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Maybe Melania Trump Should Read Her Alma Mater’s New Plagiarism Policy

The university Melania Trump claims to have attended recently tweaked its plagiarism policies.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Melania Trump, wife of Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Melania Trump, wife of Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, delivers a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ask Melania Trump’s biographers about her brief stint in academia and they’ll tell you she dropped out of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia after her freshman year.

But according to Melania Trump’s personal website, she obtained a degree “in design and architecture from University in Slovenia,” though the name of said university is conspicuously missing.  

The extent of her actual ties to the University of Ljubljana aside, the school’s deans were probably disappointed to hear that she appears to have rather obviously plagiarized from a 2008 convention speech made by First Lady Michelle Obama.

That’s because the University of Ljubljana announced last December that they would take aggressive steps to weed out plagiarizers from their ranks after a spate of major scandals in recent years. (One of the most high-profile alleged plagiarizers turned out to be the country’s own Minister of Education Klavdija Markez, who resigned last year amid allegations that her master’s thesis was at least partially someone else’s work.)

The university’s new plagiarism policy, which was reportedly launched in April, requires every dissertation to be scanned by software that can identify plagiarism. It seems that is just the kind of software that might have helped Melania as she prepared for her debut speech at the Republican National Convention, which is now being viewed as one of the greatest flops in the already gaffe-filled Donald Trump campaign.

Trump himself didn’t seem so concerned about the mishap, and instead tweeted that the “good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!”

And a number of his allies, including his one-time rival New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, came to Melania’s defense. “If we’re talking about 7 percent of a speech, that was really, universally considered to be a good performance by Melania,” he said this week. “I know her. There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech.”

Well, Gov. Christie, that might have more to do with how one defines plagiarism than anything else. According to the Slovenia Times, which reported on the University of Ljubljana’s policy change late last year, “the rules also set down that any copying or misrepresentation of work by others as one’s own amounts to plagiarism, as does copying of sentences which are then rearranged or altered without reference to the source, citation of previous work lacking quotes and misleading referencing.”

On Wednesday, Trump Organization staffer Meredith McIver took responsibility for the copycat incident at the convention, claiming in a statement posted on the campaign website that she spoke by phone with Melania about her admiration for the first lady, and “later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech.”

“I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps as well as to Mrs. Obama,” she said. “No harm was meant.”

According to McIver, she offered her resignation, but Trump refused to accept it.

“Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and we learn and grow from these experiences,” she said in the same statement.

Now, if only we could get our hands on a copy of Trump University’s plagiarism policy as well.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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