Aamer Anwar was recently officially installed as the University of Glasgow’s next Rector, a role he will serve for the next three years.
The evening started with an academic procession including figureheads of the University, such as current SRC President Ameer Ibrahim. Ibrahim opened the ceremony with a speech giving context to the Rectorial campaign and noting the duties a Rector would have to fulfil. Ibrahim acknowledged the “clear sense of community spirit” when addressing the efforts of the campaigners, additionally commenting on the “emotive response” to the nominees when Rectorial nominations were announced, with reference to the “range of interesting and controversial figures”.
He further proclaimed the electoral process as a triumph to democracy, with the decision being made after much deliberation by the SRC to maintain the original list of nominations and to not silence any view through such actions as reopening nominations. Ibrahim talked of the prominent interest amongst students for “an active working Rector”, with reference to the non-present Rectorship of Edward Snowden in the previous three years. Following Ibrahim’s speech, Aamer Anwar was officially installed as the Rector of Glasgow University with a presentation of robes.
Anwar opened his speech by thanking his supporters: “and above all, the students of the University of Glasgow”. As a student, he protested against racism at the University’s Dental School, which lead to the introduction of anonymous marking across the university, creating fairer and more equal opportunities for students. Within his address, Anwar commented that justice was a “right”, and not a “luxury”, and dismantled the commonplace view of the phrase “human rights” becoming a phrase associated with negative connotations.
In response to SRC President Ibrahim’s comments on the future £1 billion campus regeneration project, Anwar stated that although he intends to support the students in the same way throughout this regeneration, the University should not fall into a trap of commercialisation which would lead to the stripping of resources to “equip students”, not only academically, but with the skills they will carry on throughout their lives. He remarked that no university should ever turn into a “business”, and that “the whole object of this university is to equip and educate people for life, and not solely for work or a profession”. In relation to this, Anwar spoke of his time at university as being:
“Some of the best years of my life, but more importantly it changed the entire course of my life, Glasgow gave me more than just an education. It’s where I made friendships that lasted a lifetime. It broke down my religious, cultural and political barriers… not just from books, but from activism and solidarity.”
Importantly, and in relation to this, Anwar told his audience that he believed every student should be entitled to the sort of university experience he had, and following a list of the detrimental effects of the economic difficulties and lack of support students have today, Anwar promised to “fight for all the pledges [he] had made for students” because it is “the students and staff that give this university its heart and soul”.
Not only did Anwar talk of the problems facing Glasgow University, but also speculated on the rise fascism and everyday racism in British and global society; giving examples of Trump’s election in America and the increasing popularity of fascist political figures such as Le Pen in France. Anwar remarked that:
“No one should underestimate the fight we face in the days and years to come. Nor should we heed those who tell us to despair… There cannot be any compromises in basic humanity and compassion.”
Anwar made reference to his favourite Rectorial speech, when the late Jimmy Reid famously compared contemporary politics of the 1970s to “rat races”. Parallel to this, Anwar commented on the upcoming snap General Election as “rats racing to the gutter” with game playing politicians, further stating that the “Tories [would] attack immigration”.
In closing his speech, Anwar stated: “I promise you, and I pledge to every student at this university, to bend every resource… to make sure that the voices of the students are heard.”