Youth Governor candidate Senayt Tassew’s absence from a portion of Friday’s joint session dedicated to speeches from candidates has reignited a rumor that she had inappropriately borrowed material for a speech she gave at T&E 2. However, a review by Y&G News of her speech in Fresno and the material she is accused of having used without attribution has found that, while she appears to have been inspired by the original material, she did not copy it directly.
When Tassew did not show up on Friday, some delegates speculated she had been disqualified due to the allegations. But she joined the “Meet the Candidates” session toward the end and apologized for her absence. She later told Y&G News that she had been sick.
Y&G News investigated the accusations by re-watching Tessaw’s speech and comparing it with a letter written by a California teacher that went viral after the 2016 presidential election. Some delegates claimed Tassew borrowed heavily from that letter without attribution.
The review made it clear that Tassew took inspiration from the letter without naming the source, but she did not directly copy it. The original letters references various groups likely to feel marginalized by President Donald Trump and affirms them, telling them they are loved.
My English teacher put this on her door today.. pic.twitter.com/ZYGiPtgiCJ
— Natalie Gomez (@natssfatss) November 10, 2016
In her Fresno speech, Tassew similarly addressed some of the same groups, but she did not include the line “You are loved.” Many of her words are different from those in the letter, and the order of the groups she addressed is different. The spirit and tone are similar, though, suggesting that the idea had caught on with Tassew but she was not lifting material directly.
This letter has resurfaced in other classrooms in various formats, becoming a bit of a cultural motif in response to Trump’s election. Over the course of two interviews with Y&G News, Tessaw said she first encountered it when a friend texted her a picture of a poster that was on the walls at her school. She said she had not seen the original letter until two weeks after Fresno.
“I did not plagiarize my speech, to anyone that still thinks I did. I am not going to stray away from the fact that it is similar, but I personally wrote down things that I think were important that need to be addressed,” Tassew said.
Tassew did say she was inspired by the poster her friend had sent.
She added that she feels this situation has been blown out of proportion and that delegates should be focusing on her platform rather than the allegations about her.
“If a delegate were to do this in NIC, no one would care, but just because it was said in front of 4,000 people and just because the fact I did that is why it’s being blown out of proportion,” she said.