Glasgow University students have a long and proud tradition of electing student rectors to represent their political views – from Albert Lutuli to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and, in 2005, the Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. The campaign to elect Edward Snowden is set firmly in that tradition. Once every three years we, as Glasgow University students, have a powerful opportunity to have our voice heard on an issue of our choosing. Yesterday, we chose to nominate the whistleblower Edward Snowden in order to show our support for his actions and our disgust with the perverse desire of the security services to monitor our every keystroke.
Edward Snowden’s chilling revelations are well known, and their scope far too wide reaching to reiterate here, but what is abundantly clear is that all of our personal communications are now subject to invasive scrutiny by state security. This is not acceptable. Nor is the treatment of Edward Snowden, particularly now threats to his life have emerged. The UK government’s response to this scandal has been woeful, as has the coverage in certain sections of the press. The rectorial contest will give us an invaluable platform from which to have a public debate, one which has been all too absent in government and media circles, about our right as citizens to lead our lives away from the gaze of spies and spooks.
Key to this campaign is the widest possible participation of supporters both on and off campus. We have already had an overwhelming response to the nomination and over the coming weeks will build the campaign to a crescendo against state surveillance. We are optimistic that the energy and enthusiasm of our supporters will see Edward Snowden elected to this centuries old position, but the work will not stop there. If elected, we will continue to campaign for Snowden to be recognized as a hero, not a traitor, and for the citizens of this country and beyond to have a democratic say on their right to privacy. Left Unity Glasgow have been quick to offer their invaluable support. Indeed, several of the leading campaigners are part of the recently founded Glasgow University Left Unity student society.
We do not pretend that Edward Snowden will be a working rector, like the current incumbent, Charles Kennedy. He may never be able to even set foot on campus. But we have been here before with no ill effect on student representation: indeed, we are perfectly capable of organizing our own representation, as witnessed in 2011 with the long running Hetherington Occupation. And when else will we able to speak clearly on our opposition to pervasive state surveillance? No one else will give us this chance and we are privileged to have this opportunity and Edward Snowden’s support.
The practices of GCHQ and the NSA are fundamentally at odds with an open, free and democratic society. Throughout our campaign we will not only highlight this appalling incursion into our private and personal lives but celebrate all whistleblowers who risk their lives and livelihoods to expose corrupt and immoral practices by the state and other powerful groups.
These concerns do not just impact the students of Glasgow University but affect everyone and we strongly encourage all students, Left Unity members, and indeed everyone who supports Edward Snowden and the courage of whistleblowers, to join us in our campaign.
Chris Cassells is a PhD student at Glasgow University, Left Unity member and a member of the Edward Snowden for Rector campaign.