Hi there, I’m Make. I have been dipped in the raging rapids of Tammerkoski in 2018, I’m in my sixth year of studies in the fields of technology, and my Teekkari cap looks well-worn. So, I am obviously a Teekkari, right? Well, I’ve only worn my teekkari cap once after the Teekkari dipping and, even then, the cap was only dangling on my head for one measly photo session. Actually, it feels like the cap has rejected my head from the beginning, as if I wasn’t fit to carry it. It has also acquired its brown color from the rusty water that dripped from the dipping basket, and not from Teekkari-like adventures.
According to Wikipedia, in addition to the Teekkari cap, Teekkari culture includes a slew of other things – for example: wearing overalls; celebrating Wappu and the Wappumagazine, Tamppi; jäynäs and happenings; attending guild activities; sits parties and excursions; singing the Teekkari anthem at midnight; and a strong singing culture overall. I can’t stand sits parties (or singing at all), I haven’t been able to drag myself to excursions, I’ve never ended up participating in jäynäs and other happenings, I haven’t touched any Tamppis, and I’ve spent my Wappus either at work or running an escape game event in a construction site container. The overalls wouldn’t stay on me either, until I cut them into a jacket. On the face of it, I don’t see anything wrong with these products of the culture, I just haven’t been able to embrace them as my own. So, my teekkari cap is perhaps right; I am very poor, miserable and unfit to be a Teekkari. Despite all this, my home organization – the Guild of Environmental Engineering, YKI – has warmly welcomed me from the very beginning and held a firm grip on me. My second guild, Man@ger, has also been at least as receptive since I switched my studies to knowledge management. For the time being, it seems that Teekkariship accepts me, even as a poor specimen. Maybe I should have ordered the right size cap, as well?
All’s well that ends well, right? Well, no: this year, I happen to be on the board of a political advocacy organization, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned during the five years of my poor Teekkari performance, it’s that a teekkari shouldn’t be involved in politics. Throughout my student career, I have encountered and adopted all kinds of criticism of the organization in question, which could be summed up as follows: “TREY, which is absolutely useless for the teekkari culture, can’t even do anything but fuss around and sink money into their Visiiri -magazine. Moreover, was it not also supposed to be politically non-aligned? The slogan is ‘We students’, but you can’t get any further than this from the student’s everyday life!” As I said, I myself have also stood behind similar attitudes. The last straw for me was when TREY sent the associations a crisis-communication email, including the opposite of the slogan within its text: “You students”. As some others, I also got mad at this minor detail, and even decided to run for the board of the student union based on a very Teekkari-like train of thought: if it doesn’t work, it needs to be fixed, and who else would fix it better than a teekkari?!
Well, it didn’t quite go like that. In fact, it is even a little embarrassing how narrow-minded I had been living so far. With very little googling, one would have understood that the word “politics” means quite a lot more than party politics or ideologies. In fact, politics is surprisingly familiar through Teekkari culture; a campaign against space cuts is politics, choosing a more environmentally friendly overall material is politics, lowering the price of a student event ticket with the help of a corporate sponsorship is politics, the rules for wearing the Teekkari cap are politics, and whether there is cider or soda as an alternative to beer at sits parties is politics. In fact, surprisingly many things are politics, and it’s funny that it has become such a strong swear word, at least in my own teekkari bubble.
This term is not the only thing that these last couple of months have chewed on and spat into my head like a prolonged acid trip. For example, TREY is a statutory student guardian, and it is so because hardly any other subset of society, apart from students, serves the interests of students. Most of the advocacy takes place in more than 60 university working groups, as well as by maintaining several stakeholder relationships ranging from the City of Tampere to student restaurants, and from housing foundations to the tram-moving company. Successful lobbying is not visible to those being advocated for, as problems can be avoided and fixed even before they happen or materialize. The decisions, on the other hand, are based on TREY’s policy paper, which can be found by googling, and was built by a democratically elected representative council with almost 200 members.
From the above, one could conclude that TREY is not as useless a thing as one might think. For example, currently, TREY is ensuring that the renovation of the basement of the Sähkötalo building considers the associations staying there and their wishes. If TREY did not organise meetings; compile needs, wishes and concerns; meet for hours with the various governing bodies of the university; and ensure that the voice of the associations concerned is heard — the university could have pushed its plans into action without asking any thoughts on how that basement will be used in the future.
Visiiri on the other hand, is a great example of how influence is made not only inside the university, but also outside it. For example, some MPs have reported that they grab something to read for their commute from the pile of Visiiris at the railway station. Of course, I must admit that I myself have not yet had time to familiarize myself with how the magazine works in practice. There will be an official training for board members about the magazine, but the first two months have been so full of more acute orientations and tasks that Visiiri has not yet fit into our calendars. However, it is relatively easy to influence the content of this high-quality magazine through the magazine’s website, and the heavier criticism of our magazine should be directed to your own Tredaattori-deputy – you remembered to vote, right?
When it comes to the visibility of TREY in the student’s everyday life, it should be noted that the office of Finland’s second largest student union has only 10 of us board members. When there are approximately 18,000 university students in Tampere, approximately 1,800 students will be allocated for each of us. That’s quite a lot; I personally know maybe 100 students myself – if even that! The situation is not helped by the fact that most of the working time is spent sitting in various meetings. The board is trying to make up for its lack of everyday visibility by using social media channels, for example Instagram, which in particular gives a relatively good look into what the students of TREY’s office are up to in their tasks.
Additionally, I don’t like nonsensical fussing either, so I’d ask you to point it out if you see it being carried out by me! I’m pretty sure other board members can sign this point as well.
As a final point, I sense some irony about the fact that the person who wrote the words “You students” that drove me to this is now my own work partner. The latest crisis communication seems to have been more successful and the message has gotten through without any unneeded discomfort by the text itself – and I didn’t even have time to proofread that email! Of course, it should be noted that the university reported the situation to TREY more accurately and clearly than after the cap-lowering ceremony. Thus, TREY’s office not only amplifies the voice of students, but also often ends up as the university’s messenger in the direction of students.
Yay, where do we go from here? I would ask that my new attitude towards the usefulness and necessity of TREY be taken seriously; those who already know me know that it is not very easy to turn my head and I generally do not like ending up eating my own words like this. On the other hand, I wish that I would still be met with the same Teekkari warmth as before I ended up at TREY. Lastly, I would hope that no one would have to go all the way to TREY’s board to understand that Teekkariship is also politics, and in politics there is also some Teekkariship. Without belittling the students outside of Teekkari fields, it would be cool if the Teekkari community was also braver in encouraging its members to apply for the student union positions – whether they are a good Teekkari or a bad Teekkari.
Jäynä = A prank pulled by first-year teekkaris and judged by older students to determine the order in which they get to attend the Teekkari dipping during Wappu.
A sits party = A celebration, where students gather along long tables to sit, drink, eat and, most of all, sing together. Each association can have its own customs when it comes to sitsing, but the general rules are similar.
Teekkari = An engineering student, a future Master of Science in engineering
Wappu = Annual celebrations during the last half of April. Includes events and activities from various groups, guilds, and associations.
Happenings = an event through which a stand is taken.