Call For A Nation-Wide Student Paper
The university student organizations of Vaasa and Jyväskylä have recently indicated their desire for a student newspaper that would represent students from the entire country. The idea sprung from an unofficial meeting of university students from the cities of Oulu, Vaasa, Lappi, Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Lappeenranta. Samppa Siikvirta of the Vaasa University Student Union explains, “We discussed the pros and cons of a national student paper for a long time and we came to the conclusion that it is definitely something worth considering.” The basic format that has been presented thus far would be a smaller version of Helsinki’s Ylioppilaslehti that university organizations could contribute to. Siikvirta believes that by concentrating resources, a better quality, more economical paper would result. Repe Harmanen of the Jyväskylä student group agrees, “I would gladly read news that affects students throughout the nation.”
Kai Skiftesvik, Editor of the Oulu Student News, slammed the suggestion in his October 15th editorial. “The nature of our student body is largely determined through this paper. The only result of this idiotic fusion would be a dramatic drop in the profile of the Oulu University student union.” Chairperson Sami Hyryläinen of the Helsinki Ylioppilaslehti Publishing Company is also not taking the move seriously. “This paper was founded in 1913 and it isn’t just going to stop. If some people want to build upon Ylioppilaslehti and add their own pages, that’s OK,” he says, but believes that the paper will continue to focus on Helsinki issues for the next 85 years as well.
Syl addresses Sexual Harrassment
The Finnish Student Union (SYL), the national umbrella organization for Finnish university students, led a conference last week which focused on gender equality within the universities. The conference specifically discussed sexual harrassment among students and staff. Teija Mankkinen has studied sexual harrassment at the University of Helsinki. Her research has found that 7% of university staff and 3% of students have reported some form of harrassment. In a similar study at the University of Kuopio last spring, 34% of staff and 28% of students had been victims at one time or another. These statistics don’t necessarily reflect the true situation, however. Comments from conference participants repeated the same problem: those who have been victims of harrassment would rather not call attention to it.
But how to define sexual harrassment? Maija may feel offended by Matti’s comment about her tight dress, while Kaisa may be flattered by the same comment. Mankkinen explains that many situations are never reported because the victims question or blame themselves. “Perhaps I just misunderstood, or maybe my skirt is too short for work,” they say. Others won’t report an incident because they fear for their position. The university heirarchy and strong power relationships play a large role. Many fear losing face and some just don’t want to have to deal with what can be a painful memory. The goal is to encourage those who have been the subject of sexual harrassment within the university to report their experience to either the head of the department, a contact person from the University Gender Equality Committee or to the Social Policy Secretary of the Helsinki Student Union (HYY). Manninen reminds us that, “Each of us has the right to our own personal working space.”
Angry Young Women On the Rampage
A new Finnish movie will open this month: Neitoperho. Neitoperho features Eevi, who hits innocent people on the mouth with a Coke bottle. If Eevi were a man, that would be standard action-movie, frustrated male behavior perhaps, but Eevi is an angry young woman. Women may show their anger easier, but they have rarely resorted to violence. Lately, however, it seems that men’s monopoly on violence is breaking down. Tank Girl, Alannis Morisette and Courtney Love are quickly becoming idols for pissed-off girls everywhere. Agression is a feeling shared equally by all humans, but the open expression of which is not allowed for women. According to a study by Canadian Anne Campbell, men often feel that their aggression has a flavor of heroism: violence is a means of putting things in order. Women, on the other hand, feel that when they resort to violence it means that they have lost control of the themselves and the situation. That is why they are more ashamed of their aggressive behavior.
Neitoperho’s director, Auli Mantila, is frustrated with the situation today. Men hit, abuse and kill ten times more than women. Women can’t go on being the brunt of men’s aggression forever. She says, “Of course you could say that who is to gain if women would go on the rampage. The results could be hellish, but it could also be that we see some healthy letting off of some steam. If women would learn to defend themselves, men would think twice.” Mantila is not afraid to explain her own anger, “Sometimes I have moments when I feel like smacking someone upside the head. When I can’t get what I want, this horrible rage builds up inside.” But violence isn’t her thing, it’s Eevi’s. “Eevi does eveything that I have always wanted to do, but never dared.” Neitoperho will premiere on October 31 at the Andorra theater.
The Powerful But Faceless Civil Servants
The standard Finnish civil servant working for the government may keep out of the limelight, but the power he or she possesses is growing. More and more civil servants are becoming experts in their area of speciality, making decisions that are directly implemented and leaving the politicians to take responsibility for the ramifications. Chief Director of the Economics Division of the Ministry of Finance, Martti Hetemäki, chooses his words carefully, “The power of civil servants stops where the ministers draw the line. A simple lack of time means that ministers can’t follow the preparation of individual decisions as closely.” He finds it difficult to deny, however, that civil servants such as himself have become authorities whose advice greatly affects ministerial decisions. Ministers create the framework and civil servants present the possibilities.
Jukka Liedes, Consultor for the Cultural Unit of the Ministry of Education, feels that political decision-making has increasingly become an international “team sport in a time dimension”. Civil servants prepare EU directives and international agreements for years. The negotiation processes continue while governments change. International contacts remain with the civil servants, making them key players. Alec Aalto of the Council of State’s EU Unit believes that politicians are forced to trust the advice of civil servants to a greater extent, especially since many preparation and negotiation processes have moved to Brussels. He admits he is part of a growing `Euro-elite’ that is farther and farther removed from Finnish citizens’ daily lives. “When I talk about EU regional policies, I have no idea how it will affect some dairy farm in Ostrobothnia,” he says. Aalto feels that the development may have a positive side, however, because politicians are now inspired to follow EU issues more criticially. “Parliament is active in an entirely different manner now than it used to be.”
Student Politicians Present Their Platforms
On October 21, the Faculty of Social Sciences hosted a panel discussion to prepare for the upcoming election to the Student Representative Body of the University of Helsinki which will take place on November 4 and 5. Representatives from most of the major student groups were on hand to present their views. The Independent Left and the Greens feel HYY should address larger, social issues than it does at present. Kyösti Niemelä, Head of the Independent Left, asks, “How can we talk about the lack of accomodation for students if we aren’t prepared to discuss accomodation policy in general?” Other students organzations expressed their satisfaction with HYY’s current focus on student issues. The Green party also suggested that the HYY Group switch to eco-energy and buy its electricity from Sweden’s Vattenfall.
The Center Party’s student faction wants to appoint a separate secretary to handle international issues, citing the growing number of exchange students and the need to attract more. The student members of the Young Finns party, running in the election for the first time, presented a brave list of goals. Among others, the list calls for elimination of the Student Union membership fee, founding a special HYY stipend trust, and “the promotion of HYY’s capital income by breaking down its property passively.” Group Chairperson Anne Peltola explains this `passive breakdown’ as the selling of Kilroy travel agencies and real estate and re-investment in shares. Sami Hyryläinen, representing the Independent Conservative Coalition Party, feels such a move would be catastrophic, reminding everyone of the loss the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration took in a similar move. He compared HYY’s economics to elevator music, “As long as it plays, no one complains. But as soon as it is gone, everyone notices.”
Every student organization present felt that students should receive more financial support, except for MYSLI, the student representatives of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, who felt that students should be realistic and be satisfied with the current level of study aid.