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Student body president candidate speech causes uproar

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By Caroline Sipple and Christna Hoffman

In the midst of student body elections, Landon Coles, candidate for student body president, has been accused of plagiarizing his speech.

Many students and teachers are under the impression that Coles has plagiarized the majority of his speech from notable sources, such as Michelle Obama and others. However, the rumors that have been circulating are not completely true.

While Coles did incorporate phrases from famous speakers without properly citing them, it was not intentional.

According to Coles, he frequently writes down notes on his phone. These notes come from things he sees on social media, the news, books, YouTube and other media sources. When writing his speech, he heavily relied on these notes.

“Sometimes I think we all have the tendency when we see a quote that really speaks to us to get so consumed by it that we forget that it is someone else’s,” Coles said.

Coles acknowledges that he did not properly cite some of his sources.

“Were there things in there that maybe I improperly cited, that I maybe should have paraphrased so to speak to give people their proper and due credit? Yes,” Coles said. “Yes there were things in there that most definitely, in hindsight, I should have done a better job in terms of giving any and all credit where credit is due, regardless of whether they were exact words or they even sounded similar.”

Although Coles sees the mistake he made, he still feels that the rumors of plagiarism that have spread are completely false.

“Throughout this campaign I have been trying to dispel that rumor and convey the truth, which I have never done anything as an individual to give anyone any reasons to believe that,” Coles said. “I have never conducted myself in a manner in which I would plagiarize, and I have always acted in a manner that is honorable.

“In addition to being the junior class president, I’m a candidate for student body president so I would not want to do anything to jeopardize that.”

There is no protocol for dealing with this situation within the student government association.

“This has never happened before,” advisor Joshua Stewart said. “There is no precedent from our end. Normally when we verify candidate speeches before the event we are looking for inappropriate content, mean spirited remarks or inflammatory statements. We usually do not pay much attention to the rest of it. They can say what they would like to say because they have the freedom of speech.”

There will be changes made next year to help prevent this situation from happening next year.

“Our campaign and election rules next year will include a clear statement to the effect that all speech material much be original to the candidate, unless cited otherwise in the speech,” Stewart said.

There is a chance the rumors could have affected his reputation among students.

“There were those who obviously wanted to believe the worst and wanted any little reason to put me down, but anybody who knows me knows I wouldn’t do anything like that,” Coles said.

He believes that while there are those that used this rumor as a reason not to vote for him, he also believes that those who do support him used this situation to ignite his campaign and gain support.