The super year of elections is in its last quarter. You have one more chance to vote this autumn: The representative council elections of 12 student unions will be held at the beginning of November. Once again it is time to think about how to use your vote. How would you like your student union to look like? In what way would you like it to spend its time and resources and improve the everyday life of students? What kind of message would you like it to send and how loud a volume should it use to broadcast student voices?
The legal duty of a student union is to train its members to become active, aware and critical citizens. Its further purpose is to promote its members’ societal, social and intellectual aspirations and their aspirations regarding studies and students’ status in society. Participation in the representative council is a relevant way to reach these goals. A student union is a body governed by public law, and its decision-making systems can well be compared to a municipality or the state. Learning about decision-making processes and questions of substance in addition to feeling that you can have an effect within the student union will also equip you to take part in other methods to influence society and change the world.
Not only does the representative council hold the highest decision-making power within the student union, but it also has a significant role in dictating the direction of the entire university student movement. The General Assembly of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) is the organisation’s highest decision-making body. The delegates, who make the decisions in the General Assembly, are chosen by the representative council of student unions. It’s also worth considering your representative council vote at national level: what is the outlook for the whole university student movement? What policies should dictate the actions of SYL in the future, and what kind of people should we choose to lead the movement? What will the next one hundred years of the nearly 100 year old union look like?
I have had many discussions about whether or not politics have a place in the university or in the student union. In reality, this is not a matter of personal opinion, since taking care of matters of common concern, making decisions about where the organisation is headed and choosing what policies to advance is politics, whether you like the definition or not. Abstaining from making decisions or choices is also politics. The student parliament is a political actor, and politics is not something to be afraid of. However, you can learn a lot from it: how to discuss different viewpoints in a constructive manner, how to find acceptable compromises, and how to use power in an equitable manner. You will constantly run into the same questions outside the student union, since they are at the core of how society functions. The greater your understanding of the logic in these functions, the more you will likely trust the system. And what we really need in this day and age is trust.
The fact is, you can make a difference, both in society and in the student union. Run in the election and be prepared to make decisions for the future of your student union. Participate in a fellow student’s campaign or help out with the campaign of an electoral list that speaks to you. Remind others of the importance of voting and let the candidate who represents your thoughts and values have your vote.
Make history in the university student movement and change society. Because you can. Vote.