University apologises for using AI to write email informing students of shooting

A university has apologised to students after an email about a mass shooting was written using an automated tool that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate text.

Last week, students at a university in Tennessee received a message from school administrators about a massacre which killed three and injured five at Michigan State University.

But the email, from the Vanderbilt University's Peabody College and reported by the school's Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper, stated it was written using ChatGPT, a chatbot that uses AI language models to generate text.

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Peabody students were disgusted, with Laith Kayat, a senior from Michigan, saying: “There is a sick and twisted irony to making a computer write your message about community and togetherness because you can’t be bothered to reflect on it yourself.

“(Administrators) only care about perception and their institutional politics of saving face.”

Administrators at the college were quick to issue an apology, telling the Hustler that the use of the AI tool to comment on the tragedy was “poor judgement”.

Nicole Joseph, the college’s Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. said: “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."

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The original email read: “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.

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

A final line at the bottom of the email read: “Paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT language model, personal communication, February 15, 2023.”

A Peabody College spokesman sent a statement from Camilla P. Benbow, the school’s Dean of Education and Human Development, saying: "The development and distribution of the initial email did not follow Peabody’s normal processes providing for multiple layers of review before being sent.

"The university’s administrators, including myself, were unaware of the email before it was sent," adding that the incident would be reviewed, and that the deans in charge of the equity and diversity office would temporarily step back from their roles.


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