Science & Tech

School apologises for using AI to write email about mass shooting

School apologises for using AI to write email about mass shooting
Michigan State University shooting

Vanderbilt University has apologised to students after it was revealed that a comforting email in the wake of the recent mass-shooting at Michigan State University was crafted by ChatGPT.

Administrators from the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Vanderbilt's Peabody College used the automated tool that generates text in the email that students received last Thursday,

"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,” the email read, according to the school’s student newspaper, the Vanderbilt Hustler.

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

It was the final line that gave away the AI origins of the email, as it stated in parentheses: "Paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT language model, personal communication, February 15, 2023."

The use of the controversial technology has sparked anger from students.

Laith Kayat, from Michigan and whose sister attends MSU called the use of ChatGPT for this situation "disgusting."

“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," Bethanie Stauffer, 22, said.

“[Administrators] only care about perception and their institutional politics of saving face.”

A follow-up apology email was sent out by Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Nicole Joseph who said using ChatGPT to generate the initial email was a "poor judgement."

“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 wrote in the follow-up email, as per the Vanderbilt 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."

A Peabody College spokesperson sent a statement to various media outlets such as VICE's Motherboard, CNN and ABC, from Camilla P. Benbow, the school’s Dean of Education and Human Development.

“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," it read.

Benbow also said the school's administration will review what happened and that Joseph and assistant dean Hasina Mohyuddin in charge of the equity and diversity office would temporarily step back from their roles while this is being conducted.

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