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Boston University Responds to Criticisms Over AI Suggestions Amid Graduate Student Strike

TL;DR

  • Boston University suggests using AI during grad student strike but denies replacing workers.
  • Critics slam AI proposal, saying it can’t replace grad students’ crucial roles.
  • Grad students strike for better pay and healthcare after 8 months of negotiations.

Boston University (BU) has responded robustly to criticisms following a dean’s suggestion to employ artificial intelligence (AI) tools amidst a graduate student strike. The controversy arose after an email from Stan Sclaroff, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, surfaced recommending the use of AI to supplement teaching amidst the strike.

University clarifies stance on AI integration

BU swiftly moved to address concerns raised after the email from Dean Sclaroff surfaced. The university emphasized that neither Sclaroff nor BU intended for AI to replace graduate student teaching assistants. In a statement released on Friday, BU reiterated its commitment to the integral role of graduate student workers and dispelled assertions that the institution aimed to substitute them with AI.

According to the university’s statement, Dean Sclaroff’s memo merely advocated for considering diverse teaching tools to mitigate disruptions caused by the strike. It suggested that professors explore innovative methods, including AI, to manage course discussions, labs, and student feedback during the ongoing labor action.

Dean’s recommendations prompt backlash

Dean Sclaroff’s email, circulated among faculty members and obtained by Inside Higher Ed, outlined various strategies for adapting course formats and leveraging technology amid the strike. These included combining discussion sessions, assigning alternative assignments such as film analysis, and utilizing generative AI tools for providing feedback or facilitating discussions on readings and assignments.

However, the suggestions sparked criticism, particularly from the striking faculty and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 chapter. The union expressed deep disappointment with BU’s proposition, asserting that AI could not substitute for the essential role of graduate workers in mentoring students, facilitating discussions, and teaching.

In an email the SEIU Local 509 chapter urged BU to reconsider its stance, emphasizing the significance of properly compensating graduate workers for their vital contributions to the university’s operations.

The graduate student strike at BU commenced last week, driven by demands for improved pay, expanded healthcare coverage, and other concessions. The union and BU had engaged in negotiations for eight months before the commencement of the strike, but a resolution had not been reached.

The strike reflects broader labor disputes within academia and highlights the ongoing challenges faced by graduate students in securing fair compensation and adequate benefits for their work.

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James Kinoti

A crypto enthusiast, James finds pleasure in sharing knowledge on fintech, cryptocurrency as well as blockchain and frontier technologies. The latest innovations in the crypto industry, crypto gaming, AI, blockchain technology, and other technologies are his preoccupation. His mission: be on track with transformative applications in various industries.

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