Tarja Halonen piloted the University of Helsinki as the Chairman of the Board for four years. The trip accommodated everything from a corona pandemic to an African star. Now is the time to give way and the president can finally return to college to draw.
From one the hard-working artist has not appeared in the University Drawing Room for four years.
There are two reasons for a long break. First, the drawing room was still closed. In addition, the draftsman served as Chairman of the Board of the University of Helsinki for a four-year term.
Because of his dual role, he did not dare to visit the university premises to draw. It could have been a buzz, for example, in a situation where issues related to the future of the Drawing Room had come to the board’s table for consideration. An experienced decision maker can dodge such.
Now the draftsman, the president Tarja Halonen, finally returns to the Drawing Room. The presidency ends at the turn of the year.
However, the president does not draw. Soon he will explain why not.
Helsinki the university’s empty drawing room exudes creativity and serenity. The plaster heads look at the visitors calmly, and the casually dangling art tools literally invite them.
There is magic in the atmosphere of the space. You already feel it when you step in.
Today, the only guest in the Drawing Room is Halonen, the chairman of the university’s board. He sits in the middle of the room and answers questions about his presidency in a cheerful way.
“There was already a bit of a regret at the end of the assignment, but then I sat again in a multi-hour college meeting.”
Halosen a four-year term in university leadership was by no means easy.
Halonen says that the working atmosphere in the government could have been better: no unanimous decisions were wanted at all, and the meetings could be delayed.
On the other hand, Halonen praises how passionately all board members have wanted to develop the university.
In the spring of 2018, the government’s first steps were perhaps the most difficult possible. A new principal had to be elected to lift the university out of the shadows of recent co-operation negotiations.
The rector’s turn took six months behind the scenes. In the end, the board led by Halonen elected an urban ecologist as the rector Jari Niemelä. Halonen says that Niemelä was a “compromise” accepted by all.
Read more: The atmosphere at the University of Helsinki collapsed five years ago – Jari Niemelä, unknown to the general public, was chosen as the savior and faced a personal tragedy
At the same time, the number of vice-rectors was increased. In hindsight, it was the right solution, as Niemelä has been in a difficult spiral of sick leave due to recurrent cancer. The principal is still absent at least until the end of January.
Halonen hopes that the next government will not have to choose the rector immediately. The new chairman is familiar to Halonen, a jurist and professor emeritus Niklas Bruun.
Afterwards Looking at it, it is clear what was the biggest challenge for the university during Halonen’s presidency.
In the spring of 2020, the scientific community of more than 40,000 people moved to telecommuting with the rest of the world. According to Halonen, the corona operation was a “forced digital leap” at the university, which was quite difficult for many. Things happened in an instant, and the effects were impossible to predict.
“In the end, it went better than we feared,” says Halonen.
He estimates that the coronavirus pandemic turned into a kind of advertising campaign for the information under study: the importance of science and education “became clear to society as a whole”. Halonen believes that the upheavals will be reflected in a positive way in the future, for example in science funding.
Anyway, the president is already seeing a social change in the appreciation of science. For example, the president praises the attitude of Supercell leaders towards science – it’s different from the cartridges of years ago. In addition, he speculates that in the aftercare of a coronary pandemic, the value of the humanities will rise increasingly alongside the natural sciences.
Corona the other side is, of course, more negative. The operating model of the entire university had to be reinvented in an instant.
It was very difficult to anticipate quick situations. As teaching shifted to video calls, the pace of learning for many students intensified as the rest of their lives waned. At the same time, some of the students dropped out of the sled.
Teleworking was better for some, worse for others. The overall result of the university’s own surveys was still inconsolable: overall, well-being at work deteriorated.
Halos is particularly annoyed by what the pandemic has caused to those young people who have started their studies during the exceptional period. According to the president, university time for young people should not be just about studying, no matter how efficient the system is and how it is safe.
“Herding and networking are essential not only for studying but also for growing up. It has not happened. ”
Christmas the gray in the large windows of the drawing room slowly turns into darkness. Usually the windows of the studio spaces face north, but here they open exceptionally to the south.
