Friday, February 21, 2014

Rector Edward Snowden - a brilliant message or an embarrassment?

This week my Alma Mater, the University of Glasgow, conducted an election to have the student body elect their new rector. The rector, at a British university, is the highest representative of the students at the school's council. Consequently, you would expect the student body to elect an approachable person who is able to fight for their interests. The incredible student body of the University of Classlow, excuse me, Glasgow, chose to elect whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yes, that NSA guy. The one who fought for our privacy. Yes, a man physically unable to ever step foot on campus. Never mind the country. Even the continent should pose a problem. Well done!

It is hard to write an opinionated piece about an issue such as Edward Snowden. For any opinion to be reasonable I consider it important to have as much information about the topic as possible, and having information about privacy and the CIA is obviously a huge problem. Most importantly, however, this is the kind of thing everybody has an opinion on but only few people try to reason with themselves whether it is justified or not. Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? The answer to this question depends a whole lot on who is asked...

For understandable reasons the Americans are pissed at him. For us Europeans who were not screwed over by his revelations it's easy to say he acted heroically, listening to his morals rather than what many consider American propaganda. I find that hard to believe but I can't say that for sure. I don't know Mr Snowden and why he did what he did so I am going to refrain from having an opinion because I could never have enough information to justify it, whatever way it goes. The only fact I have is that he broke the law and is facing a charge for a reason although a life sentence seems ridiculously disproportionate.

My life wasn't impacted in the slightest because I never cared if the NSA read my texts. They'd just come to the conclusion I'm an idiot and then read someone else's. I therefore don't want to assess whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a traitor. He is definitely both because his actions were courageous and probably saved a few people from bad things happening to them, at the same time sold his country out and endangered  American security. I am a general friend of transparency. I am also a realist and know that not everything can be disclosed. It is a sad reality that people in his position have to make a choice on a daily basis but that's the way it is and I'm sure Snowden knew this when he took the job. To assess who he is therefore obviously depends on from what side you're looking.

Glasgow's student body obviously looks at it from here where finding out that the Americans spied on us is understandably outrageous. Nobody's been affected by the NSA scandal negatively so students in Scotland celebrate him for "doing the right thing" and "exposing the evils of the USA". These students aren't even Russian but they love him. At least that's what the more than 3000 votes in his favor told me. They love him so much that 5 people appeared at the announcement of the new rector at GU's Bute Hall. Yes, I'll repeat, 5 people in a massive, ancient hall, making university history. What a testament! The student body should be ashamed of themselves.

It was said that Snowden was elected as a symbolic rector, praising what he did rather than electing him for a role he is obviously unable to fulfill. Dear Glasgow Uni student, think about it: showing up at the Bute Hall would be a sign that this support goes further than logging on to a student account and tick a box. Make a shirt saying "We love you Eddie", for Christ's sake, and show it to the media (who was actually at Bute Hall, if you believe it or not!). If you're feeling particularly rebellious maybe delete facebook and flush your phone down the toilet because privacy is obviously very important to you. Don't elect a whistleblower to be your freaking representative. It is not a good move!

This idea to make a statement to the world that GU student body approved Edward Snowden's actions in electing him to be rector hugely backfired in my eyes. Nobody in the world cares. The unfortunate part is that the office of rector has become pointless in the process. At least my previous uni elected someone who had actually been to the country, although Brian Cox, Dundee Uni Rector, now resides in New York or LA, wherever Hollywood stars live. He actually launched a program in Theater Studies because, let's face it, other than acting there is not much this guy can do for Dundee Uni. I met him, I know. That's more than Edward Snowden will ever be able to do for Glasgow. In fact, the only thing he was able to do, and which I believe is the reason he was elected, is to put the word "Glasgow University" in the Huffington Post once.

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