A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of opening SYL’s annual General Assembly and giving the first address to open the political discussion. In my address, I expressed hopes for clear guidelines on and a bold vision of what we want to emphasise in the next election goals. I also asked for a coherent voice for the student movement, and encouraged everyone to focus on the things that unite us, rather than look for differences between different groups and political views.
The approaching elections could be seen in many ways in the debates during the General Assembly. A project to prepare for the parliamentary elections was accepted to the plan of work, and the plan was made clearer through additions relating to e.g. climate policy and free education. A project focusing on lobbying for the European Parliament elections and increasing knowledge about the EU was also accepted by the General Assembly. Throughout the General Assembly, the speakers focused on the entire movement participating in defining our goals, and hoped for support from the union in developing lobbying activities and particularly becoming more familiar with substance areas, which I’m sure those continuing with the work next year will keep in mind.
As is habitual when it comes to the documents that define the upcoming year, we had a discussion that went deep into the movement’s values on what we feel is important and what we should focus on. In the area of education policy, the transformation of working life and SYL’s role in it caused a lot of discussion: to what extent and from what perspective should we approach this area, which are the most important interest groups, and how can we carry out lobbying work that is as appropriate as possible? Should SYL actually participate in the debate on working life at all? A project which the board had been preparing in this area was finally accepted with a few amendments that specified and focused the activities. Free education was also discussed in great detail, and it was suggested as a new entry into the plan of work. The General Assembly did, however, decide to accept a resolution which hoped to see the value of free education emphasised strongly, not only in the goals for the parliamentary elections, but also in the communication campaigns that are run in the spring.
Another matter that was under discussion, in addition to the elections and education policy, was SYL’s development cooperation work and its future in a situation where project funding has been stopped and the activities will have to be steered in a new direction for financial reasons. Concerns were voiced regarding the effect that the lack of funding will have on the union’s general economy, but the importance of the external signal influence of carrying our global responsibility was also acknowledged. The General Assembly decided to retain the internal funding for development cooperation as is, and hoped for cooperation in the future project work and other activities, as well as working to promote the wellbeing of those in a weaker position as much as possible with the available resources.
As always, the most exciting and eagerly awaited decision was the election of the new board. Miika Tiainen from TYY was elected President for 2018, and the new board members are Petteri Heliste (AYY), Petra Laiti (SHS), Joel Lindqvist (HYY), Ada Saarinen (HYY), Jenny Vaara (OYY) and Teemu Vasama (JYY). In the final address of the General Assembly, Tiainen emphasised the fact that the majority of candidates had been men, and thanked both the newly elected board and those candidates who had not been elected. After celebrating the new board, we, the old board, had our own sentimental moment when the General Assembly delegates gave us a standing ovation to thank us for the work we had done.
The dramatic arc of the General Assembly was a good description of what the student movement really represents: we make critical observations, debate values and emphases, demand a lot from elected board members, but also remember to encourage them in moments of success and failure and thank them for a job well done.