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"No one in the University community can survive here alone"

12.09.2016

Mr Chancellor, Mr Rector, dear friends,

It is a great honour to give a speech here at the University of Helsinki's opening ceremony in its Great Hall. The Great Hall seats an audience of approximately 800, and there are students, University staff and friends of the University among you. Many of you have the opportunity and the power to change both the University and society.

I was worried when I was preparing this speech. I am the chair of the board of a community of 27,000 students – the Student Union of the University of Helsinki. This means that I can be the voice of the student community here today. But I was worried that no matter what I chose to say, however scientifically grounded my perspective and however skilful my rhetoric, I would not be able to change the opinions or actions of you, the audience.
One speech can rarely change the world. But one speech can offer a new idea, spark a fierce debate or motivate us to speak up, for example on Twitter.  

Our University’s research is the most esteemed in Finland in many areas, as well as internationally recognised. Our researchers’ passion for science and the pursuit of truth is the rock upon which our institution is built. The University should express this same passion for teaching and learning.

This autumn, a crowd of enthusiastic new students embarks on their studies, and it is the duty of the entire University community to make sure their thirst for knowledge is fostered.
Teachers, I encourage you to challenge your students to join you in the search for truth. Include them in the academic community and in your research groups. Our University has reached the venerable age of 376, but there is no need to employ teaching methods from 300 years ago. Demand debate and reasoned argumentation from your students. Encourage your students to cooperate, to start projects and to practice critical thinking. Demand time to plan your teaching, and plan it carefully.

Students, I call upon you to change this University. Seek the truth and stay curious. Get to know students from other disciplines, meet with your researchers and professors, ask questions, praise them when praise is due, participate in student organisations, make mistakes and laugh.

I see no conflict in this hall, nor do I want to create one. I see a single community, where every one of us values edification, research and the University of Helsinki. I believe that we share a similar vision of our ideal university. Top-level research, motivating teaching, and administration that supports these core duties of the University help first-year students grow into the experts, researchers and political figures of tomorrow.

No one in the University community can survive here alone. We have a responsibility to support each other in the search for truth, in conducting research, in learning and in making sure students progress in their studies.
We must value each others’ competences. To build the university of tomorrow, we will need every single person in our community, from first-year student to professor. We must listen to each other. And we have a duty to bring the voice of scientific knowledge into public debate.

When was the last time you talked about your discipline to someone outside the University? When was the last time you said out loud what you had learned that day? When was the last time you spoke up for something important to our community?
As a small example: if every one of us here were to tweet the same tweet at the same time, it would be noticed.
Dear University community: together we can make our voice heard.