• Thu. May 30th, 2024

On Simon Fanshawe

ByAnna Claire Shuman

Feb 27, 2024
Simon Fanshawe sitting in a pink suit, writing at a desk

As a politically minded and left-wing student, the appointment of Simon Fanshawe as the new
Rector of the University of Edinburgh was disappointing. His personal politics do not align with
my own, and I don’t trust him to accurately represent the mindset of the UoE student body.
The online response to his appointment was immediate and monolithic– there were no cheers
and no triumphant gloating from his supporters. There was, however, a flurry of canva-made
Instagram posts about why we should protest and oppose Fanshawe’s confirmation, open
letters to send to the university and a statement from EUSA disagreeing with his assumption of
the position.

As a politics student, and someone deeply ready to find fault with the University of Edinburgh, it
pains me to see the infographics and planned protests taking issue with his appointment that
assign blame to the University of Edinburgh. Because, as I know (and am finding out many do
not), the rector is the only student-elected seat on the University Court. The student body is at
the mercy of the University all the time, but we have the ability to nominate candidates and elect
the university’s rector. And we squandered this opportunity. Now, we’re spreading what borders
on misinformation to throw any sort of accountability out the window.

Simon Fanshawe was not appointed by the student body; he won the position by default. There
were no other viable candidates nominated; a well-intentioned but doomed to fail nomination of
Hope Conway-Gebbie hardly counts as she was never going to be allowed to run for the
rectorship due to her employment at the university. All it takes to confirm a rector nomination is
60 endorsements from students and/or staff at the university, and the knowledge that current
staff or students cannot run for the position.

Student interest in campus politics is at an all-time low. Long gone are the days of brawls on the
Old College quad on election days or any real interest in EUSA elections. We feel powerless,
and understandably so. We are exposed to so much pain and suffering and politics that feels
much more important than whoever will sit on this court that meets a handful of times a year.
That is not my gripe. Well, it’s half of my gripe. It is understandable that, in our current state of
globalisation and 24/7 news, we would be more concerned with international conflicts and the
state of the world economy. But, let’s make university politics interesting again, for the love of
God. We can’t let the UoE administration get the better of us, we need to actually put a bit of
work in if we want to make any change around here. Edinburgh doesn’t make it easy– their
communication regarding the rector was poor– but someone figured out how to nominate a
suitable candidate.

I don’t like our new rector. I think he’s an attention-obsessed “activist” reliant on the trendy
anti-trans rhetoric tossed around academia. But I won’t blame the university for his new power
just because his personal politics are opposed to my own; I can’t, they didn’t elect him. We all
elected him. By not even so much as nominating another candidate, we gave power to whoever
did actually nominate a candidate. And that’s a shame.

IMG_2495” by Overseas Development Institute is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.