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Scammers invade classes, displace real students
An+angry+robot+reaches+over+a+school+campus.+Made+with+Canva.
Mackenzie Jardine
An angry robot reaches over a school campus. Made with Canva.
Bot Students by Akshath Mirukula

Ghost students continue to overwhelm De Anza and its faculty to the detriment of actual students this winter quarter.

On June 27, the spring 2023 the La Voz Editorial Board wrote about “ghost” students at community colleges. This editorial will reach further with data from a Google Form that La Voz emailed to every part-time and full-time instructor listed in De Anza’s directory.

Ghost, bot or phantom students are fraudulent students, often using artificial intelligence to get through classes. They enroll in college and apply for financial aid, receiving the awards but not doing the work or taking part in classes.

These bots take resources away from real students, whether that be financial aid (Which appears to be in danger due to continuous promise cuts partially brought on by bot enrollment.), or by limiting spots in classes.

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De Anza moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to offer online classes. Bot students are more likely to show up online, specifically in asynchronous classes: It’s easier for them to skate by when there are no face to face discussions or required participation.

38 surveyed faculty members got back to La Voz about bot students and their feelings on the scam. This survey was done anonymously; the form did not collect names or emails, just the instructional staff’s responses.

The answers to 13 multiple-choice questions show: Whether professors are part time or full time, what modality they teach their classes in, if they heard of bot students before, if they had bot students in their classes and if they were aware of any measures De Anza had to prevent bot students.

This data has been edited and condensed and placed into the interactive graphic beside this story.

The form also included some long-form answers, and the surveyed professors’ consensus was they aren’t aware of any preventive measures De Anza has, but that administrators would drop bots in their classes before the quarter takes place.

One instructor said they now teach at Foothill and “(was) very well informed about bot students and what to look for.”

Another instructor said that, “They (administration) have been asking instructors to look through their rosters … to ‘make (the) administration aware’ of any bot students (but there were) no guidelines on how to spot them.”

Professors often had to take matters into their own hands by dropping suspected bot students; emailing those who had not shown up or turned in any work, or those who had turned in work but not shown up; and hosting zoom meetings with students to ensure they were real and would report potential bots to admin.

Bot students take away from real students and faculty. Real students can and do miss out on classes they need because bot students take up these spaces.

Once bot students are dropped from a course, that course might dip below the minimum number required to operate and the class is canceled, affecting part-time faculty and their pay the most.

Bot students also affect financial aid: this is the biggest pinpoint of their scam. The bots sign up for financial aid and receive it from the school, taking the resources away from actual students who need it.

Bots also take time and resources away from the faculty, both administration and instructors, as they work to remove the bot students from rosters around the college.

This questionnaire made it clear that De Anza needs to have more wide-spread preventative measures.

There needs to be administrative help. More staff can and should understand the existence of bot students and how to spot them. This can lead to faster removal of these scammers, allowing real students to receive the spaces in classes they need and the financial aid they require.

This problem will never be completely solved as the sheer number of bots continues to grow, but more transparency from administration about their defense measures and the number of bot students affecting the campus and financial aid, more training and bot related workshops for faculty, a comprehensive plan every quarter and setting up a task force specifically to combat bot students can save De Anza instructors and students a lot of frustration and heartache.

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About the Contributors
Akshath Mirukula, Freelance Reporter
Hi everyone, my name is Akshath and I am freshman business/math major here at De Anza. I look forward to working with you all!
Mackenzie Jardine, Editor-In-Chief
Hi! My name is Mackenzie Jardine, and I am really excited to connect with people through journalism. I'm very excited to be La Voz's Editor-In-Chief this winter quarter! It's an honor to be in charge of this quarter's paper and work with the incredible, hard working and talented staff. Thank you for supporting La Voz!

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