Steps towards more equal student life
Increasing the visibility of the Student Union’s work requires transparent and active communication.
Last year, we updated our Equality Plan, outlining the goals for our equality work for the next three years. Our aim was to create a clear, concise plan to make monitoring and assessing the realisation of its objectives as easy as possible. Even though the plan, at 45 goals and 14 pages, did not turn out all that concise, we did succeed in clarifying the document’s structure and updating the goals to better correspond to the current situation.
The new year started in lively fashion as we began to implement the new plan. Among other things, we started planning the realisation of a wellbeing and equality survey. The aim of the survey is to collect data to support us in our advocacy work at the University as well as to review the current status of our own operations. We combined these two themes because equality issues have a massive impact on student wellbeing, too. We are currently still analysing the answers – follow our communication to hear about the results!
In addition to the survey, we began work on making principles of safer space for the Student Union. HYY’s current event safety principles have been in force since 2018, but official principles of safer space have not been created. Principles of safer space refer to practices or instructions that help everyone promote a safer and more equal atmosphere. These principles are still being finalised, and they will officially enter into force in the autumn.
The central theme of HYY’s Equality Plan is making equality work more visible and clearer. For instance, did you know that HYY has an Equality Guide for the organisations operating under it, featuring information on issues such as starting equality activities and taking equality and safety into account in event organisation? You can also get personal guidance and support from our harassment contact persons on issues related to harassment and equality. In the future, we aim to communicate about our instructions and services related to equality more regularly to both organisations and our members, especially at the beginning of academic terms.
Another goal of ours is to do better with keeping our members up to date on the advocacy work we conduct – it is a big part of the Student Union’s work. However, advocacy work moves at a slow pace and can rarely be seen outside our organisation. For this reason, communication has an especially important role, and in the future, we will try to be more transparent in our communication about the ways in which we are promoting equality at the University and in society.
This spring, we have, for instance, increased our cooperation with the student representatives of the Equality and Diversity Committee in order to conduct well-timed and efficient advocacy work at the University. The committee’s purpose is to promote and monitor the realisation of equality at the University, and it also prepares the University’s Equality and Diversity Plan. We will strive to support the student representatives in their duties and to receive up-to-date information about the University’s plans. You can read more about the University’s goals in the UH’s Equality and Diversity Plan – a new version of the plan was just published at the beginning of the year. Personally, I am especially happy that the University is updating its guidelines on the prevention of inappropriate treatment and harassment. The current guidelines do not properly take students into account, which means that the entire document requires restructuring and a more student-friendly perspective.
In addition to the above, we have focused especially on individual study arrangements and highlighting problematic issues related to them. Individual arrangements are made to support students with, for instance, a disability or illness with their learning through various practices. A common example of individual arrangements is additional time given for exams or returning assignments. Arrangements such as these are an important way of increasing equality, but the current practices do not support accessibility and study progress. Getting the arrangements for yourself often requires a laborious process, which unreasonably burdens students. In meetings and training events, we have highlighted the problems of the current situation, and we will continue our advocacy work at the University to improve the situation.
The University and the Student Union both still have structures and traditions in place that do not support the realisation of equality. Even though equality work seems to progress slowly, we are getting closer to our goals one step at a time. By committing to the promotion of accessibility and equality, we can help make student life better for everyone.
Tiia Niemi, specialist in social policy
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