The talk with the president turns to what the daily lives of university students look like today. As for the students today, the people tomorrow, it is said.
At present, the public debate on higher education is dominated by themes such as inequality, racism, mental health problems and climate change. Halonen says that young people’s optimism about the future has weakened, especially due to climate concerns.
Halonen also has a long experience of minority and equality activism. He was the founder of Sexpo, Seta’s predecessor, for example, in the 1960s. Halonen says that in the current debate she will see a copy of years ago.
“I myself was very interested in one thing at a time. The world was kind of killed. We raised the position of different groups of people, and now it is being done again, as it should be. ”
In an accelerating conversation, however, the spotlight often points to a slightly wrong place, Halonen estimates.
“Individual things are seen as very important, but you don’t always know how to pay attention to the underlying structures.”
Strongest a single issue of equality that has recently emerged is the so-called African Star buzz.
The starting point for the uproar was the fuchsia, where fresh geography students dressed according to the board game theme. An exchange student who was not present raised the colonialist background influences on the star of Africa at the forefront of the discussion on Instagram.
Read more: The rage of racism at the University of Helsinki erupted from the classic game: Freshmen dressed as African star characters, student organization apologizes
Noise soon got huge rounds, and the discussion did not focus on the history of colonialism. Soon, the University of Helsinki said in its official channels that it was explaining “concrete measures to prevent any of us from creating racist situations in our university community”. The university also provided crisis assistance to students affected by the storm.
The Student Union of the University of Helsinki publicly apologized for the events. So did the subject organization that organized the fuchsia.
Halonen understands the reactions. “To my understanding, in the end, the case was based on a bit of a misunderstanding. The students did not want to be offended. Apologizing is the way to cope today, ”he says.
“However, I myself am quite cautious about these apologies. It has been said in my own family circle that the best apology is to change one’s way. ”
“I don’t always know how to pay attention to the underlying structures.”
Mrs President, now that we’re in the Drawing Room, would you like to draw something?
Tarja Halonen strongly rejects the journalist’s proposal. There is also a rationale for this.
“I think the current publicity is so intense that when it’s even possible, I keep my private life to myself.”
Although the president does not draw in public, he likes to talk about his beloved hobby.
For Halonen, drawing has always been an important lifeline. The drawing has followed Halonen from the lessons of the lower grades until the EU summits. When drawing, you can listen better. And when you can listen, the information is easier to absorb.
Recently, Halonen has been drawing in Töölö at the Art Hall’s croquis evenings. They draw sketches of a human model at a fast pace. The models are wearing nothing but up-to-date face masks.
“Drawing has become a love for me since my childhood. A hobby that has disturbed others very little. ”
Now the home base of Halonen’s hobby will move back to the University’s Drawing Room when the dual role of draftsman and chairman ends. So departure is kind of a return.
Finally one has yet to ask whether the university will keep pace with unprecedented developments in the world. In Halonen’s opinion, it stays quite well. The President praises the curious enthusiasm of the University of Helsinki.
Admittedly, Halonen has drawn attention to the fact that the way of life today is accelerating all the time. In psychological research, the phenomenon is called intensification.
The teaching staff of the university has already risen speeches, according to which the in – depth understanding of university students is sometimes left behind in results – oriented thinking. It is partly the culmination of the student support system developed by Halonen’s generation, but there are reasons elsewhere, he said. They can be found, for example, on social media and the directness of the internet.
“Urbanization and digitalisation favor people with quick reactions,” says Halonen.
Speed is an important asset, and Finns are better at it all the time, but Halonen emphasizes the other side of the coin.
“Sometimes you have to think. Sometimes you have to stop, think and sit down so that you can really understand things. And it doesn’t always mean just hand-cheek philosophizing. ”
Halonen recommends her own hobby to everyone. Anything done by hand makes a person stop, he justifies. Then the thinking can begin.
Read more: The longest-serving professor at the University of Helsinki says an alarming observation of the way Finnish students
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