KU diversity, equity and inclusion administrator resigns after getting caught plagiarizing in an MLK Jr. Day message

LAWRENCE, Ks. – A University of Kansas diversity leader resigned last month after he was caught plagiarizing in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day message he sent to the entire campus.

D.A. Graham, former interim vice provost of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, has acknowledged his all-campus email was largely stolen from another author. 

Shortly after it was sent out, someone provided a copy of Graham’s email to the Lawrence Journal-World, which compared it to a past internet posting written by Curtis L. Coy, a U.S. Navy veteran and longtime senior executive in the federal government. 

After realizing the “vast majority” of the content used in Graham’s message was actually stolen from Coy, the Journal-World published an article detailing Graham’s plagiarism. His resignation followed shortly after.

Graham reportedly received the MLK Jr. message several years ago in an email and blamed the plagiarism on him rushing to get the message out.

“It was an oversight on my part,” Graham told the Journal-World when asked about the origin of the email. “I was trying to hurry up and get the message together.”

Several other institutions have used Coy’s verbiage to honor the role King played in furthering civil rights in America. But each of those institutions correctly cited Coy as the author and credited him. Instead of giving proper credit, Graham signed the email himself as if he was the sole author, and failed to mention Coy at all. 

KU has several provisions in its Academic Misconduct Policies and Procedures that identify plagiarism as a serious offense for all university faculty, staff and students.

Before becoming interim vice provost for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Graham served as KU’s ombuds – which, ironically, hears complaints and concerns about the university’s policies and practices, including those regarding administrators. 

KU Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer accepted Graham’s resignation on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

“I appreciate D.A.’s acceptance of responsibility for this act, as well as his recognition of the serious mistake he made,” she said about his resignation. “Plagiarism is never acceptable behavior – for students, faculty, staff or administrators.”

One Journal-World reader heartily agreed, posting under the article, “He should absolutely be held to the same standards to which a student would be held. Pretty sure ‘I was in a hurry’ ranks right up there with ‘My dog ate my homework’ in the pantheon of lame excuses. How very sad.”

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