Board Chair Plagiarized Commencement Speech

August 11, 2017

John D. Rios, chair of the board of the Kansas City Kansas Community College, gave a commencement speech in May that was almost word for word the same as a commencement speech given by a student at the commencement of Hampton University 13 years ago, The Kansas City Star reported. Video and transcription in the Star article show the same wording.

The acting president of the college, Jackie Vietti, told the Star that Rios failed to give credit because he is not a professional speaker and was not aware of how to give attribution to others in such situations. “The college will ensure that its future commencement speakers are fully apprised on how to attribute others’ work during their addresses,” Vietti said.

Tim Lee is the one who gave the speech at Hampton. An irony in the case is that Lee, a minister at Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago and the director of housing at Chicago State University, said that he left out credit for a part of the speech to a poem by Sherri ScottNovoa. Lee now does a lot of public speaking and when working with a portion of his Hampton speech he always credits her, and he says he should have the first time at the 2004 Hampton commencement.

“I should have given her credit, but I didn’t know,” said Lee. “I was the original plagiarizer.”

The academic integrity policy of the Kansas community college states, "Dishonesty of any type in a course, including examinations or plagiarized materials, can result in a grade of F and may be cause for suspension or dismissal. Plagiarism occurs when a student uses the ideas or writing of another person and passes the information off as his or her own work."

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