One of the most important tasks of the Student Union is to advocate for students’ interests: to defend students’ rights and status both in society and at the University. The Strategy and Policy Paper approved by the Representative Council guide what HYY focuses on in its activities. The guiding principle of the Strategy is our dream: the world’s happiest students building a fairer world.
Advocacy work in HYY is conducted particularly by four specialists and a group of members of the Board appointed by the Representative Council. This work is done in many ways: we meet decision-makers and people preparing issues at the University and the city organisation as well as draft statements and propose new operating methods. Besides this kind of advocacy work that occurs in the background, we also work through the public sphere: for instance, Chair of the Board Lauri Linna recently wrote an opinion piece for Helsingin Sanomat for retaining HSL’s student discount.
Within the University, we ensure that students are involved in decision-making and that the wishes and needs of students are taken into account when planning teaching and in facility use. We could not do this alone on all levels of the University, which is why there are several hundred student representatives appointed by the Student Union acting in University administration. HYY provides these student representatives with information, training and support to ensure that students’ voice is heard in both individual degree programmes and University management.
Perhaps our most visible act so far this year has been The Student Simulator made in cooperation with the Aalto University Student Union. The simulator allows you to test things such as how living as a roomie affects your housing allowance and how combining studies and work can wear students out. In July, we went to meet politicians at SuomiAreena, and got Prime Minister Juha Sipilä to test how he would manage in the maze of student benefits. In the end, Sipilä had to give up his cat to finish his studies. The simulator helped us raise the issue of students’ complex benefit system and lacking subsistence into public discussion.
On the national level, we conduct advocacy work in a united front with the other student unions in Finland through the National Union of University Students in Finland. In the upcoming parliamentary elections, a united student movement is an influencer that has to be taken seriously. Our main theme is intergenerational justice. It is not right for decision-makers to make cuts directed at young people and education without a care for the future – whether the issue under discussion is climate change, wellbeing or pensions.
The Representative Council of the Student Union is elected in elections held on 31 October–7 November. The new Representative Council will get to influence everything we at HYY work for – the objectives and budget for the next year are decided on right after the elections, and the Student Union’s Strategy will be renewed next year, too. Use your power, vote in the Representative Council elections and steer our Student Union’s boat towards a direction that is in line with your values!
The writer is the Student Union’s Secretary General. He has previously acted as HYY’s specialist in educational policy, getting to influence issues such as the University’s internal funding model.