Letter From the Editors: Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad AI?

Sammi Bray ’25 & Olivia Silvey ’25

Editors-in-Chief

As autumn leaves pirouette from their lofty perches and the campus vibrates with the peculiar energy of a new academic year, we, your humble and slightly eccentric Editors-in-Chief, find ourselves embarking on an expedition into the enigmatic labyrinth of what lies ahead. With an exhilarating blend of anticipation and audacity, we stand poised to divulge our rather unconventional aspirations for the upcoming year…or, at least that is what ChatGPT thinks our editorials sound like.

The usual first day of class includes a discussion of class expectations, your name, your major and perhaps an ice breaker about your favorite season (we are both fall girls, in case you were wondering). The average introduction back to the classroom this year now included a new consistent theme: AI. We were reminded about how plagiarism is wrong and the serious consequences that can come from it, and that we should carry out our work with integrity. The writing assessment given to first-year and junior students was based on an article about AI in the classroom, and numerous other prompts in other courses are asking students to question this budding technology.

Some of the concerns that AI brings up are certainly valid and make sense. Of course an institution of higher education wants to foster students for the pursuit of knowledge, and of course that would be followed by a condemnation of plagiarism. We can accept that as reasonable. But the constant reminder at the beginning of each course makes us wonder: do the adults in our lives think we have no integrity? No drive to learn and grow? We all are here — willingly or not — to learn, right?

As two writing tutors, both of us have spent a lot of time considering the possibility of what AI can do to help us and our peers, not just how it can be harmful. Having a hard time getting started on a lab report? Need relevant sources for your essay? A synonym? Or, maybe English is not your first language, and you need help bridging that gap quickly. AI tools have the potential to level the playing field for students, making information affordable and easily accessible regardless of where you are searching from. These tools are not perfect — they sometimes simply make up information, which, for you professors out there, is almost like a built-in cheating prevention function. But it is hard to argue against AI completely as a tool for comprehending material, translating language, getting unstuck on a project and more. We have an emergency equity fund to help cover the costs of textbooks when students need it, so why should we then turn around and denounce a resource that any student could utilize for free?

Painted in blue and gold on the Life Science Center building, Mather and other spots around campus is the following message: ‘Committed to the future since 1823.’ Well, 200 years later and the future is here, now and writing our editorials. It includes some scary stuff, but it also holds a lot of potential for good. AI is a legitimate force in the world and in the job industries that each of us are on the cusp of entering. Trinity College cannot say with confidence that they are sending us into the world prepared if we are not equipped with the tools of the future — and that includes AI. For better or worse, it is here to stay and our future employers will expect us to have some knowledge of the technology.

But let’s circle back to our four years here and the years of education that will follow us. We are not done here yet. In the classroom, we are in need of change, too. As the article selected by the writing assessment committee and written by Will Douglas Heaven suggests, educators should be modifying assessments to match modern day needs rather than trying to stop the use of AI in their courses and sticking with “well, we have always done it that way” thinking. This traditional model that requires regurgitating information or the basic five paragraph essay is outdated, even without the rise of AI. We are all so much smarter than that and we hold far greater potential. Our assignments should push us to think critically, to make connections and to have human emotions. A computer cannot do these things. A computer can be a parrot; it can synthesize information from computer sources and write us that five paragraph essay, but ultimately, it is cold and inhumane. We are not.

-Sammi Bray & Olivia Silvey

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