Even students from prestigious unis get called out for plagiarism

speech plagiarism
Plagiarism is a serious offence in university. This international student made headlines when she was accused of committing speech plagiarism. Source: Philippe Lopez/AFP

University-going students are familiar with the concept of plagiarism and its consequences, but many continue to be guilty of committing it, be it academic to speech plagiarism.

Donald McCabe at Rutgers University conducted a three-year survey on over 63,700 US undergraduates and 9,250 postgraduate students. His study revealed that 36% of undergraduates and 24% of postgraduates paraphrased or copied sentences from the internet without crediting them. 

That’s not all. Skill Scouter shared that according to various estimations, a shocking 31 million students across the globe are believed to have been involved in plagiarism. 

There are several reasons students commit plagiarism. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, students plagiarise due to the desire to get a good grade, procrastination or poor time management, and the fear of failing, to name a few. 

Quoting a poll by the US News and World Reports, the LIU Post reported that 90% of students believed they could escape from committing plagiarism


It was reported that Parkash’s speech bore striking resemblances to student Sarah Abushaar’s 2014 Harvard University commencement speech. Source: Duke University/YouTube

International student accused of speech plagiarism

Recently, international student Priya Parkash was accused of plagiarism after giving a speech at Duke University’s commencement ceremony in Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. 

The Chronicle — Duke University’s student-run news organisation — reported that Parkash’s speech bore striking resemblances to student Sarah Abushaar’s 2014 Harvard University commencement speech. 

In the commencement ceremony video, Parkash used various metaphors and elements in her speech which — when compared to Abushaar’s speech — showed that the similarities might not have been a coincidence at all. 

Some similarities include: 

  • Parkash: “Over the last four years, as the sole of our shoes has collected a world of experiences, we all have become this place in rather perplexing ways, each one of us internalising pieces of people and history and ideas that have transformed our outlook on the world — stockpiles that I hope will empower us to bring the best of Duke to our next port of call.”
  • Abushaar: “And running through Harvard Yard over the past four years, the skin of our feet collecting a world of experiences, we each become this place in a strange way, each of us picking up bits of people and history and ideas that changed the way we saw the world, accumulations I hope we will continue to wear on our ‘soles’ and leave a footprint of all the best we took from Harvard Yard on our new destinations.”

A video comparing the two speeches was uploaded on YouTube. 

“We are aware of and concerned about these allegations and have initiated a process to understand the facts of the situation,” said Duke University’s vice president for public affairs and government relations Michael Schoenfeld, in a statement to The Chronicle. 

“Duke expects all students to abide by their commitment to the Duke Community Standard in everything they do as students.” 

According to Duke Today — the university’s news site — the application process for senior students interested to give a speech during the university’s commencement ceremony was made easier. Students were only required to submit a brief speech outline of no more than 250 words. The university’s selection committee would then shortlist several finalists, who would be required to deliver their draft speeches. 

On May 10, 2022, the international student from Pakistan released a statement through Red Banyan, a public relations and crisis communication agency: “When I was asked to give the commencement speech, I was thrilled by such an honour and I sought advice from respected friends and family about topics I might address. I was embarrassed and confused to find out too late that some of the suggested passages were taken from a recent commencement speech at another university. 

“I take full responsibility for this oversight and I regret if this incident has in any way distracted from the accomplishments of the Duke Class of 2022.”

Abushaar has also commented on the incident.

“The goal of my address was to inspire young people, and especially young women, from all backgrounds to break barriers in striving for their aims and to have the courage to use their voices to share their stories and serve as forces of good,” wrote Abushaar, as quoted by the Harvard Crimson

“I hope that this incident was a serious error in judgment and that the student can take this opportunity to learn and grow from it.”