29. marraskuuta 1996

Life is Short, But Your Thesis Takes Forever

The concentration of book tests at the University of Helsinki makes it even more difficult for students to begin their own research for their Master’s thesis. The big project waiting at the end of our academic years grows to monumental proportions in our psyche. During the time spent working on it, life is often forced to interrupt the process. Either fear or the pressure to gather work experience can delay the thesis for years. For some, the thesis is a walk in the park – for others, an on-going traumatic experience. Jaana Venkula, an assistant of scientific research, has researched why some students that enter the university with excellent grades never graduate. One reason she has found is a general understanding of research that is too mechanical, ”People become more short-sighted during their studies when it comes to scientific research. They think that it is more dry, formal and farther removed from the day to day than it really is.”
     Venkula doesn’t subscribe to the prevailing theory that thesis problems stem from psychological and social factors. To her, the problem is that students aren’t taught the proper means of individual research. ”At the university, students are taught to read books and take tests. Doing research requires a completely different approach to studying and recording information.” Venkola feels that there are clear phases in the research process that differ from each other and can be problematic for students. ”The thesis project is no different from any other creative problem-solving. A thesis writer goes through all of the same problems and pressures a top physicist or composer does.”

Practical Philosophy Rolls Up Its Sleeves

”Faculties should act as midwives for society – we must take a more active role in employment issues.” Professor of Practical Philosophy Matti Sintonen believes that the University of Helsinki shouldn’t be producing intellectuals that end up just greasing the tracks, but adaptable survivors that are able to rise up and meet intellectual challenges. His department is currently focusing on producing `philosophy consultants’ to meet the needs of the business world. Anne Korkiakoski, Director of the BNL-Information Communications Office, visited the faculty recently to offer information about the needs and feelings of the business world. Korkiakoski is interested in people’s ability to think analytically and understand research, stressing the importance of theoretical thinking. Communications Professor Leif Åberg also feels that a good understanding of theory is essential. Understanding phenomena is more important than mastering simple facts, which quickly age.

Amsterdam – Beauty Behind the Clouds

It is generally believed that cannabis is legal in Holland, but it isn’t – it is just accepted. The key word is tolerance. As long as it doesn’t disturb anyone, it is okay. It is Saturday afternoon in Amsterdam and the Hill Street Blues coffee shop is busy. Customers smoke cannabis openly, even though the police station is in the neighboring building. In Amsterdam, the two institutions can live side by side peacefully without disturbing each other. Coffee shops pay taxes and need an operating license from the city. They cannot advertise that they sell cannabis or use any symbols in their ads. To indicate that their store sells cannabis, coffee shop owners often paint their doors red,green and yellow.
     A few years ago, Amsterdam’s mayor was concerned that his beautiful city, full of museums and culture, was being `clouded over’ by liberal drug practices. First, there was a crackdown on the Zeedijk region, known as the center of the city’s heroine trade. A damper has also been imposed on the number of coffee shops. New licenses aren’t granted and those with shops aren’t allowed to sell them. But a brief stay in Asterdam will show why the mayor’s plan will never fully succeed. The cannabis culture has embedded itself firmly in society and the amount of money involved is too large to snuff the business out.

Finland’s Drug Policy Most Strict

The use of any kind of drug in Finland is punishable and the maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment is Europe’s most strict. Cannabis is not differentiated from hard drugs. Docent Osmo Kontula studies Finland’s drug policy, ”Finnish police often crack down on trivial offences. They don’t understand that people can use their own common sense. Finland is the only country in Europe where the use of cannabis is monitored as a criminal activity.” He continues, ”In many countries, use is considered punishable by law, but in practice, laws are adapted. In Finland we have this tsarist tradition that if something is declared punishable, then it must be punished.”
     Cannabis use among young people in Finland is on the rise. In 1992, 23% of 17-18 year old boys and 16% of girls had tried cannabis once. Last year, corresponding numbers were 35% and 24%, almost as large as the number of cigarette smokers. Kontula points out that cannabis use is increasing throughout the world. He feels that Holland has managed to create a working drug policy. ”When cannabis was liberalized in Holland in the 1970s, it’s use spread. The use of hard drugs didn’t. They have managed to separate the markets well. In Finland, the same dealers sell everything, increasing the risk that a cannabis user will switch to something harder.”

New Student Card Discussion Continues

The HYY-Group is now hard at work developing its new `smart card’ for student use. The card would enable students to pay for all University services with just one easy card. Privacy protection laws will prohibit the card from monitoring student’s activities too closely, however. It cannot trace Joe Student’s footsteps from the University cafeteria to the bookstore and then to Vanha for a beer, for example. Students are also concerned that service charges will be adopted for depositing money in the card account. HYY-Group Project Manager Arja Kosonen assures us they will not. Final decisions are expected to be made December 10, after which the Student Union will decide whether to adapt the card as a HYY membership card as well. Timo Erikäinen, Chief Secretary at HYY, is sure the card will be adapted. He feels the entire issue should be thought of as expanding the functions of the HYY membership card, not connecting the HYY card to some other entity.