Rua M. Williams Profile picture
Feb 17 27 tweets 4 min read Read on X
The racism behind chatGPT that we aren't talking about...

This year, I learned that students use chatGPT because they believe it helps them sound more respectable. And I learned that it absolutely does not work. A thread. 🧵
A few weeks ago, I was working on a paper with one of my RAs. I have permission from them to share this story. They had done the research and the draft. I was to come in and make minor edits, clarify the method, add some background literature, and we would refine the discussion.
The draft was incomprehensible. Whole paragraphs were vague, repetitive, and bewildering. It was like listening to a politician. I could not edit it. I had to rewrite nearly every section. We were on a tight deadline, and I was struggling to articulate what was wrong ...
so I sent them on to further sections while I cleaned up ... this.

As I edited, I had to keep my mind from wandering. I had written with this student before, and this was not normal. I usually did some light edits for phrasing, though sometimes with major restructuring.
I was worried about my student. They had been going through some complicated domestic issues. They were disabled. Theyd had a lrior head injury. They had done excellent on their prelims, which of course I couldn't edit for them. What was going on!?
We were co-writing the day before the deadline. I could tell they were struggling with how much I had to rewrite. I tried to be encouraging and remind them that this was their research project and they had done all of the interviews and analysis. And they were doing great.
In fact, the qualitative write-up they had done the night before was better, and I was back to just adjusting minor grammar and structure. I complimented their new work and noted it was different from the other parts of the draft that I had struggled to edit.
Quietly, they asked, "is it okay to use chatGPT to fix sentences to make you sound more white?"

"... is... is that what you did with the earlier draft?"
They had, a few sentences at a time, completely ruined their own work, and they couldnt tell, because they believed that the chatGPT output had to be better writing. Because it sounded smarter. It sounded fluent. It seemed fluent. But it was nonsense!
I nearly cried with relief. I told them I had been so worried. I was going to check in with them when we were done, because I could not figure out what was wrong. I showed them thr clear differences between their raw drafting and their "corrected" draft.
I told them that I believed in them. They do great work. When I asked them why they felt they had to do that, they told me that another faculty member had told the class that they should use it to make their papers better, and that he and his RAs were doing it.
The student also told me that in therapy, their therapist had been misunderstanding them, blaming them, and denying that these misunderstandings were because of a language barrier.
They felt that they were so bad at communicating, because of their language, and their culture, and their head injury, that they would never be a good scholar. They thought they had to use chatGPT to make them sound like an American, or they would never get a job.
They also told me that when they used chatGPT to help them write emails, they got more responses, which helped them with research recruitment.
I've heard this from other students too. That faculty only respond to their emails when they use chatGPT. The great irony of my viral autistic email thread was always that had I actually used AI to write it, I would have sounded decidedly less robotic.
ChatGPT is probably pretty good at spitting out the meaningless pleasantries that people associate with respectability. But it's terrible at making coherent, complex, academic arguments!
Last semester, I gave my graduate students an assignment. They were to read some reports on labor exploitation and environmental impact of chatGPT and LLM. Then they wrote a reflection on why they have used chatGPT in the past, and how they might choose to use it in the future.
I told them I would not be policing their LLM use. But I wanted them to know things about it they were unlikely to know, and I warned them about the ways that using an LLM could cause them to submit inadequate work (incoherent methods and fake references, for example).
In their reflections, many international students reported that they used chatGPT to help them correct grammar, and to make their writing "more polished".
I was sad that so many students seemed to be relying on chatGPT to make them feel more confident in their writing, because I felt that the real problem was faculty attitudes toward multilingual scholars.
I have worked with a number of graduate international students who are told by other faculty that their writing is "bad", or are given bad grades for writing that is reflective of English as a second language, but still clearly demonstrates comprehension of the subject matter.
I believe that written communication is important. However, I also believe in focused feedback. As a professor of design, I am grading people's ability to demonstrate that they understand concepts and can apply them in design research and then communicate that process to me.
I do not require that communication to read like a first language student, when I am perfectly capable of understanding the intent. When I am confused about meaning, I suggest clarifying edits.
I can speak and write in one language with competence. How dare I punish international students for their bravery? Fixation on normative communication chronically suppresses their grades and their confidence. And, most importantly, it doesn't improve their language skills!
If I were teaching rhetoric and comp, it might be different. But not THAT different. I'm a scholar of neurodivergent and Mad rhetorics. I can't in good conscience support Divergent rhetorics while supressing transnational rhetoric!
Anyway, if you want your students to stop using chatGPT, then stop being racist and ableist when you grade.
@koala_karmic @NedsDread Also you might want to look up what a luddite actually is

