JMU’s student government president takes platform from Pilchen
September 6, 2007
p. Junior Zach Pilchen’s student assembly presidential campaign platform has apparently worked twice: here at the College and also at James Madison University.
p. “The majority of my platform ideas were taken from the Student Assembly campaign of Zach Pilchen and Valerie Hopkins at the College of William and Mary,” Brandon Eickel, JMU’s student government president, wrote in a letter to students there. “I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Zach and Valerie as well as the JMU community for not making this clear last spring during my campaign.”
p. Eight of the 18 bulleted initiatives listed on Eickel’s campaign website — which was taken off the internet at the request of Pilchen — are nearly identical to those listed on the Pilchen campaign website.
p. For example, Pilchen’s site states: “Zach started a composting program with dining services to turn leftover food into nutrient-rich compost for William and Mary flower beds.” Eickel’s site, which went online during the last days of Pilchen’s campaign, states: “I would like to start a composting program with dining services in order to turn leftover food into nutrient-rich compost for JMU’s flowerbeds and trees.”
p. Eickel also uses several unusual phrases that are nearly identical to phrases used on Pilchen’s site, such as, “Some RAs perceive their role to be that of pseudo-police officers.”
p. In an e-mail to The Flat Hat, Eickel said that he wanted to incorporate great ideas from other schools into his campaign. “I felt as if my ability to make these things happen on JMU’s campus was more significant than where the ideas originated,” he wrote. “I realize this situation should have been handled differently, recognize my mistake, and have fully taken responsibility.”
p. Pilchen said yesterday that he heard last spring that Eickel’s campaign website was well-constructed and that he wanted to check it out for himself. He said that as he read through the site, he realized many of the ideas and phrases were taken directly from his own campaign website.
p. “I talked to him and asked him to pull down the website and issue a clarification to JMU,” Pilchen said, adding that he did not want to get further involved in the situation. “JMU will have to work it out for themselves.”
p. Mallory Micetich, a senator in JMU’s student government, said that the student government there stands behind Eickel. “It takes a two-thirds vote to impeach, and I know there aren’t two-thirds that want to impeach him,” she said. “He’s accepting full responsibility and, personally, I believe he’s doing it with extreme integrity.”
p. “Brandon’s a great guy, and we want William and Mary to know that he never meant to do it in anything other than a flattering manner,” she added.
p. Ilk Ghavami, who ran a write-in campaign against Eickel and lost by a margin of approximately 40 points, said he believes Eickel may have had motivations for plagiarizing other than just bringing new ideas to JMU. “It seems as though his intent was to get elected,” Ghavami said. “Maybe he thought that because the William and Mary election was over, this would go under the table.”
p. He said that he hopes JMU students take the situation seriously.
p. “It’s wrong. He cheated, he plagiarized, and now he needs to face the consequences,” Ghavami said. “I feel that this shouldn’t be forgotten because this tarnishes the image that JMU has.”
p. Because student politics are not part of academic coursework, Ghavami said Eickel most likely would not be tried for plagiarism by the school’s honor council.
p. The College’s honor council chair, Judd Kennedy ’08, said yesterday that if a similar situation occurred at the College, the honor council would have jurisdiction.
p. “Our process is a little bit different from JMU’s,” he said, noting that the honor code holds students accountable for both their academic work and their personal lives. “When anyone directly plagiarizes and asserts that someone else’s work is their own, it’s taken very seriously by the council.”
p. Eickel’s brother, Ryan Eickel ’10, is an SA Senator at the College.