College Student Says She Failed a Class for Using Grammarly on a Paper

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Dec. 19 2023, Published 5:09 p.m. ET

A college student named Marley Stevens said that she got a zero on a paper and failed one of her classes because her use of Grammarly got the paper flagged for plagiarism.

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“I have a public service announcement for you: If you have a paper, essay, discussion post, anything that is getting submitted … uninstall Grammarly from your web browser right now,” Marley said in a Dec. 6 TikTok video. “I had a paper that I had to write. … I turned the paper in, got a zero. I talked to the teacher, the department head, and the dean, and I was ‘unintentionally cheating’ using Grammarly … Uninstall Grammarly right now, because I don’t want you to fail a class like I did.”

This student said she was “not obviously advised” about Grammarly’s AI use.

In her video, Marley said that she got a zero on the paper because of plagiarism “even though [Grammarly] wrote absolutely nothing.”

In a follow-up TikTok video the following day, Marley said that she was “fuming” about her university’s response to the situation.

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She claimed in the video that she “was not obviously advised that [Grammarly uses] AI before the situation happened” and that she then “had to figure out how it worked.”

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According to Marley’s screenshots, her department head had a different take, writing in an email to her that AI is user-initiated. “By initiating this feature, you demonstrate knowledge,” he added.

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Furthermore, the department head wrote, a student in Marley’s position “lost their misconduct appeal due to this very fact.”

“That means that for the rest of their college career, they will have an academic misconduct charge on their record,” Marley said in the second video. “I’ve had other teachers at this same university recommend that I use it for papers, an English teacher even. So are they trying to tell us that we can’t use auto-correct or spell checkers or anything?”

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Grammarly said it had reached out to the school.

In a third video, posted on Dec. 15, Marley shared a screenshot of a comment she got from Grammarly. “We’re so sorry to hear this, Marley,” Grammarly wrote in the comment. “Grammarly has reached out to your university admin to understand more on their AI policies.”

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Marley also told TikTok users that she found out that she had been reported to the university’s student integrity office. But her hearing on the matter won’t happen until Jan. 8 at the earliest, she said, so the case is still pending.

FYI, Grammarly’s website says that the service’s generative AI assistance is available to all users and “finds ways to make your writing shine — and gives you new versions to consider.”

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Regarding the question of whether college students using Grammarly is cheating, Plagiarism Today writer Jonathan Bailey recommends that college students check in with their instructors. “If they view any use of Grammarly (or a similar product) as cheating, then don’t use it,” Bailey writes. “On the other hand, if they say it’s fine but only for certain tools, then only use those tools.”

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