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Rua M. Williams

Rua M. Williams Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @FractalEcho

Feb 8
I will be giving a talk for Columbia on Monday, February 26th at 1pm EST. The talk is titled "On Being and Outlier in a World that Worships Optimization" and the topic will be how there can be no justice in AI until we learn to ask better questions.…
Abstract: We often mistake the threat of “AI” as a threat for the future, because so many of the promises are pitched to us as something exciting “just over the horizon”. Unfortunately, algorithms are already used in our financial, judicial, and medical systems. (Cont)
In medicine, as dictated by risk/benefit/profit calculations, these "Algorithmic Inferences" often lead decision-makers to deny care to people because of their classification as disabled, thus accelerating their deaths. (Cont)
Read 4 tweets
Dec 20, 2023
The Mad Scholars Anthology Project is finally happening.

Mad Scholars: Reclaiming and Reimagining the Nuerodiverse Academy

Edited by Melanie Jones and Shayda Kafai, this book contains chapters by numerous Mad Academics, including myself.

Published by Syracuse University Press Image of black book cover. In red letters "Edited by Melanie Jones and Shayda Kafai". In large block letters "Mad Scolars" followed by green "Reclaiming and reimagining the neurodiverse academy"
" of the most timely, conscious, and robust contributions to the field of Mad Studies that I have yet to encounter. The world needs this book, and it needs it right now." - Syracuse Reviewer
My chapter is called "The Subject is Mad" and flits about through various vignettes of madness from Academia to childhood, and explores how madness informs practices of reading, writing, speaking, and percieving.
Read 6 tweets
Oct 8, 2023
Something came up today that reminded me of this early work of mine from 2019. In this work, I call on researchers to "Practice Humility". And I think we could all use the reminder. 🧵…
"We must be humble enough to recognize that none of us are the “modest witness” of ... scientific authority. “Voice is not [ours] to give or uncover” (Ashby, 2011). No one is voiceless. Even the silenced speak truth to power in the void of our deliberate inattention."
If you need access to this chapter please email me or use research gate.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 19, 2023
For those students and early-career faculty who are worried about the loss of networking opportunity caused by refusing to participate in #CHI2024, I will be providing networking and mentorship support for scholars interested in Technology and Disability, broadly construed.🧵
It is my duty to model the behavior I hope to see from my peers so that we can do what is right - Refusing CHI - while continuing to support young marginalized scholars. Those who benefit most from in-person CHI are the same people who are hurt the least by opportunity loss.
Twice a month for a year, I will host 2 mentoring and networking sessions. That's 24 people who will receive focused advice on scholarship, programs, contacts, and resources that will benefit their career goals and project aspirations. I absolutely do not help 24 ppl at CHI.
Read 4 tweets
Jul 29, 2023
I shared "the email" because it was interesting to me that this happened to me when it's actually something I write about academically - that the way we talk about AI and LLM, and the anxieties we have around it, often are expressions of ableism. 1/
We argued about whether LaMDA was sentient, and every criteria people came up with was something that excluded certain disabled people from personhood. We argue over whether or not text is machine generated, and the ways we describe what LLM output looks or sounds like... 2/
...inevitably capture some disabled writers and second language writers. The panic over what generated text means for society has made people suspicious, and without proof they label anything that feels different as fake. 3/
Read 5 tweets
Jul 19, 2023
This is not an email I ever expected to receive or send.
Image of email reads "The AI design of your email is clever, but significantly lacks warmth. Would it be possible to be contacted by a human being moving forward instead of AI? Many Thanks"
Image of response reads "It's not AI. I'm just autistic. See you next Friday. Sent from Proton Mail mobile.
Wow I haven't gotten this much attention since I told people to stop punishing students with late penalties. Anyway, I'm running a webinar on Executive Function as a fundraiser so check it out.
I might need to clarify that I am the autistic one. I am not the accuser. The first email was TO me and the second email is ME. Thanks. Hi it's me, I'm the autism, it's me.
Read 5 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us!