Duke speaker now accused of plagiarism was picked after submitting an outline and draft
The Duke University student under investigation for plagiarizing her commencement speech had applied to make the address and was chosen from a field of graduates.
Priya Parkash gave the speech at Duke’s Sunday ceremony. Soon after, fellow students on Twitter pointed out near-identical phrases in Sarah Abushaar’s 2014 commencement address at Harvard University.
Following the first story in The Duke Chronicle and responding to questions from The News & Observer, Parkash issued a statement through a Los Angeles public relations firm Tuesday night, in which she described the “honor” of having been asked to give the address.
She also described taking suggested topics from family and friends, some of which she discovered too late had come from another speech. She said she took “full responsibility” for the oversight.
Speech application process
Duke allowed all eligible 2022 graduates to apply to give its commencement address available. The school then chose its speaker from a pool of applicants. The notice for the application highlighted changes that made applying “easier than ever” this year.
Applicants were required to first submit a 250-word outline. A selection committee then chose finalists based on those shortened versions.
All finalists were then asked to submit drafts to the selection committee, but the level of vetting is not described in the application notice.
Duke officials declined to comment Wednesday to numerous questions from The N&O, including how many students applied to give the speech, what criteria was used to select the speaker, how or whether speeches were examined, whether this process will continue for future commencements and what, if any, disciplinary action Parkash might face if the investigation finds plagiarism.
Meanwhile, Abushaar gave a statement to The Harvard Crimson:
“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.
“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.”