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Vanderbilt University ChatGPT Gaffe Points to Need for AI Guardrails in Marketing



Dianna Tran

The Peabody College Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion issued an apology for using ChatGPT to generate an email to students about the Michigan State University shooting.

There's some serious anger brewing over an email sent out by Vanderbilt University's Peabody College. Apparently, the school's DEI office administrators used ChatGPT to craft a message about the importance of community in the wake of the February 13 shooting on the Michigan State campus.

The email referenced the "recent Michigan shootings" (plural), used repetitive language, and included a note at the bottom that said, 'Paraphrase from OpenAI's ChatGPT.'

Students were pretty upset about it—as they should be—but their outrage will likely be short-lived.

Laith Kayat, a Vanderbilt senior whose sister attends Michigan State, told The 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."

What we can only hope is that the very public mistake will prompt other universities (and organizations outside of academia) to consider how they're using AI copywriting tools in their communication and marketing efforts.

The excitement and buzz around generative AI has accelerated experimentation with AI writing tools in marcomm departments—and raising difficult questions about AI ethics and responsibility.

In a follow-up response, Nicole Joseph, associate dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, apologized for "poor judgment" and wrote that "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."

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