The Pitt News

Edward Snowden to broadcast live on campus

Edward Snowden will speak via video to Pitt students on Feb. 1. Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS

Edward Snowden will speak via video to Pitt students on Feb. 1. Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS

Edward Snowden will speak via video to Pitt students on Feb. 1. Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS

By Ashwini Sivaganesh and Amanda Reed / News Editors

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Usually lectures that take place in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room involve a speaker standing at the podium and addressing an audience of Pitt students.

The Pitt Program Council will instead host a live video conference event with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden Feb. 1. Students can purchase tickets at the WPU Ticket Office, for free, starting Jan. 11. Doors for the event, where Snowden will lecture and answer questions from Pitt students, will open at 7:30 p.m. and a stand-by line will be allowed in at 8:15 p.m.

Snowden was a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who, in 2013, leaked classified National Security Association information about government surveillance of cell phones and several other global surveillance programs to the public. He has since fled the country and lives in an undisclosed location in Russia. Opinions on Snowden have varied, with some seeing him as someone who took great risks to tell the truth, and others as a traitor to the United States.

According to Lecture Director Zachary Linn, 450 free tickets are available for students and 50 are reserved for PPC members and select VIP invitees.

Public Relations Director Niki Iyer said that the 25-member student committee decided to bring Snowden as a lecturer because of “his relevancy, our current political situation and he’s Edward Snowden.”

According to Linn, the committee first discussed bringing Snowden in September, three months before the contract was finalized in December.

Linn said PPC is expecting backlash for the event, but is prepared for any possible contingencies, like letters from upset students or alumni. They are making preparations because other students and alumni from other universities who hosted Snowden sent “upset letters” and hosted demonstrations in protest.

“We developed a plan of action for any contingency we can think of or that has occurred at other schools,” Linn said. “We’ve talked to other universities and without going into too much detail, we’ve talked to everyone who is necessary to talk to in this situation.”

Linn said PPC will screen questions ahead of the event to prevent “any potential issues” and Iyer said PPC will provide the same level of security as they do for their usual lectures.

When Snowden spoke at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in November, students upset by Snowden’s presence “yelled and chanted” outside of the venue where he spoke over video, CBC News Montreal reported. At this event, Snowden spoke about surveillance in Canada.

Like other past Snowden talks, a moderator will lead a part of the event. At Pitt, a representative from the political science department will moderate. According to the PPC, they will be announced later in the month. The moderator will conduct introductions and facilitate the question-and-answer seminar, which will be composed of student questions that are submitted via a Qualtrics survey that PPC will give to ticket holders that will be screened before the event.

Although the PPC can not disclose how much they are paying Snowden to speak as part of their contract for the event, Iyer said that the money spent came from the percentage of the student activities fee that PPC receives as a formula group.

“Each committee has our own budget that we deal with as a committee decision, and that came from the lecture committee budget,” Linn said.

Pitt spokesperson Joe Miksch, said that the University will try to keep things calm and peaceful leading up to the event. He also said that this an important learning opportunity that keeps with the University’s core values.

“The University of Pittsburgh considers free speech and the free exchange of ideas vital tools to educate and enlighten, especially when the speaker or the topic at hand are potentially divisive.” Miksch said. “The University encourages civil discussion of ideas and viewpoints, and considers the support of that process a distinctive characteristic of the University experience.”

For more information visit the PPC event page.


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Edward Snowden to broadcast live on campus