The whistleblower kept the students glued as he addressed them via a video link from Russia stressing on “speaking out” for human rights inherent in their nature.
Edward Snowden, the intelligence whistleblower, has been installed as rector at the Glasgow University, UK, after a sweeping win at student vote.
Thirty-year old Snowden is currently staying in Russia, where he has been granted a temporary asylum. He fled to Russia after leaking classified documents related to the US intelligence agency, NSA, last May.
The Bute Hall in the university was packed to its capacity to listen Snowden.
He expressed his disappointment at not being able to attend the institution personally.
I’m disappointed and I must apologize for being unable to attend in person, but unfortunately I’ve discovered that I’m barred from entering the United Kingdom on the grounds that my presence is considered detrimental to the public good.”
He added that it was unfair to comment on his presence in that way because, “regardless of what the government says, today, now, nearly a year forward, what we are learning is that the public feels something different, the students feel something different.”
The university students have hailed Snowden “as the courageous whistleblower he is, rather than a traitor.”
The former NSA contractor and a security analyst, said further,
It’s my great honor to be given the opportunity by this university, by the students, to serve the public good not only in defense of our public rights, but as rector of this university.”
He said ‘speaking out’ is not merely words to him, emphasizing the life- and the freedom-risk taken by him to start a national dialogue on the intrusive surveillance carried out by the US government.
Snowden urged people to speak out and not merely believe in the principle:
Human rights are not granted by governments but are inherent to our nature. People have a right to know the policies of their government. We may not need to know the names and identities of every target of surveillance on every active operation, but we should know the general outlines and what the government is doing in our name, and particularly what the government is doing against us,” he stressed.
He concluded his speech with the following words,
The idea that we believe in something, that we have to stand for something is what I intend to follow and what I intend to guide my service as your rector.”
The rector is the student’s elected representative for a three-year term and his duties include attending the university court, work with the students’ representative council as well as bringing student concerns to the attention of university management.
There were three other contestant to the post: cyclist Graeme Obree, author Alan Bissett and Scottish Episcopal clergyman Kevin Holdsworth.
Snowden received over 3,300 votes, Kevin Holdsworth, got 1,563 votes and Graeme Obree got 1,412 votes. He succeeds the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.
Jess McGrellis, Students’ Representative Council (GUSRC) president said in a speech that the election of Snowden reflects the political feelings of the students.
She also added,
- Mr Snowden is looking to work with the SRC and students to make sure issues at University are not forgotten,” and encouraged students to get in touch with both our new rector and the SRC to ensure all student issues are raised.”
The student group that nominate Snowden said,
We have a proud and virtuous tradition of making significant statements through our rectors and today we have once more championed this idea by proving to the world that we are not apathetic to important issues such as democratic rights. Our opposition to pervasive and immoral state intrusion has gone down in the records. What is more, we showed Edward Snowden and other brave whistleblowers that we stand in solidarity with them, regardless of where they are.”
What do you think? Is Snowden winning the war against NSA?