Can a cat become university rector? This university in Scotland is debating it
A dignified portrait of Buttons' doppelgänger. Source: Shutterstock

Students of Scotland’s University of Aberdeen filed for Buttons, their residential campus cat, to stand in the upcoming election for university rector.

Hundreds of students support the white feline to lead the institution, which is facing attacks for the lack of representation in its election process.

“Buttons has all the qualities of a good candidate – he lives on campus, he interacts with students and he’s fluffy which is a quality that none of the other candidates possess,” Alex Kither, a third-year history student and de-facto campaign manager for Buttons told The Scotsman.

According to Kither, Aberdeen is now led by “small but vocal minorities”, referring to the small percentage of students actively participate in campus politics. Only 60 people attended the “hustings” last year, a meeting at which candidates in an election address potential voters and a big event in academic year.

“A lot of people have been unhappy with the level of the candidates — with only the friends of the candidates becoming engaged with their campaign.”

Two months ago, Aberdeen voted to scrap the rector election after the campaign for Maggie Chapman, the co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, was accused “dirty tricks”. Chapman’s team was deemed the worst offender in a campaign period which saw hundreds of campaign posters being torn down.

In December, the university Senate decided that a new campaign for a new election will take place on Feb 19.

The university rector is the third-most senior position in Scotland’s ancient universities – St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee – after the chancellor and vice-chancellor. One of the position’s main functions is to represent the interests of the student body in shaping the universities’ agenda.

At Aberdeen, former UK prime ministers Winston Churchill and Herbert Henry Asquith, steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie and actor Iain Cuthbertson have held the ancient post of rector.

Buttons’ chances to do so for Aberdeen look dashed at the moment as the election coordinator has officially rejected the feline’s nomination as the cat was not human.

“Both the returning officer and I appreciate Buttons’ interest in the role and wish him well in his future endeavours,” election co-ordinator Nicholas Edwards told the campaigners.

An online campaign – “Cats not Bureaucrats” – is now underway to have Buttons reinstated in the race for rectorship, the Herald Scotland reported.

“We have been given 24 hours to make an appeal to the elections committee and have decided to open the petition in the hope of getting enough students engaged to prove that it is necessary for Buttons to be nominated as candidate for the sake of student interest, democracy and fluffy feline friendliness,” Kither said.

“Vote for cats not bureaucrats. Vote for Buttons. “

More than 300 students have signed the petition as at the time of writing.

One supporter compared Buttons to Larry, the stray cat adopted by the staff of the UK Prime Minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street. Larry, who holds the position as chief mouser to the Cabinet Office, receives high-ranking foreign dignitaries and visitors, such as former US president Barack Obama and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Europe Chief Executive Kazuo Okamoto, among other duties.

“Think of Mayor Stubbs of Talkeetna, Alaska who was mayor for 20 years or Larry, the cat who resides at 10 Downing Street and has a position in the Cabinet Office,” Eva Mackie wrote.

“Buttons could be the next famous cat in a position of power and deserves the right to be considered.”

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