Graduate Petitions for Superintendent’s Resignation After Plagiarism Charge

Mansfield School Superintendent Brenda Hodges.
Mansfield School Superintendent Brenda Hodges.
Mansfield Public Schools

A former Mansfield High School student has started an online petition demanding town Superintendent Brenda Hodges resign. Hodges is accused of lifting portions of her 2014 graduation speech from a commencement address given by Admiral William McRaven’s speech to the 2014 University of Texas graduating class.

The Mansfield news reports:

“I heard about the speech through Facebook when an article comparing Ms. Hodges and Admiral McRaven’s speech appeared on my newsfeed,” said Catherine Saba, 19, who launched the petition. Saba, a MHS Class of 2013 graduate is studying English and creative writing at the University of Mass, Boston.

“I started the petition not because I believed it would work in getting her to resign, but to bring awareness to the amount of people in this town find her actions deplorable and want a new leader for the school system.”

Change.org sends the following email to Hodges every time someone signs the petition:

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Please respectfully accept this petition to resign as Superintendent from the Mansfield Public School System, due to recent allegations of plagiarizing your commencement speech at graduation from Admiral William McRaven’s speech at the University of Texas at Austin in May.

The standard of education in the Mansfield School System is important to us and we want to see the detrimental consequences of plagiarism made clear. This begins with a leader who will set an example for students to value their education and be sincere in the work they submit.

Did she do it? Hodges claims she’s never heard McRaven’s address, but did lift some ideas from another, similar commencement address she heard in Oklahoma. The Attleboro Sun Chronicle compared some passages between Hodges’ and McRaven’s addresses:

Both McRaven and Hodges had the same opening line.

“It’s been almost 37 years to the day that I graduated from UT,” McRaven said in his commencement speech. “I remember a lot of things about that day ... But of all the things I remember, I don’t have a clue who the commencement speaker was and I certainly don’t remember anything they said. So ... acknowledging that fact—if I can’t make this commencement speech memorable—I will at least try to make it short.”

Addressing the Mansfield graduates, Hodges said: “I remember sitting where you are, some years ago ... I remember having those same feelings, but what I don’t remember is who the speaker was or what the speaker said. So with that knowledge in hand, if I can’t make this speech memorable, I will at least make it short.”

For your comparative research, here’s McRaven’s address to the University of Texas: