German University Seeks Honorary Doctorate For Snowden

by Jennifer Kabbany - Associate Editor on December 11, 2013

Professors at a large and respected university in Germany seek to bestow Edward Snowden with an honorary doctorate, saying the National Security Agency whistleblower “has the potential to be a role model for a whole generation.”

The faculty of arts at the nearly 600-year-old University of Rostock voted unanimously at its Nov. 13 meeting to approve a resolution to honor Snowden with the degree, and a final decision by university administrators is expected early next year, campus officials stated in a news release. (Link in German.)

In a four-page resolution, scholars praised Snowden as one of the “great examples of civil disobedience in the history of modern civil society,” alongside Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Snowden carries on the “very democratic tradition of civil disobedience,” the resolution states.

In June, Snowden disclosed to the media massive amounts of information about National Security Agency programs that track and analyze Americans’ every move, including cell phone calls and locations, emails, personal Internet activity and social media posts. He currently has temporary asylum in Russia and stands accused of espionage against the United States.

Citing Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” the scholars said for the democratic rule of law to work, civil disobedience remains a necessary function, and called Snowden’s decision to become a whistleblower “courageous.”

“The Snowden-NSA affair is not about … the interception of (personal data), but the ratio of protected privacy and state control,” the resolution states. “It’s about the tension between power and law. …. It’s about the relationship between democracy and totalitarianism.”

In the news release, campus officials summed up professors’ thoughts toward Snowden by saying he acted out of moral conviction and with civil courage, and put a higher purpose before his personal freedom.

They described the relevance of his actions on academic discourse as evident, saying it will impact the fields of philosophy, constitutional and international law, socio-political debates and international relations, as well as such classical questions on freedom, fundamental rights, the relationship between an individual and the state, and the constitutional rights of citizens in a globally networked world.

“It’s not just about the disclosure of irresponsible American espionage activities, but as (Snowden) writes in his ‘Manifesto For The Truth,’ mass surveillance is a global problem which needs global solutions,” the scholars state in their resolution.

“‘Such programs are not only a threat to privacy, they also threaten the freedom of expression and open societies. … We have a moral duty to ensure that our laws limit values ​​and monitoring programs and protect human rights,’ “ the scholars note, citing the manifesto.

“As an academic institution, which is also always in a special moral obligation toward the protection of democratic rights and an enlightened human image, (we) move the request the award of an honorary doctorate to Mr. Snowden.”

Editor’s note: The University of Rostock news release and faculty resolution were posted on the college’s website in German and subsequently translated by The College Fix into English using Google Translate. You can view the Google Translation here.

ht: The Local

IMAGE: Freedom of the Press Foundation YouTube Screenshot

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  • Robert Batchelor

    And this is an institution of higher learning but not an institution where individual freedom is promoted or embraced. instead, dictatorial bans under the guise “we’re saving the environment” are embraced to achieve the désiréd ban. But we voted on it you argue and the majority agreed to do this. Really? Is this the way we do things now? Why can’t you leave the décision up to the individual? Why do we need someone to dictate to us how to live our lives? I truly worry about the future of our country when I read articles like this. How soon before we become à Stalinist state?