University Suspends Students for AI Homework Tool It Gave Them $10,000 Prize to Make

Emory University gave students a $10,000 entrepreneurial prize for their AI startup, then suspended them and accused them of cheating when they built it.
University Suspends Students for AI Homework Tool It Gave Them $10,000 Prize to Make
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This article was produced in collaboration with Court Watch, an independent outlet that unearths overlooked court records.

The student cofounders of an AI studying tool won a $10,000 entrepreneurship prize from Emory University for their idea, were championed publicly and repeatedly by the university’s business school for creating the software, and then were promptly suspended by the school for a semester for building exactly what the school had just given them money to build.

The students were suspended by the school’s Honor Council because their AI tool “could be used for cheating” and because they connected it to a software platform used by the university to host course reading material, homework, and other assignments without obtaining express permission, though this feature was mentioned at the competition it won $10,000 at. But the school’s Honor Council did not actually find evidence that it was ever used to cheat, and a review of the Honor Council’s writeup shows an incredible misunderstanding of how the specific tool, called Eightball, was designed and a misunderstanding of how large language models are trained and what they can do.  

“While nothing about Eightball changed, Emory’s view of Eightball changed dramatically,” a lawsuit filed by Benjamin Craver, one of the suspended students against the university reads. “Emory concedes that there is no evidence that anyone has ever used Eightball to cheat. And to this day Emory advertises Eightball as an example of student innovation and entrepreneurship.”

A screenshot from an Eightball demo

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