Section 2. The student union as a meeting place for the Aalto community
Fon Krairiksh, Aalto University
Key Question: How can I get involved in student life through the student union?
There are many ways to get involved. Find yours!
As mentioned in the previous section, the existence of the student union is mandated by law. If you are a bachelor’s or master’s degree student at Aalto University, then you are already a member of the Aalto University Student Union (AYY). Exchange students and doctoral students can also become AYY members if they wish.
AYY represents approximately 14,000 Aalto University students of arts, business, and technology. AYY advocates for its members and offers them student housing, services, rental facilities, and community events and activities.
Throughout the year, AYY organizes various events for all members of the Aalto community. The more than 200 associations operating within AYY also ensure a steady year-long stream of events and activities in the Aalto community.
The highest authority at AYY is exercised by the 45-member Representative Council, elected for a period of two years. Daily operations are directed by the Board, which consists of 10 members. Each board member oversees one or more operative areas. The practical concerns of each area are managed by employees of the student union. In addition to its employees and persons in positions of trust, hundreds of volunteers work with the Student Union each year.
That means plenty of activity, and the great news is that there is a good chance for you to become involved and find meaningful tasks and volunteering opportunities through AYY! Student union members can participate in events, hobbies, and volunteer work, and they can represent students in the university administration.
Volunteer positions are available from event organizing to campus development and student advocacy, not forgetting positions on the Board and the Representative Council. A large part of AYY’s activities is organized by students, and there are many possibilities to participate through volunteering. As an AYY volunteer, you can become a member of a diverse community, where you can fulfil yourself, develop many skills useful in working life and, above all, have fun while making lifelong friendships. A year at AYY is almost without exception full of new acquaintances, amazing experiences, and great opportunities for self-development. General volunteer recruitment is typically open from late October to early November.
Many current students will be familiar with tutoring, having been tutored themselves during their first year at Aalto. Tutors are students who help new students integrate into academic life. Tutors are recruited and coordinated at the school and association level. Tutors are mainly recruited in early spring to be ready to accept their new students by the summer.
Representation through AYY
By far the easiest way to influence student union affairs is to vote in AYY’s Representative Council elections or stand for election! As mentioned earlier, the Representative Council exercises the highest decision-making power at the Student Union. The term of office of the Representative Council is two years, which means that every two years all members of the Student Union can vote, and eligible members can stand for election to the Representative Council.
AYY boards are formed for one year at the time. It is worth noting that board members are not, strictly speaking, volunteers. Board members are paid a stipend to engage in board work for a year, and international students are eligible for a one-year tuition fee waiver. AYY’s administrative and executive powers are exercised by its 10-member Board. The Board also directs the daily activities of the Student Union and represents it beyond the community. The board members change every year, and any member of the Student Union who is ready to act for the benefit of the Aalto community can apply for the position.
‘Hallopeds’, or student representatives in Aalto administrative working groups and on committees, and boards, are typically recruited in the latter half of November. Hallopeds are full members in the bodies to which they have been appointed, on a par with professors and university staff. Each representative has, regardless of their background, one vote at their disposal. If you want to learn more about the various positions, you can also apply as a deputy member.
AYY also has a working group called The Minority Panel, which is a minority-led consulting body for diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. The main functions of the group are to 1) identify and counteract structural inequalities that impact minorities in the Aalto community, and 2) recommend strategic actions and policies to improve the status of our minorities.
If you identify as a member of a minority (or minorities), you are welcome to join the group at any time of year. Simply contact AYY’s specialist in charge of equity at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask for further details.
Get in touch!
Missing open calls and application periods does not mean that you must wait until the following year to become involved. It is always possible to get in touch with an association and volunteer through them, too!
If you have a burning issue, do contact our advocacy team. We can probably support the change you want to make at any time of year! Some of AYY’s best campaigns come from students who have spoken up or want to lend their voices to a cause!
Finally, it is worth knowing that AYY is also here to serve you. Being part of the AYY community does not require you to be active and volunteer. If, in all your social exploration and interactions, disagreements occur (and they will!), you can also seek help to resolve them. Many associations have their own harassment contact person, whom you can turn to in cases of inappropriate behaviour. However, many students also approach AYY’s equity officers to help resolve disputes that arise between students. You can learn more by visiting ayy.fi/equity.
This section described student union activities at Aalto University. However, all Finnish universities contain similar organizations. We encourage all students to find out more about their own student unions and get involved!
Last modified: Wednesday, 29 March 2023, 2:16 PM