The message from ARTS must not go unheard
Studying is stressful enough, but when the university’s facilities are not accessible for work and you hear about cuts and reforms to your field while you’re looking for a nonexistent place to store your work, things will certainly get even more difficult. Aalto University Student Union (AYY) supports every student’s chance to study, and we strongly think that the problems at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture (ARTS) must be resolved.
At ARTS, plenty of active, alert and critical citizenship has been practised, and efforts related to studies and the status of students especially have been made recently. Advancing and supporting these efforts is a key function of the student union, and observing the initiative has been great. Some issues that agitate the students can absolutely be resolved inside Aalto University. The university and school can also communicate about those that cannot. At the same time, AYY and Aalto have the task of making the message heard at the Ministry of Education and Culture. It is known that the Stop Cutting ARTS movement has been noticed there too.
However, what is the role of AYY in all of this? As an expert in educational policies, I think about this often and here I will shed some light on the student union’s views on three topics related to the situation of ARTS.
Cuts would not be discussed unless funds – both the amount of money and its distribution – are being considered. The same money pot is divided between universities, and in these universities further between their different faculties, often by applying the ministry’s model. There are field-specific factors and the variations in costs are great, but trimming the internal distribution of money at Aalto does not solve anyone’s problems.
Especially when the number of available places increases, the challenges in each field only get worse. Since the educational policies are driven by employment figures, the pressure of cuts is typically focused on the strongly underappreciated arts sector. The task of Aalto is to ensure that this does not happen, and AYY also promotes this goal. The quality of teaching is not directly related to the amount of funds, but the quality of education as a whole is; under the pressure of cuts, individual teachers and courses can be of high quality, but finally the base crumbles from below.
The transparency of decisions
It is clear that the student representatives in official institutions alone are not enough to get the students’ voices heard. Even less so to get information delivered to the students. A structure for the management of the educational programmes of ARTS has been created at a portfolio update. Now, an active culture in which no one has too much work and no one feels like their voice is not heard within their own community should be created to support it. The culture based on informal meetings, meetings of different fields and the close connection between students and staff has suffered as a result of both moving to Otaniemi and the coronavirus pandemic.
How do we get enough students to prepare decisions? What are the channels through which the information reaches the students? Who makes sure that the trustees are not exhausted under their load, which is already too stressful on top of their studies? To ensure that the communications and the transparency of the management would be better and more sustainable in the future, these questions must be answered. That is why the student union, with the support of Aalto, has an ongoing project, which should provide these answers for us, TOKYO and the entire ARTS. An art student who also knows the school’s situation personally was specifically wanted as a project worker.
The university’s premises must support the purpose of the university. Since the university is a community, the premises are supposed to support users. The art students’ needs are different to the needs of engineering or business students. Deep down, the issue is that the premises should be available for use. It should also be known that they are available for use. Even that is not enough, but there should be the reliability that you do not need to wonder which doors are open and which are not, or where you can store your work every time you visit the campus. The management of ARTS has stated that they have accepted this challenge, and hopefully Aalto responds to it too, especially in the form of ACRE. Väre is a new, shiny building, but it is still made for students. You should be allowed to practise creativity there, and the students should have access to it.
AYY is also creating the best art student life in the world. The student union has clear policies on the appreciation and status of arts, as well as supporting the creative work of Aalto students. We will not let the message from ARTS go unheard, and it must not be unheard by Aalto or the Ministry of Education and Culture either.
Policy Specialist: Academic Affairs