Kela considers Hiring RepoMan
Students in Finland are eligible for a monthly study grant if they don’t exceed the state-imposed income ceiling of 7,000 FIM. The study grant is based on the honor system: if students are earning a reasonable income on their own, they are expected to cut off study grant payments of their own accord. For years, however, students have taken advantage of the study grant `hand-out’ even while earning other money on the side. When study aid administration was switched to the Finnish National Insurance Fund (KELA) a few years ago, the hunt began. Tax returns were systematically checked and thousands of students received letters demanding repayment of state money that was given without need. Each year, Finland gives a total of 203,500 million marks to its students. KELA is currently expecting repayment of 53 million.
Kirsi is one of the hunted, “I didn’t take a study loan, I just worked part-time to make ends meet. It seems now as though it wasn’t worth it. Such an unfair system. I complained about the decision, but it didn’t help. Now I have to repay 7,000 FIM.” KELA doesn’t forget students’ debts easily. Ilpo Lahtinen of KELA comments, “The debt will always be in our register if it is not paid. We rarely let it go. Those students that are no longer applying for study aid are billed once a year. We may soon see the day when KELA resorts to repossession of belongings to settle the debt.” Lahtinen continues, “We have improved our monitoring of student income. The risk of getting caught now is better. The majority of students admit their mistake when the surplus is discovered.”
A Laudatur for Jaana
Few university students in Finland receive a laudatur on their Master’s thesis. University staff save the highest mark for exceptionally good work. Jaana Kärnä walked in the office of her faculty to inquire about her thesis and was pleasantly surprised, “When I went to ask about my grade, everyone stood up and wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me.” Kärnä’s Masters thesis Visionvoima – Taideteos oppilaan käsityöilmaisun lähtökohtana (The Power of Vision – Art As An Expression of Student Handicraft) is one of three theses out of 212 in the Faculty of Education to receive a laudatur this year. “I had an excellent advisor, Minna Uotila from the University of Lappland. She worked very intensively because she knew I was going to continue as a post-grad.”
Jaana’s thesis discusses how handiwork such as knitting and sewing, which are seen as very traditional, can also be contemporary. “Classes should be planned according to what the students want. They should be able to decide for themselves with which material they want to create something.” Jaana feels that handicraft doesn’t need to be considered a tradition that is handed down so much as a channel which can develop people’s esthetic senses. “Almost all of us have traumatic memories from our grade school handicrafts class, every stitch had to be correct and pretty to get a good grade.”
Failing University Exams
It is often said that the entrance exam into the Finnish universities is the most difficult test that university students take during their academic career. A small minority of participants receive the right to study each year. The faculties of Law, Medicine and Social Sciences are most selective – only one in ten will receive a fat acceptance letter in the mail. But after entrance to the university, the percentage of students failing exams falls. Sohvi Kallavuo has studied in the Faculty of Art now for three years, “Perhaps tests aren’t as difficult as the entrance exam, but you still have to study if you want to pass. Some exams are more challenging than others, sometimes you don’t have to do much work.” In the Faculty of Law, however, the numbers failing tests are larger. One third of students in this fall’s European Law exam failed and half failed a Commercial Law test. A law student that wished to remain nameless finds that failing is quite common in his faculty, “But it is possible to take the test many times, so I don’t get too stressed out about it.” Henna Luotonen is a first year student of theology. “Until now the tests have been pretty easy,” she says. Exam participants in the social sciences require common sense, logic and composition skill – only five percent fail sociology exams, slightly more in statistics and political science.
Risto Willamo Named First Good Instructor
Risto Willamo, `Ripa’ to his students, is a humble assistant at the department of environmental conservation. He was recently flattered when he was chosen as the first `Good Teacher’ by his students. The Helsinki Student Union (HYY) presented the award to Williamo at its annual celebration. The award was created in order to recognize those instructors that are committed to their students. Ripa was nominated because he teaches his students to think critically and his students feel that he is their colleague in learning. Ripa admits that “I don’t try to be anything than what I am.” He feels his students are the best and feels that it is they that should have been recognized. “If I were to think everyday that I don’t like these people, I wouldn’t like my job, either.” Willamo plans to continue as a department assistent in order to complete his doctoral dissertation. Environmental issues are important to him, “The serious problems of environmental protection are those that take away people’s motives to save nature. A generation that has gone without walks in the forest won’t be able to protect it.”
Advertisements Get Shaken Up
Have you noticed anything new on the billboards around the bus station and Esplanad? Eva Saro is a Swiss artist who is now teaching a course at the University of Art and Design. She created a way of reassembling advertising displays, encouraging onlookers to see ads in a new light. She particularly tries to dig up blatant and hidden eroticism, something she feels more and more resembles pronography. “Every uncovered woman’s body could just as well by my own and I feel empathy for the models. The beauty of a woman’s body in advertising is ignored. I think Pamela Anderson is a bore.” In Brasil, Saro reconstructed a gigantic Playboy ad. She wanted to point out that the overload of white skin was actually revolting in a country where everyone’s skin is darker. Saro feels that it is the artist’s role in our modern society to take a stand. “When my students and I take apart a billboard, it forces us to deconstruct our thoughts as well.”
Morrissey To Perform in Helsinki – Maybe
The king of melacholy, Morrissey, is scheduled to perform at the Helsinki Ice Arena on December 5, but whether he will or not is uncertain. Morrissey is known for his unpredictability, canceling his appearance with David Bowie in 1996 with no explanation. Morrissey forged his name in the 1980s at the front man of the Smiths. Synthetic pop and a Boy George type camp-homo image produced songs about lonely boys and girls waiting for life to start. Morrissey found early that misery was far more stylish than having fun. When the Smiths fell apart from their own perfection in 1987, Morrisseyt started his solo career. His first album, Viva Hate, was a hit with the critics.
New Brit bands like Oasis, Suede and Radiohead have all mentioned Morrisey as a musical inspiration and Morrissey seems to enjoy his guru role. He is too odd to be pop star but too contrived to be considered an artist. He rebels against all kinds of conformity – his celibacy, misery and humor all sprout from his ironic form of narcisism. Morrisey last performed in Finland in 1984 at Provinssi Rock, appearing with the Smiths. Then everything was just beginning.