The Ohio Union Activities Board announced “Breaking the Silence with Edward Snowden,” an event to be hosted in the Ohio Union with the controversial figure joining students via video chat.
Snowden is a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents from the NSA in 2013 which revealed details surrounding a domestic surveillance program. As a result, he is facing three felony charges. He will be live-streaming to Ohio State’s campus on Nov. 30 from Russia, where he has been granted asylum.
Zack Miglich, OUAB lectures chair and a fifth-year in mechanical engineering, said planning for the event started a year ago. Snowden has spoken at other college campuses across the U.S. through live-streaming.
“We just think the topic of cybersecurity and privacy is a really pertinent topic, especially right now with the election going on and the recent Apple scandal,” said Miglich, referencing when the FBI requested that the tech company open a locked iPhone used by the perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino, California, shooting. “I just think it’s a really important thing to have a dialogue about and have conversations about.”
In the hourlong event, Snowden will be asked questions by a moderator who has yet to be announced. Questions from the audience are expected to be fielded after the formal Q-and-A session.
“He’ll be discussing a lot about cybersecurity and what’s going on with that, because that’s something you hear in the news all the time,” Miglich said. “He’ll touch on what that means for the United States. We’ll give him a chance to talk about what exactly he did and why he did it, so he can explain how he exposed the NSA, and how he’s dealt with that.”
Josh Hubbard, OUAB president and a fourth-year in finance, said it’s important for OUAB to bring controversial speakers like this, in addition to comedy shows and concerts it puts on.
“Having the opportunity to bring something as educational and thought-provoking as this was a great opportunity,” Hubbard said.
Erik Nisbet, associate professor in the School of Communication, teaches about Snowden in his classes. He said what Snowden did makes American citizens consider the balance between security and privacy.
“Whether you agree or disagree with his actions in terms of him being a traitor or being a criminal, obviously, what he did sparked a conversation about online surveillance, and what should be privacy rights for American citizens,” Nisbet said.
Both Nisbet and Miglich noted Snowden’s controversial nature.
“Its controversial, but whatever side you’re on, it gives a chance to hear what he has to say — it kind of gives him a chance to explain himself — and ask questions,” Miglich said.
The event is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 in the Ohio Union Performance Hall. Tickets are set to be released on Monday at 5 p.m. at the Ohio Union Information Desk. Tickets are free and one ticket is available per Buck-ID. If there are enough tickets, admission will open up to students from satellite campuses and faculty.
Correction, Oct. 27: A previous version of this article stated Edward Snowden was a former NSA employee and contractor. In fact, he was only a contractor.