The student magazine Aino was launched in the early days of Aalto University in the spring of 2009. The Student Union of the Helsinki University of Technology, the Helsinki School of Economics Student Union and Students of Art, Design and Architecture TOKYO came up with the idea of establishing a joint magazine.
The most important goal set for the student magazine Aino was to create and strengthen the social cohesion and understanding of the members of the new student union, AYY, through critical journalism. The student media has played a role in the building of the Aalto community. However, now that AYY has existed for 10 years, the Representative Council decided to discontinue the student media on the basis of a proposal from the Board – how did we end up to this situation?
Building the Aalto community
Aino’s mission has never been easy, least of all in its early years when the three merged universities and their students were still located on different campuses: technical students in Otaniemi, business students in Etu-Töölö and arts students in Arabia. As Aalto University has expanded and developed, its vision on the joint campus was finally realised in the autumn of 2018 when Väre was opened and the last degree programmes moved to the campus in 2019 (with the exception of Mikkeli campus). Today, we meet each other in lectures, student restaurants and the events of AYY and numerous associations. In many ways, Aino’s original mission as a bridge-builder during its nine years of existence was overshadowed by development. The Aalto identity was no longer just words on paper, but it started to take new forms.
Racism, property dispute, problems at Slush or sexism – Aino’s ability to reveal difficult issues and grievances in our community has been undeniably valuable to the student union. Aino has both delighted and angered the Representative Council and the student media has been regularly addressed at the Council. The Council has considered the costs and purpose of the magazine, consulted chief editors and commissioned reports. The importance of independent student media is recognised, but Aino has also had challenges in its role as a community builder. At times, Aino has remained a distant publication for students, looking at the community from the outside in, or depicting issues and interviewing people who have very little to do with our student community.
With its annual budget of EUR 75,000, Aino has been one of the largest single expenditure in AYY’s association sector, and thus caused concerns for many representatives. Do we want to spend a significant amount of money on a service that members do not relate to, on a magazine that they do not read? According to the service survey conducted in 2018, 60% of the respondents had never read Aino magazine.
Report work and financing
In the spring of 2019, Aino’s chief editor of that time resigned and AYY’s Representative Council decided on Aino’s editorial break. During the break, the intention was to find a new direction for the student media by finding out the needs of the target groups. AYY commissioned a report, after which the Representative Council realised that more information was needed to support decision-making. AYY wanted to clarify options to reduce the student media budget.
Along with the Aalto community, our student union AYY has also expanded from year to year. There are more than 200 associations within AYY, which the Student Union advises and provides with operating grants and affordable association facilities. We organise an average of 50 open events per year. We engage in education and social policy advocacy covering all our members. The financing of these services is covered by taking out EUR 500,000 of AYY’s investment assets. We can take out this amount and continue to keep our investment assets and AYY’s operations financially sustainable.
Over the years, it has been challenging to cover all of AYY’s expanding operations with investment income. AYY is not able to do all of the above-mentioned, to publish student media and expect that the student union finances will be in excellent shape in ten years’ time. The decision to discontinue the student media is based on the idea of sustainable economy. The AYY Board feels that the funds should be used for activities that are considered important by the majority of our members. These include events, association grants, volunteering and affordable rental facilities. AYY’s student media could be published, but it means either giving up some other service or increasing the annual membership fee. Based on this year’s additional report, the publishing of the student media would cost at least EUR 40,000.
From a difficult decision to future outlook
The decision has been challenging. When making the decision, we had to weigh the value of the student media for the Aalto community. In practice, the student union activities had to be prioritised and the decision on the use of funds was made on that basis. The process has been long, and it has also reflected the history of the student media issue. What is a suitable price tag for critical and independent media, and can the same student media also build the community and the Aalto spirit? How do our members perceive Aino and is it important to them? How can we ensure that future members will also have financial opportunities to try something new and build AYY that reflects themselves?
The student media is closely linked to AYY’s long-term financial planning, and we should work over the long term in order to afford student media one day. Currently, this is not possible without significant changes in operations. The fact that student media is not published by AYY does not mean that the community does not have a voice and the opportunity to address issues that are important to its members. In the future, AYY will bring up the articles of Aalto community student magazines in its communication channels.
In ten years, Aalto University’s vision has been realised and our united student cultures have created a strong foundation in Otaniemi. Interdisciplinarity is no longer just empty rhetoric, it is visible both in our studies and free time. Aino was perhaps the first joint effort of our community but by no means the last one. We have built and celebrated the spirit of Aalto over the past 10 years and the sense of community will continue to be at the heart of AYY.
Vice chair of the board