Student fights AI cheating allegations for using Grammarly

  • University junior Marley Stevens used Grammarly to correct her paper
  • Grammarly is used to catch spelling errors, typos and grammar issues
  • Grammarly also uses generative AI

(NewsNation) — University junior Marley Stevens faced a startling setback when a paper she diligently worked on received a zero grade, plunging her into academic probation and jeopardizing her scholarship. The twist? She had used Grammarly, a popular writing plugin recommended by her university, to refine her work.

Stevens, recounting her ordeal, expressed initial disbelief upon receiving the email notifying her of the zero grade. “I thought he had sent the email to the wrong person because I worked super hard on my paper,” she said in a Sunday interview on “NewsNation Prime.”

Little did she expect that three months later, she would still be entangled in the aftermath, with her scholarship hanging by a thread. Grammarly says 30 million people use this tool to catch spelling errors, typos and grammar issues.

Grammarly also uses generative AI and a detection service flagged Stevens’ assignment for the teacher as “unintentionally cheating.”

“I’m on probation until February 16 of next year. And this started when he sent me the email. It was October. I didn’t think that now in March of 2024, that this would still be a big thing that was going on,” Stevens said.

Despite Grammarly being recommended on the University of North Georgia’s website, Stevens found herself embroiled in battle to clear her name. The tool, briefly removed from the school’s website, later resurfaced, adding to the confusion surrounding its acceptable usage despite the software’s utilization of generative AI.

“I have a teacher this semester who told me in an email like ‘yes use Grammarly. It’s a great tool.’ And they advertise it,” Stevens said.

Grammarly’s Jenny Maxwell clarified the company’s stance, emphasizing its role as a partner in enhancing writing experiences while ensuring responsible usage. “Our AI engine inside of it helps people create better writing experiences that are grammatically correct, [with] fewer spelling issues,” she explained.

Maxwell defended the tool’s integrity, highlighting its 15-year history of aiding students and professionals in crafting grammatically correct content. “We’ve recently added a generative engine within Grammarly,” Maxwell explained, emphasizing responsible usage and transparency in citing its assistance.

Despite Stevens’ appeal and subsequent GoFundMe campaign to rectify the situation, her options seem limited. The university’s stance, citing the absence of suspension or expulsion, has left her in a bureaucratic bind.

Maxwell, on behalf of Grammarly, extended support, including a $4,000 donation.

Reflecting on the broader implications, Maxwell urged institutions to adapt their assessment methods in light of evolving technologies like AI.

“Education is wrestling right now with how they need to evolve the way that they assess writing,” she remarked.

NewsNation reached out to the university for comment and hasn’t heard back.

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