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Student put on probation for using Grammarly: ‘AI violation’

A college junior has told The Post how she was put on academic probation after college anti-plagiarism software accused her of using AI to write a paper — which she strongly denies.

Marley Stevens, 21, a human services and delivery and administration major at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega Campus told The Post she used Grammarly, a web browser attachment that corrects spelling and punctuation, to proofread a criminal justice paper she submitted in October. 

But the junior automatically failed the assignment after it was flagged for artificial intelligence use by anti-plagiarism software TurnItIn.com — leading to losing a scholarship, and this month being put on academic probation after a disciplinary hearing.

Marley Stevens, 21, a junior at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega Campus used Grammarly, a web browser attachment that corrects spelling and punctuation, to proofread a criminal justice paper she submitted in October. Then she got flagged for plagiarism via TurnItIn.com. Marley Stevens / TikTok

The anti-plagiarism software is installed on the system students at the college use to submit papers.

Now Stevens is warning college students around the country to beware of getting wrongly accused of cheating by an anti-AI dragnet. 

“I worked really hard on this,” Stevens told The Post of the two-page paper on rehabilitation and re-entry rates in the criminal justice system.

Stevens thought she was being hacked when her criminal justice professor, Robert Ellison, emailed her saying her paper had a “positive response for AI” and that he had reported her to the student academic integrity committee. 

Stevens’ professor emailed her in October saying the criminal justice paper checked through Turn It In, returned a “positive response for AI” and was told she would receive a zero. She shared the screen shot of the email in a TikTok. Marley Stevens / TikTok
The anti-plagiarism software Turn It In is installed on the system University of North Georgia Dahlonega students at the college use to submit papers. Stevens told The Post other students who used Grammarly for spell check have also been flagged by the system. Ellison said “the entire paper except the last couple of sentences” showed use of AI. Marley Stevens / TikTok

“He gave me a zero and called me a cheater,” she said. “I was shocked – at first I thought he’d sent the email to the wrong person.”

Stevens, who said she maintained a 3.0 GPA before the allegation, said she had the free version of Grammarly installed in her web browser to fix spelling and punctuation errors, not to create or edit content.

Ellison told her in an email that “the entire paper except for the last couple of sentences” had been flagged as AI-generated and said he confirmed this “through another app.” 

Stevens explained her use of Grammarly for spellchecking could be the culprit and stressed, it’s “not like ChatGPT.” She asked to redo the paper, pleading “I don’t want to fail the class.” 

“He gave me a zero and called me a cheater,” Stevens said. “I was shocked – at first I thought he’d sent the email to the wrong person.” Stevens maintained a 3.0 GPA before the allegation. Marley Stevens / TikTok
The University of North Georgia said that it could not comment on Stevens’ fail because of federal privacy laws. A spokesperson said, “the inappropriate use of AI is also addressed in our Student Code of Conduct.” University of North Georgia

Stevens said she and other students have used Grammarly on other homework assignments without penalty, noting that she’s had professors who have urged them to install the extension.

But Ellison stopped answering, she told The Post, and last week at a hearing with the dean of student integrity she was put on academic probation for “cheating.”

A week after meeting with the dean of student integrity, Stevens said, the office sent out a campus-wide email advising students to “Please be aware that some online tools used to assist students with grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, utilize generative artificial intelligence (AI); which can be flagged by TurnItIn.” 

Grammarly told The Post its “suggestions for spelling, grammatical correctness, clarity, concision, and tone are not powered by generative AI,” and warned that some tools can “mistakenly” flag its use as AI-generated content.

Stevens, works two jobs in retail and assists a friend who works as a flight instructor to help pay for school, said she considered transferring to another college, but says it would be more expensive to do so. Sydney Jones/ jonesphotography.com
“People have asked me what advice I have for other college students – my advice is ask every professor you have about Grammarly and AI,” she told The Post. Courtsey of Marley Stevens

The Post has reached out to TurnItIn.com. The University of North Georgia said that it could not comment on Stevens’ fail because of federal privacy laws.

“Our faculty members communicate specific guidelines regarding the use of AI for various classes, and those guidelines are included in the class syllabi,” a spokesperson said. “The inappropriate use of AI is also addressed in our Student Code of Conduct.” 

Stevens works two jobs in retail and assists a friend who works as a flight instructor to help pay for school and said she considered transferring to another college, but says it would be more expensive to do so.

She has highlighted her case on TikTok and on Wednesday was asked by Grammarly to share more information about what happened.

“People have asked me what advice I have for other college students – my advice is ask every professor you have about Grammarly and AI,” she told The Post.

“Email them so you have it in writing take a screen shot and save it so if something like this does come up.”

Written by SaleemBaloch

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