The tumultuous 2016 UPUA election only continues to get crazier.
When we first read Anthony Mitchell and Zico Khayat’s platform on their campaign website last week after the pair announced a UPUA write-in campaign, we thought something looked familiar. It turns out, a lot was familiar — the campaign copied about two-thirds of its platform from Emily McDonald and Terry Ford’s platform (the same Terry Ford that Mitchell is now trying to beat) from last election, some verbatim.
Onward State has uncovered that at least 16 of the 28 Mitchell/Khayat platform items were plagiarized either verbatim or in spirit from McDonald and Ford’s platform from the 10th Assembly. The McDonald/Ford platform is available here. Mitchell/Khayat also lifted a couple initiatives from the current Ford/Jordan platform.
This revelation forced Khayat, who denies any involvement with the creation of the platform, to drop his name from the ticket.
“I read over the platform and I liked the initiatives, but I didn’t write any of them myself,” Khayat said. “I had no clue they were identical until last night at 5 a.m. when I was able to find the original McDonald/Ford platform.”
“Due to my non-involvement in the creation of the platform, and the high ethical and moral standard I hold myself to, I am officially removing my name from the Mitchell / Khayat ticket. This is disheartening information to hear, and that’s why I will be parting ways from this ticket.”
Mitchell named three points on the platform that the two came up with together. He said the points labeled “Regular Open Forums,” “Pace Tracker,” and “Implementation of Executive Office Hours” were collaborated on. Those three points were not plagiarized. Mitchell had no comment on Khayat dropping from the race.
Mitchell or someone from his campaign team updated the platform soon after Onward State began investigating, but the plagiarized platform was still live as of March 26 at 10:45 p.m. when the following screenshots were taken.
Mitchell denied knowing Onward State was investigating his platform, instead saying he started changing it because students approached him and said they didn’t like certain points on it. “We’re working for the students,” Mitchell said. “If we present something and they don’t like it, take it off the platform, because that’s not what they want.”
Mitchell denied it was plagiarism, despite many ideas being copy/pasted. “Some folks, I forget exactly who, but they reached out to the campaign team and said, ‘Hey this is like, plagiarism,’ or something like that. First of all, plagiarism is academic. It’s mostly associated with academics, stuff like that. But it’s taking someone else’s work without credit. Well if you look at the disclaimer at the top of the bio, it says, ‘These things are continuations of what UPUA has already done and what previous executives have done.’ If we pull up the platform right now, I can show you what it says. We said, ‘We did not do [accomplish] this. This is not ours. We want to pick it up though, but this is not ours.'”
“We referenced it in our platform,” Mitchell said. “We said, ‘This happened before us. We want to continue it.’ We definitely want to make sure, ‘Hey, Emily, we give you your credit. It’s not ours, because they started it. But we’re taking up the baton.’ I knew Emily wouldn’t be able to get everything on her platform done, so I tried to position myself and work on these issues so she could pass the baton onto me.”
The current platform acknowledges McDonald’s platform from last year, but the screenshots of his previous platform do not mention any other ticket, campaign, or anyone affiliated with UPUA.
The Mitchell/Khayat website features its platform as an external Issuu file. Here’s what the site looked like as of 10:45 p.m. Saturday night:
Below is their new platform that popped up after word began to spread about our investigation. You can find screenshots of what their platform looked like for most of the first week of the campaign before it was changed here.
Below is a screenshot of each plagiarized Mitchell/Khayat initiative that we were able to find, copied either verbatim or in spirit from the McDonald/Ford or Ford/Jordan platforms. The lifted text is highlighted.
Perhaps most illustrative of this copy and paste job is the mention of the What to Fix (WTF) Program. Mitchell mentions the program twice and did not change anything from the McDonald/Ford platform, leaving in “In the 10th Assembly we will…” as it appeared last year. Mitchell is running now for the 11th Assembly.
Here’s the two Mitchell What to Fix mentions:
And here’s McDonald/Ford’s version, copied word for word:
The second initiative listed on the Mitchell platform is the Adviser Feedback System, which is the first of many initiatives that is taken verbatim from the McDonald/Ford platform:
Item number four from Mitchell is Academic Credit for Student Leaders, which is also an item on McDonald and Ford’s platform. The idea talks about continuing the work of 9th Assembly President Anand Ganjam with only a few words changed.
First listed in the “Diversity and Inclusion” section of the Mitchell platform is the plan for an online form for the histories of Latino and Asian students, similar to BlackHistory.psu.edu and even more similar to the McDonald/Ford initiative:
Initiative six on the Mitchell platform is “International/Change of Campus Transition to UP,” which is also on McDonald/Ford’s 2015 platform. This item carries the same title McDonald/Ford used and the text is almost verbatim.
The next item on Mitchell’s platform about international student housing during university breaks is again taken verbatim from McDonald/Ford.
Mitchell’s eighth item — Introducing Diverse Students Perspectives to the University Faculty Senate — is also on the current Ford/Jordan platform. It appears Mitchell took more care to change or rearrange words or phrases they seem to have taken from Ford/Jordan, but as is evidenced below, there are still a number of similarities not only in the idea but also in much of the text.
The next item, Implement Diversity Report Recommendations, is another initiative that appeared on the McDonald/Ford platform. Nearly half of it appears to be plagiarized.
The last item Mitchell has listed in the “Diversity and Inclusion” section is another initiative taken verbatim from McDonald and Ford.
It’s interesting that Mitchell chose to include the McDonald/Ford initiative on helping fraternities work of their nuisance property points through community service, because Borough Liaison Shawn Bengali reported just a few weeks ago that the project is “basically dead in the water.” Mitchell, a current At-Large Rep, was likely in the room when Bengali said this. In any case, it’s mostly plagiarized.
Mitchell copied McDonald/Ford’s initiative for legislative outreach verbatim (this also happens to be one of the biggest accomplishments of the McDonald/Ford administration).
Michell’s platform item on PASS added a sentence, but the rest of it is mostly copied.
Mitchell also included the Downtown Lighting Initiative on their platform, and though they again updated the information to reflect what the 10th Assembly did, they still took lines directly from the McDonald/Ford platform.
Mitchell’s platform includes a plan to continue to work to implement the “Anti-Hunger Games,” including more text taken directly from the McDonald/Ford 10th Assembly platform.
Though it has a different title, the Mitchell campaign includes an initiative to use the student fee board to support mental health and wellness that mirrors and initiative on the Ford/Jordan platform, not only in principal but also in a direct sentence taken from it.
Much of Mitchell’s initiative on the State of the Student Body address is the same. While Mitchell calls it a “re-installation,” about half of it is exactly the same.
Mitchell’s platform doesn’t offer many specifics for its plan to combat sexual assault, but it does offer some key quotes from the McDonald/Ford platform.
Expanding the He for She Campaign is the last initiative listed on Mitchell’s campaign website, and it too contains more than one full plagiarized sentence including information about Emma Watson worded exactly the same way McDonald/Ford did.
UPUA election day is March 30. Mitchell is taking on Ford/Jordan along with fellow write-in ticket consisting of Patrick Cines and Michael Straw. It is unclear if Mitchell will choose a new running mate and the Elections Code is ambiguous as to how write-in campaigns are regulated. Divy Agnihtori and Megan Fleming were disqualified from the election last week for a controversy of their own.