Tapio Hautamäki of the Aalto University’s Student Union (AYY) was elected to be SYL President for 2020 in the General Assembly held in Lahti 15‒16.11.2019. How did Tapio get enthusiastic about student advocacy work and what are his thoughts on the coming year? Get to know next year’s President!
I’m 26 years old, I study applied mathematics at Aalto University, and I’m originally from Peräseinäjoki in the South Ostrobothnia region of Finland. I have long been active in the student union and had different jobs at AYY throughout my time studying. I have worked at business relations, arranging events, developing representative council work and representing students in various work groups at the university. This year I’ve been the President of the AYY board, and last year I was Vice President, my responsibilities being societal advocacy work and advocacy work in general.
How did you find your enthusiasm for student advocacy work?
Before my university studies, I had heard about the lively student culture at Otaniemi. At the same time, several of my friends had been active in the gymnasium students’ union. At the end of my gymnasium years, I regretted that I hadn’t joined up myself. So I threw myself fully into student activity at the university, and I’m still going down that road.
In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges that university students encounter in the current day?
The challenges that students face today are connected particularly to mental health and insecurity about the future. Student mental health problems are on the rise, and studying gets increasingly straining. Securing accessibility to mental health services and strengthening preventative work are important issues to also guarantee for students. What causes anxiety about the future are a weakening dependency ratio and the climate crisis. Next year, we at SYL will continue to demand a more just generational policy and more ambitious climate actions.
As SYL President, what issues would you like to advance next year?
After a tough election year, it is a good time to observe the world and the place the university student movement occupies within it. A time to think about where the movement is needed the most at the moment. That requires clarification of our goals through strategy work. Next year, it is time to find our own voice in the climate conversation. Time to find the university student movement’s solutions to stopping the climate catastrophe. We will also be discussing the climate anxiety experienced by the younger generation.
It’s also important to make sure that students are included in the social security reform and that the FSHS expansion to include students at universities of applied sciences proceeds smoothly. It is extremely important to pay attention to students when the national mental health strategy is being implemented. The voice of the university student movement will be heard when Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinnes government is formulating the report for education policy and the plan for accessibility of education.
So, the year 2020 will also be a very important year for the student movement. Regardless, we have to be able to be merciful to ourselves and to each other. Things will surely happen next year that I can’t foresee right now. Those take time as well. We have to be able to prioritise our work in case surprises come along, as we must not compromise the welfare of anyone within the movement.
What do you see as SYL’s most important advocacy issues during the following decade?
Climate change is the momentous issue of our time. It will have a substantial effect on the lives of young generations during the next decade. The university student movement must be involved in finding solutions to prevent the climate catastrophe.
It is important that SYL continues to defend accessible and free education in a consistent manner during the next decade. This is intrinsically linked to the growing inequality gap, something also prominently featured in media and in studies this year. We have to secure everyone’s opportunity to get an education in Finland also in the future. The tuition fees set for students from outside the EU and EEA and the payable route through open university are both part of this alarming development. Free education is a basic value Finland has to hold on to.