SYL’s new board has been elected in the General Assembly and the orientation has begun. Next year, all eyes will be on the parliamentary elections of 2023, and even though our outgoing board is busy getting the archives in order, the preparations for the election platform are well under way.
And oh, what would the end of a term be without last-minute vision outlining. One-year terms have this one problem: just when we have accumulated enough knowledge and experience, it’s time for us to pack our bags and leave. Thus, our most important task for the end of the year is sharing with the new board members what we have learnt. We held an intense brainstorming session among the new and old board members to analyse the parties, the current political atmosphere and the student movement’s key goals for the next term of office. It was wonderful.
What got the discussion going was the column by Tuukka Tervonen commenting on the student movement. I don’t know what kind of telepathic messages I have inadvertently been sending to Tuukka, but his column hits the nail right on the head. Even though we know that the amount of student financial aid is smaller than during the recession in the 90s, that the mental-health crisis already escalated ages ago and that universities are dealing with severe financial problems, we may still find ourselves participating in a narrative where the poor financial situation justifies further impoverishing students. We cheer when they promise that no cuts will be made or hope that the cuts won’t be that bad.
And, if cuts are made, we write disapproving statements.
Is our generation really already so beaten that we just accept future blows and only react with shock and disapproval? This year, in the spirit of SYL’s centenary, I leafed through the book on our history and watched the documentary made on us and, while doing so, learnt about rather epic ways of fighting back when politics keeps weakening the position of students. Past ways of making a statement included carrying a coffin when student financial aid was cut as well as going on strike, making noise and causing an outrage. Someone could call current advocates too mild-mannered.
So, kick it into high gear, student movement, because we’re in need of some radicalism! Don’t just be content with what you’re given, but make demands. Students are people with an equal right to a decent life. We can’t live on noodles and tears of anxiety alone. Instead, we need real food and the right to live in a studio apartment, if we so wish. It shouldn’t matter whether the previous generations had to ski against the wind every day to get to the lectures, because they also slid right into working life and had the right to study for as long as they wanted. They don’t know anything about the efficiency pressures, climate disasters or continuous threat posed by far-right extremists that our generation has to face. And even if they did, the point is not to pass the hardships endured by previous generations onto future ones.
So, why should we be mild-mannered when they aren’t? We shouldn’t have to justify over and over again why it would be great if we didn’t have to take a loan to buy bread, why higher education should be invested in and why the mental health crisis should be resolved. That is, nevertheless, something we will once again do when lobbying in connection with the parliamentary elections. We have all the statistical information to support the claim that it is not a question of not affording to invest in students but of not affording to not invest.
Go ahead, boomers, try building a functional society without healthy, educated people.
Although it’s time for me to leave the student movement, I’ll be happy to shout comments from the back row. Not to the new advocates, but to society at large. If the past years have taught me anything, it’s that students aren’t anyone’s priority, unless workforce is needed, in which case more demands are directed at students. And even then, the people are not the priority, but the grey mass that corrects the statistics and lives on noodles and tears of anxiety.
For the last time,
The author wants to point out that she considers the work of the student movement extremely important and good and that she sees the politicians acting against the students’ interests as short-sighted imbeciles and wants to remind them that current students are future decision-makers.
I also recommend watching the documentary made on SYL in Yle Areena, as it provides inspiration for kicking it into high gear and getting more radical.