University apologises after using AI to send ‘sick’ email about school shooting

An American university has publicly apologised for using ChatGPT AI to write an email about a school shooting.

Following a mass shooting at Michigan State University which killed three and injured five, Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee sent an email last Friday calling for students to "honor the victims of this tragedy".

However, whoever wrote the email accidentally included text explaining it had been written by ChatGPT AI, rather than by a person.

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Nicole Joseph, Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, sent an apology email on February 17 saying that the use of ChatGPT for the original email was 'poor judgement'.

She wrote: "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 characterise Peabody College.

"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."

22-year-old Bethanie Stauffer, who attends Michigan State University, told student newspaper Vanderbilt Hustler: "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."

Laith Kayat, Bethanie's older brother and a senior at the same college, said: "Deans, provosts, and the chancellor: Do more. Do anything. And lead us into a better future with genuine, human empathy, not a robot.

"[Administrators] only care about perception and their institutional policies of saving face."

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Samuel Lu, a student at Peabody, said: "It's hard to take a message seriously when I know that the sender didn't even take the time to put their genuine thoughts and feelings into words. In times of tragedies such as this, we need more, not less humanity."

In most academic contexts, the use of ChatGPT AI to write essays or exam papers is considered cheating. In January, the tool was banned from schools in New York amid concerns that it is being used by students to fake their way to a pass.

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