Brief in English


Damn Those Library Fines!

These days it is easier to be an absent-minded student at the University of Helsinki. Library fines accrued for late books can now be payed off in several installments. Plans are already underway to revamp the entire book loaning system.

Post-graduate students and researchers need books for longer periods and there has been talk of creating a special agreement for them whereby books can be borrowed for a six month period. For the time being, however, all library users are equal and each must pay the price for late books. Those that do not pay their fine and fail to return their book by the deadline are suspended from using the library loaning system until the debt is settled.
    Most fines are small, five or ten marks per book, but the fines are still a good source of income for the libraries. One year’s cumulative fines can cover the expenses of three library ‘civil service’ employees and buy several new coursebooks. In any case, the fines are imposed by the Ministry of Education and the libraries themselves are not allowed to make any exceptions. Those of us with poor memories and little time can take consolation in the fact that we support the library and future students.

Enterprising Student Interest Groups

Although student interest groups in Finland are renowned for their appreciation of alcohol, there are some in which one can learn other useful skills. The University Students’ Medical Society (LKS) is the representative interest group for future medical doctors studying in Helsinki. It also owns a profitable business, Kandidaatti-kustannus Oy, with a million FIM turnover. The company offers preparatory courses for students attempting the entrance exam to the faculty. Prep courses are arranged only twice a year, although the demand for more is clear.

University students of Law also offer their assistance to those hoping to obtain entrance to the faculty. Kari Heinonen of the law student interest group Pykälä explains that the motive is not purely economic, “Good prep courses create a good image for the organization.”
    LIMES, the students of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics have made printing their business and have five full time workers working their printing facilities producing 1.2 million FIM worth of student handbooks and magazines each year.
    Another interest group training its future graduates for participation in the world of business is Kannunvalajat, the umbrella organization for students of Social Sciences in Helsinki. Their company, Kannustin Oy, offers prep courses and a communications course.

Travel Agent Training Linked to University

150 students will apply to study tourism as a minor subject this year in a new 60 credit program created with the cooperation 14 Finnish universities. One-third of those applying will be accepted.

Mari Holopainen, a student from Helsinki, has been more than pleased with the instruction, “The students in the program are really motivated. My major is German philology and it is a welcome change that in the tourism lectures we really discuss things together. I have earned 40 credits already this year, I am so enthusiastic.” The course is composed of 10-12 intensive instruction sessions, usually held in Savonlinna and administered by the University of Joensuu. At stages, the course requires some time abroad.
    The program is sponsored by the European Social Fund, providing considerable assistance with necessary travel expenses.
    Mari has traveled to Talinn and St. Petersburg this spring and a trip to Berlin is on the horizon. “Many of the students have spent a lot of time abroad. Some of us have experience as a tour guide in the southern vacation locations, some are divers or ski instructors, like myself,” says Mari.
    She thinks that Finnish tourism can be improved, but is worried about the consequence, “Studies have shown that nature, purity, and peace and quiet are Finland’s strong points. The issue is only how many tourists we can take on.” Environmental problems and sustainable development have been central issues in the program. Mari is happy to see the subject taught at a university level, “Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and it should be studied academically.”

A Matter of Semantics

When referring to people of color, many Finnish people use the word ‘neekeri‘. The word has proven to be very controversial. There are those that use it freely, claiming it is not offensive because its colloquial use is not understood as derogative, and others that refuse to use it because it is derived from English words that are currently understood as insulting, i.e. ‘nigger’ and ‘Negro’.

While the Finns work to resolve the linguistic issue among themselves, the use of the word in everyday language has brought on some strong reactions from the foreigners living in the country. Peter Pryce, a student of social sciences from Ghana, had just finished an exam on Saturday, April 18 when a man walking on the other side of the street, yelled to him. “I used the Finnish word neekeri. This irked him so much that he ran to my side of the road and asked me in English, ‘What do you mean?’ Ilkka Tanner, the Finn involved in the incident, explains his take on what happened that day.
    “Did you use the word neekeri?”, he asked. “I answered that I did. I said that ‘If that is what you are, than I have the right to say it.'” According to Pryce, Tanner hit him at this time, something Tanner denies. Whatever happened, Pryce called the police and then followed Tanner to his car. Tanner claims Pryce was pushing him and provoking him while they walked. When they reached the car, Tanner supposedly hit Pryce with a jack on the arm. ” I just wanted to get rid of him so I grabbed something and threatened him with it, but I didn’t hit him.” Pryce then took Tanner’s keys to prohibit him from leaving. Tanner fought for his keys and Pryce fell to the ground, where he claims Tanner kicked him in the groin. When the police arrived, the keys were still in Pryce’s hands.
    “I figure that he [Pryce] was so well educated about racism that he thought it was a crime to use the word ‘neekeri‘, but as far as I know it is not illegal and I hope it won’t ever be.” Tanner explains, “If you think biologically, every sane person and animal is a racist. Everyone wants to protect their own. No race survives through history if it lets others blend in with it.”
    Tanner is upset that there are so few skinheads in Finland, because they would better defend his cause. “The only thing I can do is make their stay here as difficult as I can and say that I don’t like it that you are here.” The police investigation of the incident is not yet completed at this time.

Polytechnics Suck, Universities Rule!

Exchange students studying in Finland through the Erasmus program recently met with Minister of Education Olli-Pekka Heinonen in the Finnish parliament. Feedback concerning their stay in Finland was mixed: universities were satisfactory, polytechnics were a letdown. Kevin McCann is from Ireland, “The level of schooling is just plain bad, I am disappointed.” Kevin studies at the Kymenlaakso Polytechnic. “But, on the other hand, I came to Finland to get to know a new culture and gain some experience,” he adds.

Belgian Pierre Paludgnach studies at the Nylands svenska yrkeshögskola Arcada and sympathizes, “I came to Finland because I thought the schools would be better.” But he doesn’t mind so much, less school work means he has time to work for Kemira.
    Yvonne Gavin
is also Irish and studies at the Oulu Polytechnic. She is happy with the level of instruction in electronic technology. Finland’s reputuation as a high-tech, information society attracted her here, just as it did many other Erasmus participants.
    Erasmus students studying in Finnish universities are pleased, but some had criticisms: too many book tests, not enough contact and feedback between teachers and students, and a shortage of apartments in the Helsinki area. Silvia Mora, a Spanish student studying in Joensuu, asked Minister Heinonen for direct action to weed out racism there. Although she herself hadn’t had any problems, many of her darker friends have. Heinonen admitted that the situation is serious,”There are no easy answers to these kind of questions.”

by Pamela Kaskinen