Edward Snowden is perhaps one of the most controversial figures in recent years after instigating the most significant information leak in US history. Praised for his actions the former NSA contractor has garnered support within this university having been nominated for the position of Rector last year.
Snowden’s campaign was backed both on and off campus resulting in a record turnout with 6,560 students voting. Gaining just over half the votes Snowden dominated the all Scottish competition consisting of cyclist Graeme Obree, author Alan Bissett, and the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth. Snowden is the first ever fugitive to hold the position of Rector and made his first appearance at the Fresher’s address on Monday 15th.
Snowden telecommuted from an undisclosed location in Russia to deliver his speech welcoming the new students. Snowden thanked the University for the support and recognised that he had been elected simply to send a message with the expectation that he would be a non-working Rector. However Snowden insisted that although his presence was limited, he was working to become more active within the university community by installing new telepresence equipment on campus.
Although every Rector’s speech aims to inspire the first year students, none in recent years have had such an effect. When Snowden told the students that “You can change the world by yourself, on your own facing even the greatest, most intimidating and most powerful organizations” it had a real impact, because it came from a man who had done just that. Snowden’s actions have had a ripple effect across the entire world bringing the matter of domestic surveillance into the public eye and fuelling major movements for information privacy.
Snowden may have been elected to send a message to the rest of the world but his presence also casts a huge influence over the students of the university. This institution now represents a much larger movement for transparency in the actions of governments around the world and we as students are now an integral part in that movement.