Glasgow Uni Rector elections: There’s no point in petitioning

All we’re doing is spiralling towards another hate-fuelled campaign

As the campaign to become Glasgow’s next Rector heats up, the public backlash against Milo Yiannopoulos has only intensified with threats of petitions, boycotts and protests.

Yiannopoulos is one of 12 candidates listed for the position of Rector of Glasgow University after nominations were reopened last month, yet his inclusion in the shortlist along with that of Jordan Peterson sparked outrage from students across campus.

Very quickly, an election suffering from lack of public enthusiasm had now captivated the student body with even national media outlets taking an interest.

In what has now seemingly become the early-stage protest method of choice, an e-petition was started calling for those in the upper echelons of the University hierarchy to revoke the candidacies of Peterson and Yiannopoulos on the grounds that they broke the institution’s Equality and Diversity Policy. In an interview with The Independent, petition organiser Holly Hallam has suggested that protests are being organised with one already announced for Thursday 16th March, the same day as the Rector Hustings event.

Milo Yiannopoulos

This is where my issues with the opposition to these two radical candidates begin. Petitions have – and will continue to be – effective means of campaigning, but only when an ignored story is attempting to grab further widespread attention, particularly when it appears likely there will be a positive outcome.

 

Increasingly, however, petitions are being hijacked by political campaigners simply looking to highlight their discontent at an individual, person or decision, no matter how lawful it may be. Petitions against Donald Trump have featured heavily in the news recently – 1.8 million argued that the newly-elected President should have his invitation for a UK visit revoked, and the Government took no action.

Jordan Peterson

Closer to home, it seems highly unlikely any action will be taken as a result of the petition. With 12 candidates fairly nominated, attention should now turn to the debate. However, this “debate” is suffering from an ugly beginning.

Instead of this being a debate about why a particular candidate should be elected Rector, we have transcended into an argument about why certain candidates, no matter what their views are, should not only be ignored as a contender for Rector, but should be discarded completely from the democratic process.

Although I certainly agree that Peterson and Yiannopoulos are not suitable candidates for Rector, what frustrates me is exactly how many choose to display their opposition. Instead of hailing the plaudits of some, quite frankly, excellent nominations, the humble spectator has been left to witness a campaign of hate from both sides. While many, I’m sure, could describe in detail Mr Yiannopoulos’ views on the transgender community, far fewer could discuss Lady Cosgrove’s background, or the manifesto of Sir Vince Cable.

For anyone who relishes a political debate, the nomination of two controversial candidates should be music to your ears. With an electorate more likely to support a left-leaning candidate, the opportunity to go head to head (in person) against a particularly easy ideology to find fault in is one campaigners should relish, instead of attempting to block the democratic process.

By focusing on the nomination of Peterson and Yiannopoulos, we are merely providing them with more airtime than any other candidate in the race. As our friends in America demonstrated in 2016, even negative news can have a positive effect for a campaign arguing that the liberal elite should stop with their ironic suppression of ideas contrary to their beliefs.

With less than two weeks to go before voting begins, now is not the time to continue lambasting controversial candidates who deserve little airtime in this debate.

Instead it is time to begin declaring your support for the candidate you actually want to see as the next Rector of the University. Continuing this campaign of hate only deepens the rift between the opposing ideologies. An attempt to actually bring a positive light to this campaign allows voters to truly consider the impressive credentials of the worthy, not the negative aspects of the minority.

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