Better Than Sliced Bread took the chance to interview freshly elected members of the Student Representative Council with SUB backgrounds. Anna Kamula and Maria Aaltio were kind enough to provide us with answers to heated questions facing the new representatives of the Student Union. [BTSB]: Anna Kamula and Maria Aaltio, congratulations on your election into the Representative Council!
[Maria]: Thank you!
[BTSB]: What made you run for representative in the first place?
[Anna]: I remember being asked to run two years ago, but I didn't feel I was quite ready for it then. Over time it became more and more clear to me that I really wanted to run next time, and I'd actually made up my mind about it over a year ago.
[Maria]: I’ve been involved with the organization HyVi [The Green Voice of the Student Union] and have thus caught a glimpse of student politics and I thought it was very interesting and saw that there are so many things that one can do and cool, interesting people involved in student politics. When they asked who’d want to run in the elections I just thought: why not!
[BTSB]: Do you have a long personal history or interest in (student) politics?
[Anna]: I guess I always had the interest but not the confidence to join all kinds of organisations and I'm really glad that university finally gave me a chance to take part in it. It was so easy to join SUB, people really welcomed me with open arms and I instantly felt I'd found my place.
I've been active in SUB since the beginning of my studies. I was a member of the overall committee and we organised the Christmas party with a few other freshmen in 2008. I decided to try my wings as the party representative and I had a blast! Since then I've been the vice president of SUB and a member of the Humanisticum board for two years. This year I'm also one of the event representatives for Hyal ry. I've also been a member of laitosneuvosto [formerly steering committee] and a vice member for tiedekuntaneuvosto [the faculty committee consisting of professors, other staff and students]. So yeah. I guess I have a pretty long history in student organisations and Uni politics.
[Maria]: I have been involved with both HyVi, which is a political student organization, as well as with our beloved student organization SUB. I do have some interest in politics but I have not been that active until recently and now that I was elected into the Representative Council, I’m looking forward to getting more familiar with the complex world of student politics.
[BTSB]: Was it easy to choose for which “party” to run for?
[Anna]: For me it couldn't have been more simple. I am convinced that student organisations can provide not only extra-curricular activities for students, but also know exactly what the key problems in their department or faculty are. If the organisations are not given sufficient funds and aid it affects their ability to function. I think all organisations need to be active in trying to provide for themselves, but especially venues for meetings, parties and seminars need to be provided by HYY.
[Maria]: It was a natural choice for me to be HyVi’s candidate since I think they have done a good job in Representative Council and their election themes were good. I was proud to be their candidate.
[BTSB]: What would you say to those some 65% of students who did not exercise their right to vote? [Anna]: Most students don't really know what the whole election is about and end up not voting at all. It doesn't take much time to take a look at what types of groups there are, and after that choosing a candidate should be fairly simple. If you have a hard time finding information about the elections, don't hesitate to ask! The student council is responsible for so many things that affect your student life it's amazing so few people seem to find it important enough to vote!
[Maria]: I would ask them why they didn’t vote. I guess it’s because of lack of interest or belief that their vote has no impact. And yeah, I’d encourage them to vote next year!
[BTSB]: What effects does the low turnout have in your opinion?
[Anna]: As in any election it mostly means that the final council doesn't represent all the students. 34.27% is a ridiculously low percentage!
[Maria]: The Representatives don’t represent the majority of students, just over 30% and it makes me wonder if there is just a small “insider group” that decides what HYY is like and how the money is allocated. Is that really how it should be?
[BTSB]: Are there, in your opinion, ways of bringing the Council closer to students? Is it important to do so (e.g. to improve voter turnout)? [Anna]: I think it's important for the students to know if the council makes decisions that affect them in a major way. Other than that I'd say it's more vital to let student organisations in on what's being discussed and make sure they get to have a say on important things. It's impossible to get every student’s opinion on things, but the student organisations could provide a vital input to many issues.
[Maria]: I think it is extremely important but also very difficult. HYY is such a big community and it probably feels quite distant and foreign to many students. I guess having open discussions about the issues and asking people’s opinions would be essential.
[BTSB]: A few words on your goals for the next year. What are the main issues you see facing the Student Union and what do you wish to promote as representative? [Anna]: One year is a short time, but I wish to make sure HYY keeps supporting student organisations, if not more, then at least as much as they did this year. HYY must keep the new student building in the use of the students, not rent it out!
[Maria]: Obviously financial issues are constantly a vital part of HYY politics. Making HYY Group’s business more cost-effective is in my opinion something we should concentrate on. Also next year’s local elections are important; HYY needs to lobby the candidates for students’ issues such as housing, student grant etc.
[BTSB]: How do you see the Student Union in two, or even four, years from now? [Anna]: If after next year's election we still keep our 21 seats (fingers crossed!), things will start to look quite different. I hope in four years all student organisations have equal opportunities in terms of venues and meeting rooms. I also hope HYY will be able to provide more ways to support its members, instead of having to axe them each year to balance the budget.
[Maria]: It depends on the representatives and members but I’m sure the Student Union is going to be awesome in the next years! I hope the voter turnout would be all-time high in the next elections. BTSB would like to thank both representatives for the interview and wishes them, and all others elected, the best of luck for their respective terms in the Student Council! Esko Suoranta Better Than Sliced Bread