Snowden posters slashed as students vote for rector

THE nomination of American whistleblower Edward Snowden for the post of Glasgow University Rector has split opinion on campus.

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The former US intelligence officer agreed to stand after a request to his lawyers by students from the university.

Mr Snowden now lives in Russia after fleeing America in May, having revealed extensive internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence.

Student Chris Cassells, who is helping to run his campaign, argues the nomination gives students the opportunity to show both support for his actions and disgust at the security services.

However, there has been opposition to the nomination on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and last week campaign posters were slashed and cut up.

Responding to the vandalism, a statement on the Facebook page dedicated to Mr Snowden's campaign states: "It is deeply disappointing a small number of people, for whatever reason, seek to stifle what should be a colourful and exciting atmosphere in the run-up to the election."

In addition, a number of campus organisations, including the historic Glasgow University Union, have decided to campaign for a rector who will work actively on behalf of the students, rather than one who is absent.

The three other candidates for rector - cyclist Graeme Obree, author Alan Bissett and Scottish Episcopal clergyman Kelvin Holdsworth - have all been campaigning at the university and see themselves as able to fight for student causes.

Jess McGrellis, president of the university's Student Representative Council, said opposition to Mr Snowden in recent days had been unexpected.

She said: "I have been surprised by the backlash against him. Even amongst students he is quite a controversial figure and we have got a lot of inter­national students who may not agree with what he has done.

"It also became apparent at the hustings that the Snowden campaign did not have a great deal to offer in the detailed discussions and that was very telling, but he will still be a popular choice."

Stuart Law, president of the Glasgow University Sports Association, which is backing Mr Obree, said the university needed a working rector and that message was getting through to the student body.

He said: "The hustings this week were surprising because it seemed a lot of people were very adverse to the idea of having a non-working rector.

"The rector position goes back to the 1400s and in that time there has only been about five times when someone has been elected as a political statement.

"It is not a tradition of Glasgow University to do that. A working rector is important for the students because it is an extra voice on the University Court."

Voting for the election runs between Monday and Tuesday, with the results on Tuesday.

andrew.denholm@ heraldandtimes.co.uk

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