Parts of Commencement Talk Reportedly Plagiarized

May 26, 2015

Parts of the commencement speech at Lincoln University of Missouri were plagiarized, The News Tribune reported. The newspaper found eight instances in which Patricia Russell-McCloud, a motivational speaker, used words or phrases that were first written or spoken by others, without attribution. Among the authors whose work was copied were Mark Twain, Gloria Steinem, Buckminster Fuller and Mother Teresa, although some say that the latter quote came from someone else. Russell-McCloud told the News Tribune she would review her materials and call back, but did not do so. She did not respond to a Facebook message from Inside Higher Ed seeking comment.

Lincoln University at first indicated that it was not concerned. A university spokesperson, Misty Young, sent an email to the newspaper in which she said: “In this current age, speakers and speechwriters draw inspiration from varied sources. This should not be considered an attempt to pass off original thoughts as one’s own, but understood as a new way of sharing ideas.” Young did not respond to requests about how much the university paid for the speech.

Later, the university's president sent the newspaper an email with a different view. “I believe that the speech was quite inspirational. I am not aware of how professional speakers give attribution for others in their speeches. I do not believe that it was Russell-McCloud’s intention to deceive our campus as I had heard some of those points from various speakers in the past. I believe that credit should be given to the originators of thought as when one writes a piece. Unfortunately, this didn’t occur and it’s a lesson learned for Lincoln University. But the main focus should be the beauty of the day and the approximately 400 students who worked very diligently to achieve their degrees from Lincoln University.”

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