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Vanderbilt Apologizes for ChatGPT-Generated Email

Some students thought it was callous of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to use ChatGPT to write an email about community and understanding in the wake of a shooting at Michigan State University.

(TNS) — School officials at Vanderbilt University have issued an apology for relying on artificial intelligence computer program ChatGPT to develop an email to students left reeling by the mass shooting at Michigan State University.

The note from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion hit inboxes on Thursday, shortly after three students were shot and killed on the MSU campus. It highlighted the importance of community and encouraged students to “create a culture of respect and understanding” where “everyone feels welcomed and supported.”

“In the wake of the Michigan shootings, let us come together as a community to reaffirm our commitment to caring for one another and promoting a culture of inclusivity on our campus,” it reads.

“By doing so, we can honor the victims of this tragedy and work towards a safer, more compassionate future for all.”

In small font, just above the signature line, a disclaimer appeared, stating that the entire message was a “paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model.”

The email, first reported by student newspaper the Vanderbilt Hustler on Friday, sparked fierce backlash, with many blasting the use of AI as impersonal and lacking empathy.

Nicole Joseph, an associate dean at Peabody’s EDI office who was one of the letter’s signatories, quickly apologized for using ChatGPT to write the email, calling it “poor judgment.”

“While we believe in the message of inclusivity expressed in the email, using ChatGPT to generate communications on behalf of our community in a time of sorrow and in response to a tragedy contradicts the values that characterize Peabody College,” Joseph told the Hustler.

“As with all new technologies that affect higher education, this moment gives us all an opportunity to reflect on what we know and what we still must learn about AI.”

Peabody College’s dean of education and human development, Camilla Benbow, said the university’s administrators were unaware of the email before it was sent, and that they have since launched an investigation into the matter. She added that both Joseph and Assistant Dean Hasina Mohyuddin would take a step back from their roles amid the review.

“As dean of the college, I remain personally saddened by the loss of life and injuries at Michigan State, which I know have affected members of our own community,” Benbow said. “I am also deeply troubled that a communication from my administration so missed the crucial need for personal connection and empathy during a time of tragedy.”

She concluded: “And I offer my heartfelt apologies to all those who deserved better from us and did not receive it.”

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