Side-by-side video shows Duke University commencement speech was lifted from Harvard student

A Duke University commencement speech has gone viral for all the wrong reasons, as a side-by-side comparison shows it was heavily lifted from a Harvard University student’s inspiring address.

While it is currently not known who originally spotted the striking similarities between the speech given by Priya Parkash to her fellow Duke University graduates and one delivered by Harvard University student Sarah Abushaar in 2014, the undeniable likeness was enough to concern Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, Michael Schoenfeld.

In a Monday night email to The Duke Chronicle, Schoenfeld stated that Duke’s administrators “have just been made aware of this and are looking into it.”

By Tuesday morning, Schoenfeld said in a statement, “We are aware of and concerned about these allegations and have initiated a process to understand the facts of the situation.”

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

Plagiarism is a big deal at Duke, and it appears that Parkash, an international student from Pakistan, was liberal in her use of someone else’s words.

In a damning tweet, The Chronicle — for which Parkash once worked as a university news editor — provided side-by-side comparisons of Parkash’s speech to that of Abushaar.


Eight years ago, Abushaar titled her speech “The Harvard Spring” and referred to her classmates as being part of the “Harvard Nation.” According to a release at the time, she meant it as “an homage to the 2010 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring.”

In Parkash’s speech, it was the “Duke nation” she was urging to “spur revolutions.”


(Video: YouTube)

Speaking through a crisis public relations firm called Red Banyan, Parkash said in a statement on Tuesday that she takes “full responsibility” for what she is characterizing as an “oversight.”

“When I was asked to give the commencement speech, I was thrilled by such an honor and I sought advice from respected friends and family about topics I might address,” Parkash explained. “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,” she said.

The transcript of the speech has since been removed by Duke University from its Duke Today website, The Chronicle reports.

On Twitter, many users are expressing their disappointment.

“My family and I sitting in cold wind for more than 2 hours to excitingly experience my son’s graduation,” tweeted one parent. “After seeing this I feel ashamed for the university to select a cheater to represent hundreds [of] smart young man (sic) and woman (sic). The university better give some explanation.”

“‘Striking similarities’?” asked another. “Call it out for what it is — blatant plagiarism.”

“She followed the Joe Biden model of speechmaking,” noted a third. “How sad.”

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