Emory Student Sues University for Suspending Him Over AI Tool It Previously Endorsed

The university suspended student Ben Craver, arguing students could use his AI tool, Eightball, to cheat. Craver disagrees and claims Emory knew about the tool's capabilities and endorsed and funded it.
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Published on May 28, 2024
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  • Eightball, an artificial intelligence (AI) study tool that turns classroom materials into study materials, is at the center of the lawsuit.
  • Emory University previously endorsed and funded Eightball but later raised concerns that it violated the school's cheating policies, according to the lawsuit.
  • Ben Craver was one of the students Emory suspended for involvement with the app. He's suing, alleging Emory knew of the app's capabilities before claiming it violated the honor code.
  • Craver is seeking $75,000, asking the university to rescind the finding that he violated the honor code and cover legal fees and expenses.

A student is suing Emory University after the school suspended him for creating an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that could be used for cheating — a tool the university funded.

Ben Craver filed a lawsuit against the university on May 20, alleging that the university suspended him without evidence that students could use his and his partners' AI venture, Eightball, to cheat.

Eightball is an online learning tool that uses AI to streamline the process of making classroom study materials. The lawsuit says students could upload class materials to Eightball's private server, similar to Google Drive, and ask the AI to create tools like flashcards, study guides, and worksheets.

Craver and his co-founders created and submitted Eightball to Emory's annual Pitch the Summit entrepreneurship competition. They were awarded $10,000 for the project. Craver handled the marketing, while a partner handled all the software development.

The team then decided to link the tool with Canvas, the university's learning management platform, to allow students to upload materials directly to Eightball.

According to the lawsuit, Emory's Honor Council concluded that when the team connected the product to Canvas, Eightball went against the community's cheating and information dissemination standards.

Eightball allowed students to link the app to their Canvas accounts via user tokens. According to the lawsuit, when the university became aware of this, it attempted to prevent students from linking the AI but did not alert Craver or his partner that Eightball did anything wrong.

The lawsuit says Craver's partner created a workaround, not knowing Emory prevented the linking, which involved publicly disclosing one Canvas account token.

The university then informed Craver's partner — but not Craver himself — that linking Eightball and Canvas may violate the university's honor code.

Craver claims in the lawsuit that he only became aware of the issue when the university told him it was considering five violations — including cheating, disseminating course materials, and plagiarizing — since Eightball was linked to Canvas.

According to the lawsuit, only a handful of students linked Eightball to their Canvas accounts.

Emory's honor code allows a student to use AI programs to complete work if they provide proper citations unless a professor prohibits it, according to the lawsuit. However, the Honor Council noted, Eightball is based on a blueprint which incorporates the ability to cheat, which means that [Craver and his partner] were aware of Eightball's capacity and built it with intent.

The lawsuit says the university put Craver on one semester of probation and required him to write an apology and an academic paper on policy considerations for start-up companies utilizing novel technologies.

According to the lawsuit, Emory was on board with the project throughout the pitch and creation process, knowing what the AI could do and the team's intent to link it to Canvas.

At the time of the competition, none of the Pitch the Summit judges raised any concern that Eightball's then-existing, or projected features could implicate cheating, the lawsuit reads.

Vanessa Youshaei, who judged Eightball at Pitch the Summit, submitted a statement in support of Craver's complaint.

Of course, while I understand that Eightball — like ChatGPT, Google search engines, calculators, and many other technological tools — could be misused to cheat, the other judges and I never discussed that possibility, and no one voiced any concern that Eightball was designed with an intent to help anyone cheat, Youshaei stated.

To the contrary, the other judges and I were thoroughly impressed with Eightball's creativity and innovation, and I for one wish that Eightball had been available when I was a student at Emory because I would have used it to assist me with learning course material and preparing for exams.

After the competition, Emory published a now-deleted article in June 2023 about Eightball. In the article, one of the students involved in creating Eightball said the mission is to be an indispensable tool powered by AI that empowers and helps students study — not do their homework or be a cheat sheet.

The Honor Council failed to apply the clear and convincing evidence standard of proof, as required by the honor code, the lawsuit states.

The evidence presented at the hearing proved overwhelmingly that the Emory University community ... has, from the outset, celebrated, encouraged, and funded the development of Eightball.

Alongside failing to find evidence of cheating, Craver claims the university didn't consider his appealing arguments and implemented an arbitrary and sudden punishment.

Craver is seeking $75,000 in damages, asking the university to rescind the finding that he violated the honor code and cover legal fees and expenses.

Emory University has not responded to BestColleges' request for comment.