On Tuesday, February 18, Edward Snowden was elected rector by Glasgow University students to represent their interests for three years. Various British and American news sources reported the story, with information about the duties of the rector, famous rectors in past centuries, and Snowden's reaction to the honor. They used different labels for Snowden: exiled American whistleblower, former NSA analyst, fugitive whistleblowing traitor, intelligence whistleblower, NSA whistleblower, former National Security Agency contractor.
The U.S. News & World Report wrote: "Exiled American whistle-blower Edward Snowden was elected rector of the University of Glasgow by students Tuesday, defeating three other candidates." The article explained:
At American universities, the title rector generally designates the powerful chairman of the school's governing body, but at the University of Glasgow, the position is largely symbolic. The rector does serve as the chairman of the University Court, which administers the university’s financial resources, but cannot vote....Students at the University of Glasgow have a legacy of making controversial rector picks. Winnie Mandela was elected rector in 1987 and Mordechai Vanunu, who leaked information about Israel's nuclear weapon program, was elected in 2005. Neither took up residence in Scotland.The same article has a picture of demonstrators in Brazil demanding Snowden be granted asylum, some of them wearing masks of the "former NSA analyst," the Brazilian president and Barack Obama. The article also quotes Glenn Greenwald:
The U.S. Government and its loyalists consider Edward Snowden a criminal, but all throughout the rest of the world, he's considered a hero, especially though not only among the younger portions of the population, which have a unique appreciation for the values of internet freedom and individual privacy he risked his liberty to defend.A long article in the Daily Mail called Snowden "a fugitive whistleblowing traitor" and said other rectors of the university included Adam Smith (elected in 1787 and 1789) and Edmund Burke (elected in 1785 and 1793). It gave details of the 2014 election (more than 6,500 students voted – double the number who voted three years ago) and reported student responses to the outcome. It also included a statement from the group which nominated Snowden:
We are incredibly delighted to see Edward Snowden elected as the new rector of Glasgow University. We have a proud and virtuous tradition of making significant statements through our rectors and we have once more championed this idea by proving to the world that we are not apathetic to important issues such as democratic rights. Our opposition to pervasive and immoral state intrusion has gone down in the records. What is more, we showed Edward Snowden and other brave whistleblowers that we stand in solidarity with them, regardless of where they are.The BBC reported that "intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden" had been elected under the single transferable vote system. Snowden received 3,124 votes in the first round and 3,347 in the second, and the next candidate had 1,563. It quoted a student spokesperson: "I think we've shown that we oppose mass surveillance and intrusion to our private lives and that also we stand in solidarity - that we believe whistleblowers should be honoured and they're heroes rather than traitors."
The Guardian included a statement by "the NSA whistleblower" upon his election.
I am humbled by and grateful to the students of Glasgow University for this historic statement in defence of our shared values. We are reminded by this bold decision that the foundation of all learning is daring: the courage to investigate, to experiment, to inquire. If we do not contest the violation of the fundamental right of free people to be left unmolested in their thoughts, associations, and communications - to be free from suspicion without cause - we will have lost the foundation of our thinking society. The defence of this fundamental freedom is the challenge of our generation, a work that requires constructing new controls and protections to limit the extraordinary powers of states over the domain of human communication. This election shows that the students of Glasgow University intend to lead the way, and it is my great honour to serve as their rector.The Guardian also reported that Snowden said: "In a world where so many of our developing thoughts and queries and plans must be entrusted to the open internet, mass surveillance is not simply a matter of privacy, but of academic freedom and human liberty."
The Hill, which publishes daily when Congress is in session, identified Snowden as "the former National Security Agency contractor." It says a rector is expected to attend meetings, but that would be "unlikely" for Snowden.