LSU Confronts NIL and AI

Thom Weidlich 03.09.23


It’s always fun when two raging phenomena come together. We have that in the recent flap over a TikTok video by LSU gymnastics star and uber-influencer Olivia “Livvy” Dunne. The LSU (Louisiana State University) incident brings together controversies over NIL (name, image and likeness) and AI (artificial intelligence). How’s that for alphabet soup?

Dunne (pictured) posted a 10-second clip, for which she was paid, promoting AI outfit Caktus, which aims to help students write their papers based on verbal prompts. The 20-year-old Dunne has 7.2 million TikTok followers.

The spot shows the caption “Need to get my creativity flowing for my essay due at midnight” and Dunne using the service. The phrase “gymnastics is the hardest sport” appears on her laptop screen and then is magically transformed by Caktus into a full composition. Dunne gives the thumb up (only one thumb).

Student Athletes

AI has become all the rage the past few months especially with the rise of AI platform ChatGPT, which will apparently replace everyone’s job, including plumbers. NIL has been all the rage since 2021, when the NCAA, the body that oversees sports at 1,000-plus U.S. schools, allowed student athletes to profit from their, well, name, image and likeness.

The On3 NIL 100 database of student athletes’ projected annual values lists Dunne third, at more than $3 million. She’s the highest-paid NCAA female athlete, making seven figures.

@livvy will provide real resources for you to cite at the end of your essays and paragraphs;) #caktus #foryou

♬ original sound – Coach

NIL raises many reputational issues, such as what happens to sponsors when their athlete representatives do something stupid like get arrested for drunk driving. Then there’s young people signing contracts they don’t understand. While the universities aren’t technically involved, they still have to worry about the reputational implications.

So here we have LSU faced with a student athlete doing something sort of untoward in an NIL deal: encouraging students to possibly violate their schools’ codes of conduct.

Concerns Relayed

But LSU handled it pretty well. It didn’t freak out. It didn’t “cancel” Dunne, who probably didn’t violate any rules. It simply issued a statement, picked up in the press, relaying its concerns — especially about how using AI could get students put on double secret probation.

“At LSU, our professors and students are empowered to use technology for learning and pursuing the highest standards of academic integrity,” it wrote, according to press reports. “However, using AI to produce work that a student then represents as one’s own could result in a charge of academic misconduct, as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.”

LSU’s conduct code reportedly does not mention AI (we bet it will soon), but it does of course condemn plagiarism, a major academic no-no. AI’s rise is new enough that the rules aren’t clear on how it intersects with literary cribbing. And not just in academe.

Photo Credit: Olivia Dunne via Facebook

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