Students’ equal treatment must be ensured

Tapio Hautamäki

Yesterday, Long Play published an article on Fashion Designer Tuomas Laitinen’s teaching methods and actions at ARTS fashion studies. The article described how Laitinen has for years favoured, humiliated and bad mouthed students in the fashion degree programme. It was sad to read the text and no Aalto student should have to face the described treatment.

Aalto must launch a thorough and independent review of Laitinen’s actions. On the basis of the review, Aalto should develop policies to ensure that similar actions do not occur in other programmes or fields in the future. Good pedagogy involves support and encouragement, not leading with fear. Teachers have a great responsibility, as the teaching culture also contributes to the future working life.

The public has also wondered why the students did not come out with their own names and faces. I do not know the starting points of individual students, but one reason is obvious: students certainly have a genuine fear that by addressing the situation, they may complicate their future careers and close many doors. Responsibility cannot rest on the shoulders of individuals.

Student organisations of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture Aalto ARTS and a number of fashion student activists have published a statement on the issue. AYY agrees with students: the problem cannot be swept under the rug.

For now, Aalto University has suspended Laitinen’s appointment as working life professor and promised to investigate the matter. These have been the right first steps.

AYY will continue to have intense discussions with Aalto on ways to prevent similar situations and address them well in advance. If those in charge are not aware of the situation in the fashion degree programme, the process must be corrected. If those in charge have been aware of the situation but have not reacted to it to a sufficient extent, there is again room for improvement.

At the latest, when the review is completed it is important to have concrete solutions to ensure equal treatment of students in the future. In this process, students must also be involved as long as a sustainable solution can be found.

A top university does not bully its students. A top university provides a secure foundation on which everyone can strive.

Tapio Hautamäki

Chair of the Board

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