As AI continues to grow, UD students, faculty and staff share perspectives

Jack Bucaro | Contributing Writer

Artificial intelligence, better known as AI, has taken the world by storm. People all over the world have mixed opinions about its existence and how it’s used, from being a personal assistant to a tutor. 

Many college students have begun to view AI as a useful tool in their schoolwork. However, there’s debate as to whether AI is being used to enhance students’ thinking or replace it. Given the capability of “generative” AI programs like ChatGPT to compose essays, solve problems, and write stories, among other things, some schools fear that students may abuse them to produce unoriginal work.

The University of Dayton is among the colleges and universities debating whether AI should or should not be used by its students.

UD staff and faculty have mixed opinions. Some say that AI can be a very positive tool and make people’s lives easier. Others wonder if the use of AI prevents students from doing work on their own and leads to dependency.

Some UD faculty are enforcing measures that will detect if AI is being used on assignments. Because of its rapid popularity, many said they are catching on to the fact that students are using it and giving the same answers in submitting some assignments. 

Some students on campus are also against the use of AI.

“AI is literally so dangerous,” said business major Devin Scharf. “We don’t understand the power of it and what it’s capable of.”

Scharf said he believes students using AI now will lead to issues in their careers. He said students don’t always understand the negative effects of taking shortcuts in school. 

“I just hope it becomes illegal,” Scharf said. 

However, many UD faculty had positive things to say about AI.

Sarah Tangeman, a structural design specialist at UD, said AI can be an effective tool if taught well.

“Students need to be taught how to use AI, including ChatGPT, in an ethical manner so that they will not only learn how to use it effectively but also learn how to be discerning users of it,” Tangeman said.

When asked about the many concerns people have about AI replacing human jobs, Tangeman expressed the importance of human thought.

“The most important thing for students to understand is that AI will not replace human thinking, even if it can convincingly mimic it,” she said.

Communication professor John Hamman had a balanced perspective, stating that AI can have a positive impact on students if they use it wisely.

“I think AI can be a good partner for students conducting research, acting like an enhanced Google to help discover information that can be used to construct arguments,” Hamman said. “I am concerned that students will not stop at that level and will have AI ‘think’ for them in terms of constructing arguments and entire papers, which denies them the opportunity to become critical thinkers.” 

AI refers to a wide range of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence. 

Alan Turing, a 20th-century English computer scientist, is credited as one of the founding fathers of AI. Turing published a book Computer Machinery and Intelligence, which eventually became the Turing Test, used to measure computer intelligence. 

The fundamental limit of computer storage is what prevented AI from advancing during Turing’s time. In the following decades, computer scientists realized this issue and immediately worked toward a solution. The increase in potential computer storage has been a fundamental contributor to the spike in AI popularity.

The current discussion around AI and schools mainly focuses on “generative” AI like ChatGPT. However, not all AI-powered programs are generative.

Grammarly is a popular AI-powered online typing assistant that checks writers’ spelling, punctuation, grammar and delivery errors as they write, suggesting alternatives to improve quality. A paid version provides a generative AI function, but the majority of Grammarly’s 30 million users only utilize the free assistant to subtly improve their writing quality.

Concerns still remain as to the use of AI in classrooms. In January 2023, Princeton student Edward Tian used AI to try and curb AI plagiarism by students, creating a program that could detect whether a piece of writing was AI-generated. The app, called GPTZero, crashed almost immediately after its launch from massive amounts of traffic.

Tian tweeted about his app prior to its launch.

“there’s so much chatgpt hype going around. is this and that written by AI? we as humans deserve to know!”

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