The first special assistant was appointed in Finland to the prime minister in the 1930’s. In 1972, every minister received their own – then they were known as political secretaries. Today, there are 30 special assistants to the ministers, or 1.5 per minister on average. Prime Minister Lipponen has five all to himself. But who are these special assistants and what do they do? Doctor of Political Science Eero Murto has studied administrative behavior in Finland and believes the role of the special advisor has changed from mere briefcase-carrier to unofficial stand-in for the minister. An assistant may even become a stronger wielder of power than the minister assisted. This is because a special assistant’s job is to sort out and filter the flood of information coming in to the minister -and everybody knows that information is power.
Legal graduate Eeva Laatikainen works as a special assistant to the Minister of Law, Sauli Niinistö. She defines her job as, “monitoring the mass media and reacting to issues, reporting on one’s own initiative, rummaging through matters, writing memorandums, making contacts, connecting with experts and some speech writing.” She reminds us, however, that assistants are appointed only according to the Minister’s wishes. “A special assistant loans everything from the minister: power, influence, respect, and jobs.” Tarja Kantola, special assistant to Minister of Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen, explains who they are. “We all know each other from our student politics days. We’ve just changed to a different sand box.” A significant number of today’s politicians started out as assistants, among others Paavo Lipponen, Paavo Väyrynen, Tarja Halonen, Pertti Paasio and Olli-Pekka Heinonen.
Professors Clocking In
By Miira Lähteenmäki
All signs seem to show that future University funding will be distributed in proportion to the amount of the result-oriented work completed. How to define this work is what is eluding decision makers today. Markku Linna’s Ministry of Education working committee came up with a proposal distributing money strictly according to the number of graduates departments produce – 60% of total funding dependent on undergrad levels and 40% determined by the amount of postgrads. Although the University of Helsinki criticized the proposal, it was far from striking it down entirely. Vice-Rector Arto Mustajoki feels any decisions about the manner of appraisal should be postponed yet another year, “It is difficult to fit the task of the University into any kind of formula. All of the models presented until now have major deficiencies.”
The Economics Department of the University of Helsinki has recently submitted its own evaluation formula. A group led by Professor Yrjö Vartia has proposed a plan in which university staff must keep careful track of the time they spend working. A detailed record of dissertations and other scientific publications will also be kept. Critics of the proposal find the system too complicated, fearing the detailed nature of the plan would find staff splitting hairs. Vartia comments, “If the Ministry’s proposal is approved, instructors should just stop their research all together and concentrate their efforts on writing more dissertations for their students. It wouldn’t be difficult at all for the University to produce twice as much research reports as it does now – if no one is concerned with the quality of the work.”
By Miira Lähteenmäki and Matias Möttölä
Undivided Finland is dying. The State differentiates between its citizens, borders are falling and the safety net of the welfare state is wearing thin. Finland’s extreme right prepares itself to strike back. Rolf Bnchi recently completed his doctoral thesis at the University of Helsinki on the topic of Finnish racism and anti-racism. Nationalism is not politically hazardous in Finland. Bnchi feels that Finnish nationalism is closely connected with democracy, which in turn keeps direct racism at bay. But, should the link between democracy and nationalism be broken in Finland, the consequences could be disastrous. The fear of change can quickly become racism. The silent dismantling of the welfare state makes attitudes even tougher. The new society gives way to a new right-wing: with the premise of freedom in the form of old-fashioned ‘liberalism’ – in which the winners take it all and the losers are left to their own.
Critics of the EU in Finland compare Finnish democracy and EU democracy and complain that Finland has gotten the short end of the stick. “Comparing democracy in your own backyard and democracy across nationalities in the EU is like comparing arctic bramble berries and bananas, while continuing to idealize the berries, of course,” explains Bnchi. Kalevala, sauna, frigidity and liquor are the foundations of the Finnish national character. To partake of them is every Finn’s right and duty. Opinion polls have proved that people don’t need any information about a group of people in order to feel hostile towards them, the fact that they are strangers alone creates negative feelings.
The World At Your Fingers
By Miska Rantanen
Does work or study abroad or contacts in foreign lands interest you? The International Forum – Take Off has been planned for just this purpose. On March 1st and 2nd, international organizations of all kinds will be available to answer your questions at the Old Student House, located in downtown Helsinki at Mannerheimtie 3. Minister of Culture Claes Andersson will give the opening remarks. For more information, contact AIESEC at tel. 635 742.
Curling Course Begins
By Nina Korhonen
What do you get when you combine bowling, petanque and compulsive cleaning? Curling, of course! Curling began in 1500 Scotland as a team sport and quickly spread to Canada, Central Europe and, eventually, Scandinavia. A few years ago, the sport came to the Univerity of Helsinki, when students of the natural sciences were drawn to the sports’ emphasis on camaraderie and fun, rather than physical competition. The object of curling is for a team of four to move a 20-kilo stone down a 44.5 meter ice lane towards the home base. Sweeping the ice with brooms in front of the stone once it has been thrown lengthens the distance the stone travels towards its goal. For those anxious to learn more, the Helsinki University Curling Club will lead a three-part course beginning February 24. Contact Jari Saarelainen at tel. 511 20508 or e-mail email@example.com. for more information.
UNIEXPO comes To Town
Universities of the Helsinki metropolitan region will be on display again this year as part of the UNIEXPO Student Fair. Set in the Main Building of the University of Helsinki, the Fair is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 5th from 9 to 5 and Wednesday the 6th from 9 to 4. On both days, starting at 10, students of the various institutions will talk in the University’s Great Hall about their study experiences. In addition to the Univerity of Helsinki, representatives from the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration, the Art Academy, the University of Defense, the Sibelius Academy, the Swedish Business School, the University of Art and Design, the University of Theater Arts and the Univerity of Technology will attend.
Goa, India – Techno Paradise
By Sami Hyrskylahti
“I heard that the best parties are going down in Goa,” says John, a London stockbroker who has traveled to the Indian coastline for a three day holiday with his girlfriend. “I’m bored with the London scene, clubs these days are too full of cocaine. I don’t like it when people lose their personalities.” John and his friend don’t really know where they are going – they don’t have a place to stay. Bags have been left with a friendly Indian store holder. Their plan is to do like every other young visitor to Goa: follow the sound of the bass bit pumping.
In 1961 Goa was still a Portuguese province, but soon after losing its colonial status its reputation as a tourist paradise began to grow: dirt cheap food, drinks and drugs and all-night parties under the warm, star-filled skies. Sagi has come to Goa from Tel Aviv, “Of course, the most important reason to come here is the drugs. Its fucking hard to get loot in Israel.” He continues, “Techno is really popular in Israel. There are good clubs in Tel Aviv and Eilat, we even export techno music.” Perhaps the only techno disc jockey in all of India, DJ Husen plays what has become known as Goa-trance. “How can you expect Indian people to understand techno when they can’t even figure out Western mainstream music?” he asks.