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Student speaker says she found out after Commencement that passages "were directly taken" from 2014 Harvard speech

The 2022 student Commencement speaker said she was “mortified and embarrassed to find out” after giving her speech that parts were “directly taken from” a past Harvard address, according to the Wall Street Journal

The Chronicle reported on Monday that Priya Parkash, Trinity ‘22, used language in her Sunday speech that bears striking resemblance to that of Sarah Abushaar’s address at Harvard’s graduation in 2014. 

“I was mortified and embarrassed to find out through a news article after I had already given the speech in front of thousands of people that parts of it were directly taken from [the Harvard] speech. I sincerely regret this incident and I wish I could go back and undo it. I wish that I had been more diligent,” Parkash told the WSJ. 

According to the WSJ, Parkash “incorporated ideas for passages provided by friends without researching if they had been used previously.” She did not find out until Monday about similarities between her and Abushaar’s speeches.  

Parkash said she had not previously seen Abushaar’s speech. 

The University has “initiated a process to understand the facts of the situation,” Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, told The Chronicle on Tuesday. 

According to the WSJ, Parkash “said she would fully cooperate with the university’s probe.”

She added that she has received “hate messages online in the past few days” and “worries about how the incident is going to affect her future endeavors,” according to the WSJ.

Parkash is now considering different job prospects, as well as graduate school, and hopes that “future employers will see [the speech] as a mistake and will see that I’ve learned from it,” she told the WSJ. 

“I’m scared for the consequences that it could have, but at the same time, I see it as a learning experience and I accept full responsibility,” she said.

In a statement submitted to The Chronicle on Tuesday through a public relations firm, Parkash wrote: “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. 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.”

Milla Surjadi profile
Milla Surjadi | Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

Milla Surjadi is a Trinity junior and a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 118.


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