Yes, of course it’s plagiarism. There’s no doubt that the bits of speech we’re referring to were, ahem, recycled into Melania Trump’s 2016 RNC speech from Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech. It doesn’t matter how much of the speech was copied. ANY use of someone else’s work without crediting or citing them is plagiarism. The words didn’t just fall into the same order by accident – and any reasonable person listening to the two excerpts has to admit that it’s the same damned speech (for a minute or so).
It was also detected in the classic way, the way college professors like me detect plagiarism: 1) Those words sound really familiar…I think I’ve read/heard them before. 2) Suddenly, your writing/speech changes tone. It’s not your writing anymore. I wonder who wrote this paragraph, really?
So, this is how the discussion with Melania Trump would go, if she was one of my students:
Me (via e-mail to Melania and her team members): “I have given you a zero on the RNC Speech assignment due to academic dishonesty. You plagiarized parts of the speech. Turnitin indicates that some paragraphs are almost entirely copied from a work entitled “2008 DNC Speech by Michelle Obama. Please see me in my office hours.”
A week or two later, in office hours, after I have not responded to several pleading e-mails from Melania:
Melania: Dr. French, I didn’t plagiarize my assignment! It probably just sounds similar because we were using the 2008 DNC speech as a reference.
Me: The sections in question are nearly identical. Using another person’s work without crediting them is plagiarism, and plagiarism is academic dishonesty, which university policy says I must report.
Melania: But it’s only two or three sentences. The rest of the assignment is original work. I shouldn’t get a zero over ten percent of the assignment.
Me: You’re lucky I’m JUST giving you a zero. I could give you an F for the entire course, but because I have no previous evidence of academic dishonesty in other areas, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Melania would get a zero for cheating on the assignment. Her group mates, the others who were working on this assignment with her, however, would likely get the course F I was discussing. Because, well…for them, I have other examples of academic dishonesty, and so I know it’s a pattern of cheating, not just this one example of poor judgement.
(Also, let’s just note the inherent white supremacist racist crap here. An entire evening of “rah rah white culture is great” punctuated by the theft of the work of a person of color. Perfect. ARGH.)