‘Greatest public intellectual’ draws students and visitors

Patrick O'Hare with Elizabeth Stitt of the STEPS charity and Professor Noam Chomsky.
Patrick O'Hare with Elizabeth Stitt of the STEPS charity and Professor Noam Chomsky.
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Noam Chomsky, described as ‘‘the world’s greatest public intellectual,’’ caused quite a commotion when he visited St Andrews this week to accept his honorary degree.

Renowned for his outspoken political views as much as his academic achievements, members of the public joined students to queue up to hear Chomsky’s lecture which had to be moved to the Younger Hall to accommodate the crowd.

“There’s not many 83-year-old-professors that can get people scrambling into a lecture hall to listen to them on a warm, summer’s day”, was how one student described the situation on Tuesday afternoon.

Prior to delivering his lecture, Chomsky made a point of speaking to students and meeting up with a charity that helps Palestinian students study at St Andrews.


STEPS (St Andrews Education for Palestinian Students) is trying to raise money to cover the expenses for a student to study. Principal, Professor Louise Richardson, agreed that the university will waive tuition fees for two Palestinian postgraduate students per year.

Chomsky is a supporter of the Palestinian cause and took the time to meet with representatives of STEPS and endorse their work.

He told the Citizen: “I was very pleased to learn about the decision of the university to waive tuition fees for two Palestinian students, and about the contribution of the STEPS charity to this project, among its other impressive activities.

‘‘Educational opportunities are, of course, very limited in the Israeli-occupied territories, particularly in Gaza, where the repression is severe.

“Young Palestinians have made courageous and dedicated efforts to overcome these obstacles, with quite remarkable success.

“Nevertheless, there is only so much that they can achieve under these harsh circumstances. I hope that others at St Andrews will join in supporting this worthy endeavour.”


Earlier, in his laureation address for Professor Chomsky, Professor Stephen Reicher said it would be impossible to list all of his achievements. Instead, he described the common theme running through all of Chomsky’s work as “the idea of freedom.”

“In honouring you, Professor Chomsky, we honour the principle of freedom that you articulate so powerfully,” he added.

“We honour the spirit of speaking truth to power without which no university has any right to call itself as such. And we honour all those you have inspired to use their creativity and take their fate into their own hands.”