Brief in English


Student Activism in Paris

By Esko Riikonen

University student clamor in France has come to be expected in the news each year, but this year’s activism is leaving a strange taste in the mouths of some. Demonstrations have led to cases of violence and lecture strikes have continued for weeks on end. To top it all, the national student organization UNEF has begun to align itself with some of the more radical worker’s unions in the fight against social security cuts included in `Juppé‘s package’.
    Lecture room 44 is full of inflamed students. A meeting has been called to plan the students’ part in a joint march. The chalkboard reads, “Students, Unemployed and Workers – Together Against Juppe’s Plan.” Aging men in heavy knit wool sweaters are asked to come forward – representatives of the Railways Union explain their part in the united front. In 1968, residents of Paris marched against De Gaulle, who was eventually forced to step down. Student activist Pablo Qutserrez comments, “1968? Yes, perhaps there is some similarity. The working class and the students on strike together… We aren’t against Juppé or any person in particular. What is of concern here is the horrid state of affairs in this society. Students’ everyday life is for shit these days.”
    Pierre Rosavalto
teaches political history at the University for Social Science Research. Having been a 27-year old leader of the 1968 uprising, he finds clear differences between what is happening now in France and what took place in 1968, “Then we belonged to a world-wide protest movement which was a combination of revolutionary spirit and pure hedonism. The students of today are motivated only by their fear of being ostracized from society.” He feels the students today are lacking a voice of their own, “Our movement had general cultural and political goals as well. Now the students are talking only about concrete material requests.”
    A student of psychology, Ranja Riaghi, leaves lecture room 44 early, without even knowing what was actually happening there, “I went inside because I saw that there were a lot of people.” She personally doesn’t belong to any student groups, neither do her friends, “In theory I am in agreement with the activists – conditions in the university are atrocious, too little money, too few professors, the facilities should be improved – but I still don’t like it that everything is being mixed together. I don’t know anymore who is striking for what and for what reason and for who’s best interests.”

A Living Legend: Peter von Bagh

By Miska Rantanen

Peter von Bagh is a famous Finnish movie enthusiast known for his abundant supply of adjectives and superlatives. The author of thousands of reviews lives to praise the motion picture. “People like me, absolutely mad movie fans, are impossible to find in Finland any more. Sometimes I feel really forsaken, there are so few people here that care about the history of film in its entirety,” he says.
    von Bagh clearly represents the 1950’s movie club generation that sat on hard wooden benches and watched film after unheard-of film. After graduating high school in Oulu, he came to Helsinki and started to frequent the Studio movie club. Word has it that he knew everything there was to know about films already then. He doesn’t deny it, “I have a feeling that I knew far more already at that time than contemporary movie fans with thousands of films on video.”
    He began his career as a movie critic in 1961, writing for Arvo Salo‘s Ylioppilaslehti. Since then, countless radio programs, album sleeve covers, television narratives and documentaries have appeared. Peter slowly began to appreciate Finnish film in the 1970’s, “Until then I was pretty much a child of my generation. When I began to study film, Finnish movies were garbage. I had developed a perspective that they weren’t of interest. Now, as I have had the opportunity to see more – I appreciate them in a new way.” His work is still strongly rooted in old classic film however. “New films aren’t my strong point. They don’t excite me so easily. I don’t mean to underestimate today’s films, though. Great films are being made the whole time. There are just more bombs among them.”

Sexual Harassment Study Results

By Nina Korhonen

6.8% of University of Helsinki staff and 2.7% of its students have experienced some kind of sexual harassment in the last two years. In other words, over 50 staff members and 20 students have been subjected to physical or verbal behavior of a sexual nature which is not encouraged or reciprocated.
    The University of Helsinki began research in sexual harassment a year ago when the University Senate approved of a gender equality plan. A questionnaire was distributed to thousands of staff and students. 1,300 people responded, in addition to eight theme interviews. Teija Mankkinen, conductor of the study, feels that although the number of cases was small in comparison to international harassment results, one occasion is already too much.
    The University is planning to hire a contact person for victims of sexual harassment. Currently, such cases are handled by occupational safety or health care facilities. “It is easier and somehow more legitimate to ask a doctor for a sick leave because of a pain in your back than to admit you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment,” explains Mankkinen.

Four Part Academic Year Proposed

By Jarno Forssell

The working committee led by Dean Göte Nyman has recently proposed splitting the academic year of the Univerity of Helsinki into four quarters of nine weeks each. The first of two fall quarters would begin in August, while the last of the two spring quarters would end only in mid-June. The carrot which makes the plan attractive to university instructors is a nine week period devoted solely to research. Unfortunately the plan isn’t encountering many supporters.
    The proposal has been considered twice in the University Senate and is now awaiting statements from the faculties and staff. Members of the Helsinki Summer University are naturally the most vocal opponents of the schedule changes, as they would stand to lose students if the academic year were to continue into the summer. Other faculties with extensive summer study opportunities are also opposing the plan. Students and representatives of the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences are most supportive of the quarter system.

Men’s Contraceptive Undergoes Testing

By Miira Lähteenmäki

A hormone capsule that can be implanted under a man’s skin may act as a contraceptive alternative for men, without interfering with their sex drive. The University of Helsinki Biomedical department and the Population and Family Welfare Federation (PFWF) will begin testing of the capsule early new year, when it will be implanted in fifteen male volunteers. The capsule, which will be inserted for a month, prevents the release of certain hormones in the testicles producing sperm without reproductive ability. The capsule will eventually be used for periods of one year.
    Senior Physician Pekka Lähteenmäki of the PFWF explains why attempts to produce a `pill’ for men haven’t succeeded, “Male contraception required such a large amount of hormones that taking it in a pill form would cause the kidneys to react. The production of sperm is a complicated process which is difficult to control. It takes two months for it to develop and then it is difficult to find a place to jump in without creating detrimental side effects.”
    The problem is that men’s sexual ability and desire are closely tied to one another. It would be easy to control a man’s fertility by cutting his tetesterone level, but that would also take away his ability to have intercourse. This new capsule, however, is not expected to affect its user’s sexual appetite in any way. Unfortunately, it may be another ten years before the product will be available on the market.

Translation Pamela Kaskinen