Development & Education

Scottish students elect Edward Snowden as rector of Glasgow University


snowden better.jpg

A picture of Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is seen on a computer screen displaying a page of a Chinese news website.



Edward Snowden on Tuesday was elected by students as rector of Glasgow University.*

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

It's a traditional figurehead position at some Scottish universities. The role is intended to provide students with a main liaison to a school's administration. 

Glasgow University students have a history of electing controversial rectors in order to honor someone's actions or make a political point — and Tuesday's election continued that legacy.

"We admire his courage," says Chris Cassells, a Ph.D. candidate who campaigned for Snowden. "He has given up everything in order to expose what he felt, and what we feel, are immoral and corrupt practices by state security agencies."

Cassells doesn't expect Snowden will be able to come to campus because he is still living in temporary asylum in Russia. But he still thinks the former NSA contractor will be able to hear the concerns of students.

"He's perfectly able to liaise with students over the internet," Cassells says. "We're confident ... that he'll be very happy to maintain a dialogue with students." 

Cassells thinks this election is a great way for students to show their support for the NSA contractor who leaked thousands of secret documents.

"What we [called] on students to do ... during the elections [was] to vote for Edward Snowden to send a clear signal to the world that we are against pervasive state surveillance, that we support his actions as a whistleblower."

Past University of Glasgow rectors have included South Africa's Winnie Mandela and Israeli dissident Mordechai Vanunu, who spent time in jail for leaking nuclear secrets.

*This post has been updated with new information.