Vanderbilt University apologizes after using ChatGPT to console students


(NASHVILLE, TN) — Officials at Vanderbilt University are apologizing to students outraged that the university used ChatGPT to craft a consoling email after the mass shooting at Michigan State University.

Last Thursday, administrators at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development sent an email to students and staff that noted, in small print at the bottom, that the message was a “paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication.”

The email stressed the importance of “a safe and inclusive environment for all” and encouraged members of the college to “come together as a community,” and was written in clear, understandable prose.

However, unlike a statement the day prior by the university’s vice provost, which seemed to use more personal language than the Peabody message, the Peabody email lacked a list of campus resources students could access to help them process their emotions.

Laith Kayat, a senior whose sister attends Michigan State, called the use of ChatGPT “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,” Kayat told the Vanderbilt Hustler, the school’s student paper, who first reported the Peabody College’s use of AI.

According to the newspaper, Nicole Joseph, Peabody’s associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion, sent a follow-up email apologizing.

“While we believe in the message and 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, according to the Hustler.

Joseph did not respond to ABC News about how much of the email was “paraphrased” by a human and how much reflected ChatGPT’s first draft.

Camilla Benbow, Dean of the Peabody College, said in a statement that she was unaware of the email before it was sent and said she is investigating what led up to its release.

“I offer my heartfelt apologies to all those who deserved better from us and did not receive it,” she said.

Joseph and Assistant Dean Hasina Mohyuddin will step back from their responsibilities with the EDI office as the university investigates, Benbow said in the statement.

A Vanderbilt spokeswoman directed ABC News to Benbow’s statement and did not answer questions about how often university representatives use ChatGPT in official communication.

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