Vanderbilt Apologizes For ChatGPT-Generated Email About Michigan State Shooting

The email from a Vanderbilt University diversity office emphasized creating a culture of care and inclusivity. It was written by OpenAI's ChatGPT.
1 min read

Share this Article

  • On Feb. 16, Vanderbilt University Peabody College Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sent an email to its community responding to the Michigan State University mass shooting.
  • The next day, an associate dean sent a follow-up email apologizing for using ChatGPT to write the email.
  • Two associate deans are stepping back from their duties while the university conducts a review of the ChatGPT-written email.

Vanderbilt University has apologized for sending an email written by ChatGPT about the Michigan State mass shooting.

Vanderbilt's Peabody College Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sent the email to its community on Feb. 16. Prior to the signature, the email indicated that it was a paraphrase of OpenAI's ChatGPT AI language model.

"The recent Michigan shootings are a tragic reminder of the importance of taking care of each other, particularly in the context of creating inclusive environments," the ChatGPT-generated email said. "As members of the Peabody campus community, we must reflect on the impact of such an event and take steps to ensure that we are doing our best to create a safe and inclusive environment for all."

On Feb. 17, Peabody College, which houses the university's teacher and human development school, apologized in a separate email that was first reported by The Vanderbilt Hustler, the university's independent student newspaper.

"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," Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Nicole Joseph's follow-up email 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."

Peabody College Dean Camilla P. Benbow said in a statement that neither she nor university administrators knew about the ChatGPT-generated email, and it didn't go through a proper review process. Both Joseph and Assistant Dean Hasina Mohyuddin are stepping back from EDI office responsibilities while a review of the incident is conducted.

"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," Benbow said. "I intend that we shall redouble our efforts to express the values that animate our mission and lead to human flourishing. And I offer my heartfelt apologies to all those who deserved better from us and did not receive it."