'Sick and Twisted Irony': Students Call Out Vanderbilt University for Using ChatGPT to Address the Michigan State Shooting in an Email to Students The university has since apologized for missing the "crucial need for personal connection."

By Sam Silverman

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Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development is under fire for using an AI-generated email to address the shooting at Michigan State on February 16 and several deans are taking the heat.

Just one day after the shooting, which left three students dead and five others injured, the college emailed a memo, asking students to "come together," per the school's student newspaper the Vanderbilt Hustler. However, students were quick to call out the last line of the email:

"Paraphrase from OpenAI's ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication, February 15, 2023."

The email was signed by the "Peabody Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion," with signatures from Associate Dean Nicole Joseph and Assistant Dean Hasina Mohyuddin.

On Tuesday, Vanderbilt told CNN that Joseph and assistant Mohyuddin had "stepped back" from their responsibilities while the school conducts a complete review.

Prior to stepping back, Joseph apologized for the AI email in a follow-up note the next day. Calling the email "poor judgment," she added that "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," per Vanderbilt Hustler.

The university outlet noted that the email didn't use Vanderbilt-specific terminology, and the email mentioned multiple "recent Michigan shootings," despite there only being one recent shooting.

Students were quick to slam the school's use of ChatGPT given the sensitivity of the topic.

RELATED: The Dark Side of ChatGPT: Employees & Businesses Need to Prepare Now

"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) told the outlet.

Editor-in-chief of the school paper, Rachael Perrotta, told CNN that students were "outraged" and "confused as to what prompted administrators to turn to ChatGPT to write their message about the Michigan State shooting."

RELATED: Professionals In This Industry Already Can't Imagine Life Without ChatGPT: 'I Can't Remember the Last Time Something Has Wowed Me This Much.'

Peabody Dean of Education and Human Development, Camilla P. Benbow, told CNN that administrators were unaware of the memo before it was sent.

"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 told the outlet.

Wavy Line
Sam Silverman

Entrepreneur Staff

Content Strategy Editor

Sam Silverman is a content strategy editor at Entrepreneur Media. She specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), and her work can be found in The US Sun, Nicki Swift, In Touch Weekly, Life & Style and Health. Her coverage spans from business and tech to entertainment news. Sam is a graduate of Lehigh University and currently resides in NYC. 

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