I arrived at the rectorial election results late; just after Edward Snowden had been announced as the new rector of Glasgow University. Students were already leaving in crowds, looking disappointed, and looking round the Bute Hall, nobody looked particularly happy. So how, with a clear majority of over 3,000 votes, could almost every student who came to watch the election results be disappointed?
It is clear that the students who voted Snowden are not the same students who actively engage in the University; who read every rectoral manifesto; who made an informed decision based on the job description of the University rector. Over 3,000 students voted for Snowden simply because to vote was to make a political statement; that Glasgow University does not support online surveillance and tracking of information.
Is electing a man into a position for a job he physically cannot do really the right way to go about making this statement? It’s a valid statement, but Glasgow students seem to forget the value that this position can hold.
The rector at Glasgow University should work closely with the SRC and bring large student matters to the University Court. They’re able to do this because the rector holds a degree of power to fight in the interests of the students. Kelvin Holdsworth aimed to solve overcrowding, disabilities, integrating Chinese students into the University, and many more points. Graeme Obree, backed by LGBTQ+ and GUSA, aimed to promote mental health issues and the development of sports facilities. One of Alan Bissett’s main aims was to promote gender equality on campus, through better female engagement in tutorials, as well as trying to bring the female members in the Court up to 40%. Were voters for Snowden even aware of these aims; the results that a working rector would have the power to achieve? Yes, a University rector can make a political statement, and we have had unsuccessful working rectors in the past, but that is no reason to completely give up on the position and give it to a man who can’t even leave Russia, for the sake of making the news.
There are so many other ways to make a political statement that don’t end up with, firstly, the University students looking like they don’t even know what the purpose of one of the most powerful student representative roles is, and secondly (and more sadly), ending up without a rector being able to actively support the University’s students for 3 years.