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Emory University awarded two students $10,000 for their AI study tool, then suspended them

A lawsuit from one of the students explains Emory found no wrongdoing and always knew how the tool, Eightball, worked.

MR.Cole_Photographer via Getty Images

Individuals and organizations are still struggling with how and how much to integrate AI into daily life. Rarely has that been more clear than a case out of Emory University in which the school went from awarding students with an entrepreneurship prize worth $10,000 for their AI-powered studying tool to suspending them for it, 404 Media reports. No, the students didn't suddenly misuse the tool, known as Eightball, in any way; they did just as they said they would, and all the while, Emory promoted them — until they didn't.

Eightball allowed students to turn any coursework or readings into practice tests or flashcards for studying. It also connected to Canvas — the platform professors at Emory use to share course documents with their students. A demo video for Eightball called it similar to ChatGPT but trained on Canvas courses, looking at everything from lectures to slides, rather than students having to upload each PDF individually to the tool.

Emory's Honor Council accused Eightball's creators of cheating, plagiarizing and helping other students violate the Honor Code in November 2023 and the duo shut the tool down. The Council also claimed Eightball attached to Canvas without permission, despite it being stated during the awards competition in Spring 2023. The body launched an investigation into the students, which found that Eightball hadn't assisted with cheating and that the student creators had never lied about its capabilities.

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Yet, the Honor Council recommended a year suspension for one of the students, Benjamin Craver, and expulsion for the other (who ideated Eightball). The Council's director called the situation "unprecedented" due to the harm it could cause at Emory. Craver was eventually suspended for the summer and fall 2024 semesters — after which he would need to apply for readmission. He was also given a mark on his permanent record and required to complete an educational program. His co-creator received a one-year suspension.

Craver filed a lawsuit on May 20 against Emory detailing how Eightball came to be, teachers' support and use, articles promoting it in the university's newspaper and that the students had always been transparent in its use. Among other evidence, the lawsuit also shares words of support from the associate dean of Emory's business school about Eightball following the award and her choice to connect the students with an outside entrepreneur, an Emory Alumnus. "While nothing about Eightball changed, Emory's view of Eightball changed dramatically," Craver's lawsuit states. "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."