Longer Academic Year Proposed
Is just three months of classes in the fall and four months of classes in the spring enough? In 1995, Dean Göte Nyman suggested changing to a quarterly system, with four periods of nine weeks each. The proposal was sharply opposed, most vocally by university instructors, who hope to use summer months to catch up on research and new developments in their field. Since that time, the prospect of a longer academic year has come up again in Vice-Rector Mustajoki’s working committees and academic development plans.
Pekka Linna, the current Academic Policy Secretary for the Finnish University Student Union (SYL) is also pushing for a change in the system. He suggests a succession of six periods that continues throughout the year. “The purpose would not be to make the academic year longer,” he explains, “but to offer students more opportunities than they now have to take on more work”.
Linna feels that the new arrangement would allow students to experience campuses in the summertime and do internships during the winter months. Students would get a better feel for work than they do now, interning during the summer when many Finns are on vacation. Visiting lecturers would fit better into a system built around shorter periods, as would many study abroad opportunities. “Shorter periods would not necessarily mean more work,” says Linna, in defense of his idea. “The idea is to help everyone, including staff, to manage their time better. The current model has everyone working to do everything at once. Is this necessarily better?”
The Cannabis War
The debate about the legalization of marijuana has gone on for over one hundred years in the west. Those against the idea have had the upper hand for years, but now the numbers of defenders are starting to tip the scales. In 1894 the English government decided to allow the legal use of cannabis in India after research showed that, “the drug is used moderately and overuse is relatively scarce. Moderate use shows no signs of harm.” This decision was the last of its kind.
Politicians have consistently voted against the legalization of cannabis, motivated by sensational anti-drug propaganda and, more important, economic and political grounds. When the UN made its first list of prohibited substances in 1961, drugs from developing countries like cannabis, opium and cocaine were included. Drugs from the western medical industry like amphetamines, barbiturates and LSD weren’t included. In the USA in the 1930s, cannabis became criminal – linked as it was to Mexicans and black people.
In Finland, the opposition to cannabis has a more political origin. With the obvious support of big business, media and the greater public, politicians latch on to a strict anti-drug stance easily. But despite the economic and political reasons behind their choices, many of those against cannabis are fearful of the drug because of what they see as its physiological danger. They are afraid that cannabis use will lead to other drug use, violence and unemployment.
Teuvo Peltoniemi is one of a growing numbers of doctors, civil servants and researchers that don’t feel that cannabis is near as big a threat as some would have us believe. “The abuse of alcohol and nicotine in Finland is a much more serious threat to the national health than drugs,” says Peltoniemi. He points out that if cannabis use was simply a pharmacological or individual rights question, the state would have no grounds for criminalization in a country with open alcohol and nicotine sales.
Peltoniemi still opposes the legalization of cannabis for two reasons: First, because in a country with addiction problems, another intoxicant is not needed. Second, Peltoniemi feels the issue is too personal in Finland. If cannabis were to become legal, the offense to the morals of the majority would far outweigh the social significance of the issue.
Learning To Overcome An Addiction
Anna, 27, weighs 50 kilos. Two years ago, she weighed twice as much. “I didn’t eat or sleep, it’s amazing that I’m still alive. I just laid there in my dark apartment.” For three weeks before she entered the Addiction Clinic in Kankaanpää, Anna shot up with so much amphetamine that she could no longer sleep. “I just laid there and cried and tried to inject myself everywhere, because I couldn’t find a vein.”
Anna is one of a growing number of Finns hooked on amphetamine. There is a large import of the drug from Eastern Europe today and the price is low. A beginner’s dose of 0,1 grams goes for the cost of a cheeseburger on city streets. Anna was using two or three grams a day before she finally went to a hospital, from where she was sent to Kankaanpää.
Kari Siekkinen has worked as the Director of House A at the Abuse Clinic in Kankaanpää, Finland for almost twenty years. He repeats what the Finnish papers have been reporting for years now. The use of amphetamines, heroine and cannabis is up and young people are its victims.
The scene at lunchtime in the A House is difficult. Grey-faced, skeletal amphetamine addicts shuffle around with no hunger or thirst. Others struggle to hold their spoons in their shaking hands, battling their alcohol addiction. “One of the worse addictions is to the whole social culture surrounding drug use,” explains Siekkinen. Part of caring for young drug abusers is helping them find a new path to walk. This requires a longer, more social process. The problem is funding. Many municipalities are not able to pay their part of the cost at Kankaanpää, 360 FIM per night, for more than one month.
by Pamela Kaskinen