We, the students of Glasgow University, have a unique opportunity, even responsibility, to show our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Edward Snowden. It is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with him and various other activists exposing injustices committed by those in power. Indeed, Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers detailing the United States’ covert enlargement of its stake in the Vietnamese conflict, himself came out in support of this anti-surveillance whistleblower. According to Ellsberg, the leaks relating to on-going state surveillance are even more significant than the papers he released forty years ago. It is this sense of urgency about Snowden’s personal struggle that we believe could inspire and benefit Glasgow University and our city as a whole.
Through Snowden’s nomination we are emphasizing that he is far from being a ‘traitor’ as the Pentagon have called him, but rather an incredibly brave individual who put his life on the line to inform us of the disgusting intrusion into our privacy practiced by, among others, the United States’ NSA and the UK’s GCHQ. In doing so, he has sought to protect what is not only a fundamental human right but also one of the pillars of free society. What is more, we are voicing our own opinions unambiguously to those involved in monitoring our every move that we oppose this. If Edward Snowden becomes the rector of Glasgow University, our demand for open government, transparency and fundamental right to privacy will be heard loud and clear.
Some people may wonder whether it is wise to vote for a rector who, at present, is not free to enter United Kingdom. It is important for those people to understand that this nomination goes beyond the question of representation; indeed, Edward Snowden’s symbolic presence would provide us with an opportunity to finally represent ourselves in this generation-defining struggle. Inspirational figures the likes of Albert Luthuli, former president of the apartheid-opposing ANC, or the imprisoned Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu have been absent rectors in the past. Having these individuals in this symbolic position clearly demonstrated our University’s stance on highly relevant issues troubling Western civilization. What is more, it showed that students of Glasgow University, as well as other individuals within the city, have a proud tradition of radical and virtuous leftist politics. Undoubtedly, these sets of values will be reasserted not only to the UK, but also to the rest of the world should Edward Snowden be elected. Finally, it is worth stressing that this debate goes far beyond campus. It extends to every single person who has ever maintained an on-line presence, or communicated using technology. Discourse on the ethical considerations underlying mass surveillance and the harsh punishment of those who dare to speak up against corruption has been far too little, even though there is very much to say about it, something we hope Snowden’s symbolic presence will inspire.
These so-called liberal and democratic states that spy on their own citizens and consequently attempt to persecute anyone brave enough to expose and hold them accountable for their perverse practices can not distract us from their twistedness by smearing those brave enough to speak out about abuses. We need to raise awareness and insist on justice because those guilty of committing such actions will not suddenly develop a conscience. It is up to us to let them know that we, too, are watching them and demanding an end to state intrusion into our personal lives. By supporting the campaign and electing Edward Snowden, we highlight our awareness of these matters to those in power and we further announce to the British state that we refuse to ignore the true issues at stake. In addition, we hope that this campaign will inspire not only students, but individuals everywhere to speak up for what they know is right.
In the spirit of leading by example, the ‘Edward Snowden for Rector’ campaign is transparent and all-inclusive. We are not only calling upon students of the University of Glasgow to join us, but indeed any person of conscientiousness can help. A lot of people have been doing great work already to give the campaign such a powerful start and anyone is welcome and even encouraged to show their support. We are in the process of planning a lot of exciting and significant events to highlight the previously discussed issues and to celebrate whistleblowers from all varieties of states and situations. If Edward Snowden is elected as rector, Glasgow University will yet again secure its place in the global opposition to a vast injustice, as well as against the persecution of those who have provided us with the invaluable opportunity to stand up for our basic rights.
– Lubna Nowak