This article has been updated to include and clarify additional details of allegations and denials from the Kleier-Pejo ticket
Olivia Kleier (SFS ‘22) and Jon Pejo (COL ‘22) suspended their campaign for GUSA executive on Feb 15, after denying allegations they plagiarized from the Nile Blass (COL ‘22) and Nicole Sanchez (SFS ’22) platform.
The similarities between the Blass-Sanchez and Kleier-Pejo campaigns initially sparked allegations of plagiarism on Feb. 12. Students noticed comparable ideas and language on policy points including sustainability, LGBTQ+ resources, gender equality, and racial justice. Both the Blass-Sanchez and Kleier-Pejo campaign websites were launched at approximately midnight EST on Feb. 12.
On Feb. 15, the Kleier-Pejo campaign emailed the Voice to announce they were suspending their campaign. While Kleier and Pejo deny committing plagiarism, one of their staffers briefly accessed a document outlining the Blass-Sanchez policy ideas.
“In light of recent allegations of policy language plagiarism, we want to be entirely transparent,” Kleier wrote. “These allegations have detracted from what we hoped to be a lively campaign to determine what is best for the future of Georgetown and have forced us into a tough position.”
“The Kleier-Pejo campaign at no point plagiarized policy ideas or language from the Blass-Sanchez campaign, but the allegations have taken attention away from the important issues present in this election.”
According to information obtained by the Voice, the Blass-Sanchez campaign has been working with student groups for months to get input on prospective policies. Documentation from the Asian American Student Association shows that a copy of Blass and Sanchez’s policy ideas and language was shared with a small student group for feedback on Jan. 25. According to Kleier, one of their campaign staffers was approached as part of this effort and received and opened one of the documents.
“I opened the document and realized that it would be a conflict of interest and immediately closed it. I then responded saying I was a part of another campaign and I couldn’t meet with them, but I was willing to answer any questions they had,” the staffer wrote. “No one on the Kleier-Pejo team read the policy document nor had any knowledge of the text conversation until the allegations of plagiarism surfaced,” they wrote.
Similarities between both campaign’s language were noted by Georgetown students familiar with both ticket’s websites. When Cailee King (SFS ’21) first read through each campaign’s website, she noticed very similar language in various sections. “There are sections from the Olivia-Jon platform that are almost identical to what the Nile-Nicole platform has written, particularly on programs addressing toxic masculinity and food sustainability,” King wrote in an email to the Voice.
When shown the alleged examples of plagiarism via email, Kleier denied each one individually. She referenced conversations in and with members of GUSA, where she has been a class of 2022 senator for two years, members of the Kleier-Pejo campaign, and Pejo’s role as President of Club Filipino in the process of explaining where each policy point derived from.
Both teams address Title IX with similar language regarding combating on-campus toxic masculinity. Blass-Sanchez aim to “create a masculine-identifying peer working group to develop and recommend educational programming around healthy masculinity in predominantly masculine spaces (including representation from all-male athletic teams and male social organizations).”
Kleier and Pejo also called for “programming to identify healthy masculinity in predominantly male settings, such as male sports teams.”
Similarities between the campaigns extends beyond gender equality, to LGBTQ+ resources, sustainability, and racial justice policies.
Blass and Sanchez call for a fund for LGBTQ+ students, “who may face financial strain from family disapproval or require emergency funds for medical costs regarding their gender or sexuality.” Kleier and Pejo also described a fund for LGBTQ+ students “facing financial strain caused by family situations, including assistance covering medical costs for gender-affirming treatment.”
In proposed policies regarding racial justice, Blass and Sanchez promised to “connect and work with the Asian Pacific Islander student activists and other API organizations on campus to support the creation of an Asian American Studies Program.” Their platform also pledges to work with API and other student groups to “support the permanent creation of an Asian American affinity space as an extension of the Asian American HOME Magis Rowhouse.”
The Kleier-Pejo ticket suggested the same policy, and noted one of their priorities was to “work with AASA, APILF to create an Asian American studies program and an Asian American Home (such as Casa Latina, Black House).”
Finally, in sustainability policies, the Blass-Sanchez website shared the ticket’s idea to “negotiate with Aramark to ensure that its food sources for Georgetown University operations are organically, sustainably, and ethically sourced. This project must include an exploration of local and minority-owned operations in the DMV area, as well as transitory periods between sources.”
The Kleier-Pejo platform similarly addresses sustainability with a promise to “work with Aramark to locally source fruits and vegetables, as well as support local food vendors and minority-owned businesses.”
In a statement, Blass explained the reasoning for sharing their platform widely, they found it important to get community feedback.
“Drawing from our experiences as community organizers working with other activists, Nicole and I set out with the goal of creating a platform that spoke to the needs of the many communities GUSA must serve,” Blass wrote. “We understood that our experience and intimate understanding of the issues would be evident once we released our platform.”
A statement from Bryce Badger (MSB ’21), Vice President of GUSA and a member of the Election Commission explained seeking feedback was a normal part of the election process.
“The bylaws permit for discrete preparations to be made in advance of the election by candidates. Based on precedent, the commission permits all candidates to assemble a team and reach out to groups for feedback,” Badger’s statement reads.
In a first statement to the Voice on Feb. 12, Kleier and Pejo denied claims of plagiarism, explaining that they had been developing their platform for months. “Allow me to be explicitly clear: we did not plagiarize any part of the Blass-Sanchez website nor did we see the website until after ours was published at exactly 12:01 AM Friday,” Kleier wrote.
Polls for GUSA executive elections open Feb 25 at 10 p.m. ET and close Feb. 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
This article has been updated to reflect Cailee King’s name