only if the student has a prior report in another course (or if the offense is particularly grave or egregious) will the AIC contact the student for an interview. Evidence suggests that this system is effective in discouraging repeat offenses.

Many faculty are justifiably concerned about the potential impact of confronting students about plagiarism. It seems reasonable that a student who is penalized may retaliate when they fill out their end-of-semester student ratings. If the student feels neglected, unseen, or unfairly punished, this may be the case. However, evidence indicates that if the student sees the faculty members conduct as based in concern for their wellbeing and future success, they will be grateful for the experience.

Last updated Jul 26, 2023