NYU Professors Tell Their Students: Do Not Use ChatGPT

“Q: Is using ChatGPT or other AI tools that generate text or content considered plagiarism? A: Yes.” 
Screenshot of NYU Syllabuses

School's back in session and the hottest topic is ChatGPT. New York University professors are prohibiting the use of the AI tool in the “academic integrity” sections of their syllabuses, and many students were given an explicit warning from professors on the first day of class not to use the bot to cheat on assignments.

The popular chatbot created by OpenAI, which can be used to generate everything from academic essays to news articles, has led many professors and teachers to be alert when it comes to the possibility that an essay has been plagiarized by a bot. 


Jenni Quilter, the Executive Director of the Expository Writing Program and the Assistant Vice Dean of General Education in the College of Arts and Sciences at NYU, told Motherboard that professors are worried about their students using ChatGPT to cheat. Quilter said that both individual school departments and the central university have already provided guidelines to professors on how to handle a situation in which ChatGPT is used without permission. 

“The situation has already come up—we had instances of students using ChatGPT in December,” Quilter said. “The repercussions for using ChatGPT without acknowledgment are the same as they would be for any case of academic plagiarism, and range from redoing the assignment to grade deductions and a report lodged with the Dean of that student's college.”

David Levene, who is a professor of Classics and the Chair of the Department of Classics at NYU, told Motherboard that he is keeping a close watch for any ChatGPT-related plagiarism. 

“I've included an alert that it is banned unless used with my express permission as part of an assignment, and any use of it counts as plagiarism,” Levene said. “I also told [my students] (which is true) that I ran various essay-prompts through ChatGPT, and the essays it came up with were at best B- standard, and at worst a clear F. So (I told them) if they are hoping to get better than B- for the course, they should avoid it like the plague!” 


In a class at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, the professor plainly wrote on the syllabus, “Q: Is using ChatGPT or other AI tools that generate text or content considered plagiarism? A: Yes.” 

ChatGPT warnings have not just been limited to essay-based classes either. One macroeconomics syllabus that Motherboard saw said, “The time constraint is purposely tight so you will not have enough time to consult your books, ChatGPT, or other sources, and still complete all the questions on the Quiz. …Students may not communicate with anyone (including ChatGPT) during the 24 hours a Quiz is available.” Using ChatGPT to solve math problems may actually backfire as the app has already been proven to fail at even 6th-grade level math

The NYU professors’ concerns are not completely unfounded. According to a poll conducted by The Stanford Daily, 17 percent of Stanford students used ChatGPT to assist with their fall quarter assignments and exams. 

Since the release of the most recent version of ChatGPT in December, school districts and universities across the country have started to transform academic policies and teaching formats to prevent their students from cheating with the tool.

New York City’s education department was one of the first districts to ban student access to ChatGPT on school networks and devices in early January. The New York Times reported that professors are making changes such as requiring handwritten assignments rather than typed ones, and others are trying to incorporate ChatGPT into lessons, such as by evaluating its responses. 

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman addressed concerns about cheating and plagiarism in an interview with StrictlyVC, saying that teachers should modify their classrooms around new technology. “We're going to try and do some things in the short term. There may be ways we can help teachers be a little more likely to detect output of a GPT-like system. But honestly, a determined person will get around them," he said. “Generative text is something we all need to adapt to.” 

People are already developing methods to quickly spot whether something is AI-generated or not. For example, a computer science student at Princeton built GPTZero, an app that attempts to detect whether or not a body of text was human-written or AI-written. 

Turnitin, a plagiarism detection service through which students can submit writing assignments, announced that starting in 2023, it would begin incorporating a new tool that can detect AI-assisted and ChatGPT-generated writing. “It is important to recognize that the presence of AI writing capabilities does not signal the end of original thought or expression if educators set the right parameters and expectations for its use,” the company wrote in a press release. “We encourage you to have these discussions at your institution now and set achievable standards and expectations for your students around the acceptable use of AI-assisted writing tools.”