There is still work for us to do for as long as all members of our community feel equally safe to be, to study and to live a student life.
On September 19, the geography students at the University of Helsinki held a Games-themed event for the first-year students. One group of students participating was given the task of dressing up as characters from the board game ’Afrikan Tähti’ (Star of Africa). The event reached the public eye when an exchange student at the university of Helsinki published a video on their Instagram account highlighting how the game contains racist and colonialist stereotypes from Africa’s Colonial era. We are grateful that this important conversation was initiated.
The Student Union of the University of Helsinki wishes to apologise. Our activities are not sufficiently anti-racist. Racist themes in student events that reinforce harmful stereotypes are a part of a broader phenomenon of structural racism in the university and the student union. This is not simply a question of a careless error or a one-off case that could be swept under the rug. Rather, it is a part of a broader culture in which we are not capable of identifying racism and acting in an anti-racist manner.
There is still work for us to do for as long as all members of our community feel equally safe to study and to live a student life regardless of their ethnic or national background, citizenship, gender, age, language, religion, belief, opinion, disability, health, sexual orientation, or other aspect of their identity. We all carry the responsibility to make society more equal. Passive condemnation of racism alone is not sufficient, and action must be taken in fighting against racism now.
Anti-racist measures of HYY
- We will draw up policies for how to handle cases of racism at student events.
- We will develop an anti-racist programme in collaboration with key interest groups.
- We will start to provide anti-racism training and workshops.
- Future student tutors will also receive training on anti-racism measures.
- We are exploring the possibility of placing more emphasis on the implementation of equality measures in the grants distributed to the organisations operating under HYY.
- We strictly follow HYY’s equality plan, and we also support organisations in implementing the equality plan and HYY’s equality guidelines for organisations .
- We will implement HYY’s principles of safer space, and we also support organisations in implementing those principles in their operations.
- We will develop our operating principles so that they guide more clearly the organisations operating within HYY of the importance of promoting equality in their operations.
We have also arranged a meeting with the representatives of the geography students’ association (Maantieteen opiskelijat ry, MaO) and the University of Helsinki. Jessika Isomeri, a harassment contact person and Chair of the Board, will participate in a meeting as a representative of HYY. We will also arrange a meeting with the student who launched this conversation if they are willing to meet.
In addition, we will send a request for clarification to the geography students’ association on 19 September concerning the freshers’ event Fuksiaiset and the state of the equality policies of the organisation.
We would like to thank everyone who actively participated in the discussion on social media and other platforms. An open discussion of racism is extremely important in order to tackle the racism in all of our structures and in making all actions more anti-racist.
HYY’s Board will discuss other possible measures at its meeting on October 21, 2021.
On behalf of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki,
Chair of the Board
Chair of the Board