‘Not my intention’: Magna cum laude graduate apologizes for plagiarized valedictory address

July 14, 2022 - 10:39 AM
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Image by Emmanuel Offei via Unsplash

A magna cum laude graduate from Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges (CSPC) who delivered the valedictory address during their college’s commencement exercises has apologized for the similarities in his and another graduate’s speech after drawing flak from social media users. 

Jayvee Ayen’s valedictory address gained mileage on social media after several users noted that his speech shared a similar introduction and theme to the 2019 valedictory address of a Far Eastern University graduate.

A circulating Facebook video of the top student’s valedictory address posted by the student publication of CSPC, The SPARK, shows that parts of his address bore a close resemblance to Mariyela Mari Hugo’s speech, which criticized the idea of superior or inferior degree programs.

Ayen began his address with “Lang. A shortened Filipino word for ‘lamang’, which means mere, just or only.” Hugo also started her speech with the same sentence.

The graduate went on to discuss how students in his degree program, Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship, and other degree programs are commonly “belittled” for their perceived lack of lucrative job opportunities. 

“How many of us here had been belittled based on the course that we have chosen? Maybe because they do not require board exams or maybe because they do not guarantee high pay,” Ayen said.

Hugo’s speech, in comparison, narrated her experience with being asked by others why she chose to take up education in college. Hugo said: “But what does this imply, knowledgeable people shouldn’t be teachers, [and] I shouldn’t teach because I won’t get rich from it? Who should be teachers then?” 

While the rest of Ayen’s valedictory address did not share the exact same content as Hugo’s, social media users pointed out that the magna cum laude graduate did not credit Hugo despite similarities in the themes of their speech.

On July 11, Ayen apologized and acknowledged that he “related a lot” to Hugo’s valedictory address after watching a Youtube video of it, according to a Facebook post by The SPARK. 

“I mean not to plagiarize […] Naka-relate lang rin ako ng sobra nung napanood ko yung video,” Ayen was quoted by The SPARK.

According to The SPARK, Ayen had scrapped three drafts prior to watching a video of Hugo’s speech. He said he decided to use “program discrimination” as the theme of his speech after conducting a “survey” among his graduating batchmates.

Ayen said that it was not his intention to plagiarize Hugo’s speech, according to The SPARK. 

“Kay Ma’am Mariyela, I am really sorry. Hindi ko po intensyon na i-plagiarize yung speech niya. Nagkataon lang talaga na same topic yung gusto ko i-address (and) at the same time nagkataon rin na napanood ko ‘yung video [niya],” Ayen said.

The magna cum laude graduate added: “Kung baga driven by her impactful speech kaya nagawa kong ma ipasok yung ibang thought sa speech ko without thinking na napa-plagarize ko na pala yung speech [niya.]”

A Youtube video of the 2019 speech of Hugo posted in 2021 currently has 1.5 million views. Hugo graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English. 

Hugo, along with four other students, pursued an undergraduate thesis on plagiarism, with the title: “A Qualitative Descriptive Study Exploring Students’ Perspective On Plagiarism.”

What CSPC said

In a statement on July 13, CSPC apologized to Hugo and acknowledged that Ayen “unintentionally copied the idea and style of her speech without proper attribution.” 

“We knock on the generosity of hearts of everyone to allow this to pass without hatred towards the person as he moves on to start a career in his life as an entrepreneur or whatever path he would wish to take,” the college added.

CSPC also said: “Rest assured that internally, we shall as we always do, within the rules of the College, be making appropriate steps for corrective and formative measures towards Mr. Ayen and in the school in general.”

Plagiarism involves the intentional or unintentional use of words or ideas without appropriately acknowledging the author or source, according to the American Psychological Association.

Valedictory addresses in the past have been rife with controversy for allegedly plagiarizing the content of other speeches or writers.

A graduating Columbia University student drew flak in 2010 for mirroring the material in a comedian’s stand-up act in his valedictory address, according to ABC News.

Similarly, a high school valedictorian from Massachusetts apologized in 2015 for including in her speech ideas taken from the Internet, according to CBS News Boston.