NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has accepted a nomination to stand in the upcoming election for the post of rector at Glasgow University, one of Scotland’s leading seats of learning.
In the meantime, Snowden remains in Russia. The man who shook the world by revealing the extent of NSA surveillance operations to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers was granted temporary asylum by the Russian authorities following his flight first to Hong Kong, then on to Moscow.
Former intelligence contractor was nominated for the rector’s post by a group of Glasgow University students who made contact with him via his lawyer.
In a statement, Glasgow University’s “Edward Snowden for Rector” campaign described Snowden’s candidacy as a “unique opportunity to show our gratitude to a brave whistleblower.” The statement added that a vote for the former NSA computer specialist would “express disgust and horror at the open discussion in US intelligence circles of assassinating someone who acted out of duty, devoid of mercenary motive with the sole aim of informing his fellow citizens of state criminality.”
The election for the post of rector will take place next month. The successful candidate will hold office for three years as an elected representative of the students.
Other candidates nominated are former champion pursuit cyclist, Scots-born Graeme Obree, author Alan Bissett and Scottish Episcopal clergyman Kelvin Holdsworth. The latter has been an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church's attacks on legislative proposals for gay marriage in Scotland. In August 2012, the Very Reverend Holdsworth courted controversy by calling upon Roman Catholics unhappy with their church's stance on equal marriage rights for gays to join him in the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Although much of the duties of rector are ceremonial, the post also carries responsibilities involving working with the students' representative council and airing student concerns with university authorities. The rector is also entitled to attend meetings of the university court, the university’s governing body, where he or she holds the post of statutory chairperson.
Clearly, if Snowden remains on the US wanted list, sheltered under the cloak of temporary asylum in Russia, he’ll be unable to fulfil the latter function. Such a hindrance, however, hasn’t disbarred election of past rectors at Glasgow University.
Anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, was elected to serve as rector from 1987 to 1990 even though it was clear she’d be unable to undertake the position's responsibilities. More recently, another whistleblower, Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu was installed as Glasgow University rector in 2005. Although Vanunu had been released from prison in 2004, after spending 18 years incarcerated for revealing the existence of an Israeli nuclear program, he remains subject to severe restrictions on his movements and public utterances. Israeli authorities have prevented Vanunu from leaving the country since release.
Welcoming the announcement that Snowden would be a candidate for the post of Glasgow University rector, student Lubna Nowak, member of the Snowden campaign team, told The Guardian, "We're giving students a stage, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to voice their own discontent with mass surveillance. By electing Edward Snowden, we're sending a clear message, also to our government, that we will not allow this kind of surveillance."