Every second year something happens that both changes and shocks the Student Union. That is, of course, the Council of Representatives election. It gives people a chance to weigh if the student union politics and decisions have been fair and just or if something should be changed. There are of course two ways to do this: by nominating yourself or by voting. To clarify this, let’s say it out loud and clear: ALL international students who are members of the student union Tamy (i.e. paid the membership fee) can do both! And here are some well-based and justified reasons why you should:
- Nominating yourself in the Representative Elections gives you an outstanding insight in how everything works in the University of Tampere and how decisions in your student union are made. As the council is the highest decision making body in the student union it decides on the strategy and the budget of the student union and elects the Executive Board. Or decides whether the council should only serve vegetarian sandwiches in the meetings. Yes, you understood correctly; you also get free sandwiches to give you nutrition to bare the burden of all the hard work.
- International students understand international students better. That is a fact. Many Finns try though (myself included), but not enough people are taking the issues of international students into consideration. It is you who knows what happens in your surroundings, how international students are treated in lectures or by the student union. You have surely found some things that you wish to change or perhaps improve. The council is the place to start. Come up with an agenda and go for it. You might be surprised where it takes you.
- The council not only gives you valuable knowledge about the decision making practices, but also helps you to better understand the Finnish system. Student unions are quite strong in Finland in comparison to many other countries and therefore the council is a good place to view the changes in the Finnish society. In addition, you will probably learn some new words of Finnish.
- Working in the council helps you get employed. Seriously! Being a member develops many skills from communications to meeting skills and from performing to preparing issues. And, let’s say it out loud, it does look good in your CV. Though I would recommend you to nominate yourself for other reasons as well, since you tend to receive more when you actually have something to give.
- You don’t have to be an expert to get elected. People learn by doing and do by learning. That’s the way it goes in the council as well. The council family and your group will help you gain the skills required. Just have a dream that you wish to make come true.
- You can meet new people that may influence you in ways that you never thought anyone would. Or become that person to someone. Some have even found something more – and let’s be honest – what is sexier than a person talking about politics?
Unfortunately, as time is short, you only have until Monday 30 September 2013, 4 p.m. to select a council group to get nominated and fill in the documents needed. There are several groups (either politically committed or non-partisan) and most of them have had some experience with international students as nominees and members of the council. So brace yourself and take contact! The instructions and all the information you need can be found from Tamy’s webpages.
There are at least as many reasons to vote as there are to nominate yourself (although you usually don’t get any mark to put on your CV unless you want to show your activity as a voter), but the single most important one is that it is by far the easiest way to influence student union affairs. If you see nominees at the elections who share your ideas and strive to improve things that you see important, vote for them. Well, actually you can only vote once, so decide between the best candidates. Voting is your right and you should use it, whether you are a degree or an exchange student (honestly, how many people can say that they voted in Finland!). Student union elections tend not to be corrupted, so you don’t have to think “oh no, elections AGAIN; nothing will change!?”, but rather “hmm, who could I vote for”. And there you go, your candidate might actually get elected. The advance voting takes place from 28 October to 1 November and the actual elections are held on 5–6 November 2013. So pay attention to what is happening at the University in October and be active.
Hopefully, at the end of this persuasive piece of writing, I have managed to give you enough reasons to nominate yourself in the Representative Elections. Or at least to vote. Because this will also signal us what we are doing well and where we could improve at Tamy. So take a chance and participate!
The writer is a member of Tamy’s Executive Board